Dirty Oil: Tar Sands truth hidden from Canadians
Special to The Canadian
Located beneath 4.3 million hectares of boreal forest, an area the size of Florida, the tar sands are the dirtiest source of oil in the world. Few Canadians know what is happening in northern Alberta. While many may know about Alberta’s immense oil reserves in the tar sands (2nd only to Saudi Arabia) few know the environmental and social devastation that is taking place. The tar sands could destroy over 149,000 square kilometres or Boreal forest an area the size of Florida. By 2020 they are expected to emit more than 141 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – more than double that currently produced by all the cars and trucks in Canada and Alberta is now home to the world’s largest dam and it is built to hold the toxic waste from just one Tar Sands operation.
The tar sands of Alberta are now the world’s largest industrial operation. Because of their sheer scale, all Canadians have become hostage to their development. Instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Canada is quickly increasing them and fully half of that emissions growth is projected to come from the Tar Sands. This is just beginning.
The Alberta government has already given approvals that will double the size of existing operations, and has been talking with the U.S. government to grow the Tar Sands five-fold in a “short time span” looking to move from 1 million barrels of oil per day to over 5 million. The Tar Sands are now the biggest capital project anywhere on Earth and the biggest energy undertaking anywhere. With the Tar Sands, Canada has become the world’s dirty energy superpower.
A few quick facts:
• The Tar Sands can single handedly prevent Canada from meeting it’s international obligations under the Kyoto protocol. By 2020 the tar sands are expected to release over 141 megatonnes of GHG – twice that produced by all the cars and trucks in Canada.
• An area the size of the state of Florida (149,000 km2) can be leased to oil sands development in the future.
• It takes 3-5 barrels of fresh water to get a single barrel of oil from the tar sands. 350 million cubic metres is the volume of water currently allocated to the tar sands, the equivalent to the water required by a city of two million people.
• Cumulatively, the environmental impact of the tar sands has made Alberta the industrial air pollution capital of Canada, with one billion kilograms of emissions in 2003.
• 600 million cubic feet of Natural gas is used every day – that’s enough to heat more than three million Canadian homes.
• First Nation communities downstream of tar sands operation have been experiencing unprecedented rates of bile and colon cancer, lupus and other diseased that they believe are attributable to tar sands.
• 70% of the crude oil being extracted from the tar sands is exported directly to the United States mostly for use in transportation.
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