Canada’s Tar Sands Oil: Environmental Disaster

by Val Germann

As Star Phoenix Base readers know, Alberta has passed Texas as an oil-producing region and the North American petroleum pipelines are running north-to-south today instead of the other way around. Alberta is producing more than one million barrels of oil per day, on the way to three milion barrels per day by 2015. But the cost is high and getting higher, and not just in monetary terms, as this quote from a TERRADAILY article indicates:

Open pits now dot the northern part of Alberta province where vast tracts of the Boreal Forest once stood, and giant mechanical shovels now devour black oil-encrusted soil day and night.

Oil from tar sands is an environmental disaster, to say the least. The TERRADAILY article quotes Al Gore on the new Canadian crude:

“For every barrel of oil they extract there, they have to use enough natural gas to heat a family’s home for four days,” Gore [said]. And they have to tear up four tonnes of landscape, all for one barrel of oil. It is truly nuts.”

Yes, it is truly nuts, but it’s making piles of money for a lot of people, none of whom are interested in having U.S. consumers change their lifestyles or driving habits, not with petroleum spot prices at $65-70 US per barrel. There is simply too much money in it, regardless of any environmental downside. The Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Harper, summed up the general general attitude of his administration:

This government isn’t going to implement any measures that would do severe damage to Canadian jobs or to the Canadian economy,” Harper told reporters at the close of the spring parliamentary session. “We will continue implementing our (own) national system of regulations.”

This statement, from another current TERRADAILY article, was made in the wake of the Canadian Senate voting to force Harper’s government to abide by the Kyoto protocol, now a truly dead letter, world-wide. There is little doubt that oil from tar sands has ended any chance Canada ever had of living up to that agreement. The quote below quickly tells the sad tale:

A previous Liberal administration had agreed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce CO2 emissions to 6.0 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, but a 2006 government environmental audit found emissions had instead increased by 35 percent.

And they are going to keep on increasing, too, because the intention is, as outlined above, to double tar sands oil output over the next decade or so, with devastaing effects for Canada’s CO2 emissions.

So, add Canada to the list of CO2 deadbeats, along with China, India and Brazil. Deliberate govenment policies have been put in hand that have made impossible any decrease in emissions from those countries. —

About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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