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Let them dig sand (11/09/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

As a nation, we are anxious to free ourselves of dependence on foreign oil, especially since the foreigners we buy it from don’t seem to like us very much. We’ve taken some steps towards practical generation of wind and solar power, but as yet can not do it cheaply and abundantly enough to provide any significant portion of our needs.

But now, with the advent of fracking — bombarding shale with sand and water and chemicals to release stores of natural gas — there is a chance we can become independent of reliance on foreign oil while giving us the time it will take to explore alternatives.

As with any new technology — any technology at all, really — there are pitfalls and lessons to be learned. The government, which regulates safety in all industries, is regulating the fracking industry to prevent such things as silicosis in workers who may breathe the powered sand, and also sloppy or ill-designed fracking practices that could contaminate water supplies.

In Winona County, and other counties surrounding us in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we are not exposed to the actual fracking, but with the prospect of mining the sand used for it. That sand is found in abundance here.

Several area landowners have applied for mining permits, but the county is considering a year-long moratorium on mining for the sand. There are concerns that the trucks will tear up the roads, but in reality, most county roads already see a great deal of truck traffic, and it is the county’s responsibility to maintain county roads for commercial use.

There are also charges that the mining would be dangerous to our health. While it is true that when the sand particles are pulverized they should not be breathed, mining for the sand extracts the sand particles whole — if they are already smashed they are worth less.

Quarries are already a way of life around here because of the abundance of sand, gravel, rock and fill. So is dredging sand from the bottom of the Mississippi River, in order to maintain a nine-foot channel for barge travel. Piles of sand can be found nearly everywhere you look.

Now landowners want to take advantage of an economic boom, of which we could use a little around here in this recession. There is no indication that mining for the sand needed for fracking will do anything to the water around here. After the sand is removed, the land can be reclaimed as tillable. Mining projects will create jobs and tax dollars.

Why not let private landowners make some money? Others do, selling corn to ethanol plants, or selling land to developers. This is land that will return to its agrarian purpose.

And why not take advantage of our own natural resources, instead of kowtowing to our enemies and fighting wars on sand dunes overseas. Let’s pump enough natural gas — a very clean fuel — to bring us into a new era of renewable fuel, because we are not there yet, despite the billions in tax dollars sunk into fledgling alternative industries.

The natural gas industry can pay for itself, requiring no subsidies, an economic godsend for this country in hard times.

Thanks to all our veterans

It’s time to thank all of our members and veterans of the Armed Services, and for many of us to remember our family members who served. Many thanks to all, especially to my mother, a WAVE, my father and my uncles, also in the U.S. Navy, who all came home from WWII to live good lives, but have now passed away. Theirs was a true fight for world freedom. Also thanks to my brother, who survived being a Marine in Vietnam and now works for Homeland Security on the Canadian border in New Hampshire.

Hearty thanks to all in the Winona area who serve or have served in the military. We owe you! 


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