Canadian Oil Sands

April 16, 2012

Consider these four facts:

In light of the foregoing, it is worth having a look at what both Canadian and U.S. politicians sell as unique job creation opportunities and heavenly energy security gifts: the oil sands that they have greenwashed and relabeled as “tar sands.” 

For a vivid introduction to the issue, have a look at the following TEDx lecture by Garth Lenz entitled “The true cost of oil”:

In addition to these powerful pictures, James Hanson, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies hit the nail on the head in his anti-Keystone essay “Silence Is Deadly: I’m Speaking Out Against Canada-U.S. Tar Sands Pipeline.” He wrote:

[The] phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capture the CO2 emitted while burning oil, which is used principally in vehicles.   

Numerous concerned scientists and authors have written extensively about the implications and dangers of the oil sands. Among these, here are a few that are particularly worth looking at:

Joe Romm: “Tar sands: Still dirty after all these years” & “Canadian PM Harper Says Okaying the Tar Sands Pipeline is a “Complete No-Brainer.” I Could Not Agree More.” [Blog]

The Canadian tar sands are substantially dirtier than conventional oil as the chart above shows […]. They may contain enough carbon-intensive fuel to make stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at non-catastrophic levels all but impossible. 

Andrew Nikiforuk: “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent” [Book]

[…] The region has become a global Deadwood, complete with rapturous engineers, cut-throat cocaine dealers, Muslim extremists, and a huge population of homeless individuals. In this award-winning book, a Canadian bestseller, journalist Andrew Nikiforuk exposes the disastrous environmental, social, and political costs of the tar sands.

Richard Schneider: “Death by a thousand cuts. The impacts of in situ oil sands development on Alberta’s boreal forest” [Report, pdf]

[…] the potential area impacted will be vast – approximately 138,000 km2 (13.8 million hectares), which is 50 times larger than the area of the mining zone.3 This is equivalent to 21% of Alberta, or a land area the size of Florida.

 Dan Woynillowicz: “Oil sands fever. The environmental implications of Canada’s oil sands rush” [Report, pdf]

[…] The book explores the contradiction between rapidly developing the oilsands and taking action to combat climate change; the implications for Alberta’s water resources; the dramatic impact on Canada’s boreal forest; the effects of pollution on the region’s forests, people and wildlife. 

And in this interview, Bill McKibben connects recent heatwaves and global warming to the Keystone pipeline in order to describe the “carbon bomb” that is the oil sands. 

Given the substantial and accumulating evidence of direct environmental damage, the direct harm it has for human health, the enormous waste of resources and most importantly the dire consequences for climate change, it is puzzling how the Keystone pipeline receives such political support. It is further evidence of the incredible influence that corporate interest groups have on public policy.


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