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Carbon boom and bust

Published March 6, 2011 10:55 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Thomas Burr's "Herbert warns wild lands policy could cost Utah billions" (Tribune, March 2) demonstrated an ongoing problem in the debate over land use in rural Utah counties. The article points out that Uintah County has seen boom and bust cycles from oil and gas production, but in the same sentence County Commissioner Mike McKee blames Uintah County's economic troubles on the Obama administration land-use policies.

Uintah County's unemployment rate in December was 5.6 percent — 1.5 percent below the state average and several points below the national average. This should not be surprising: The price of oil has been rising steadily since September, encouraging more intensive production in Vernal's oil fields. So why is McKee bemoaning the impact of Bureau of Land Management policies on his county? The recent downturn is nothing but a wake-up call that further employment diversification is needed.

More broadly, it is foolish to believe that any government policy can possibly drive economic changes as big as those experienced in Uintah County's recent woes and more recent recovery. Rapid fluctuations in employment and growth are far more likely to be caused by global changes in commodity prices than by small alterations of public policy.

Brenton Peterson

Charlottesville, Va.




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