STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

Just another WordPress.com weblog

We’ll Pay for Suncor Expansion

Posted by mhudema on February 10, 2008

We’ll pay for Suncor expansion

var imageL= ‘/images/77/9d/88ed3f7d4d7eb3c279dd17b3f6a5.jpeg’ if(imageL) { document.write(‘‘); } else{ document.write(”); }

LARRY MACDOUGAL PHOTO
Syncrude’s oil-sands operations in Alberta

AddThis var addthis_pub = ”;

Feb 09, 2008 04:30 AM


Turning a blind eye is supposed to be a bad thing, because you live a lie. You act as if you didn’t know.

In Canada, we do this every day. Some make a lot of money at it. Others believe – in a mad, schizophrenic way – that it’s a formula for prosperity.

Last week there was a prime example of turning a blind eye. The business press carried stories that Suncor Energy Inc. is planning to expand its oil sands operations in northern Alberta, at a cost of $20 billion.

The company expects to increase oil production to 550,000 barrels a day by 2012. The press was full of details about how the company will do this, and a lot of attention was focused on the statement of Suncor’s chief executive, who said the company had worked out the costs and was confident that the expansion would be a success.

No one mentioned that in producing 550,000 barrels a day, Suncor will eliminate water from the surface of the planet at a rate that would drain Lake Nipissing, Ontario’s fifth largest lake, bone dry within two years.

No one mentioned what the cost of the loss of this amount of water would be. No one hazarded a guess as to who should pay this cost.

All reports that I saw turned a blind eye – and Suncor’s shares rose $2.40 at the close of trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

It wasn’t just the water. There was no attempt to calculate the increase in greenhouse gases the expansion will create. Or the devastation of the landscape.

There will be a cost to all these consequences, and it’s going to be big. The only question is: Who’s going to carry the burden?

This wasn’t a question that found its way into reporting of the announcement, because there’s a polite masquerade that occurs. The phrase “turning a blind eye” gets dressed up in a frilly little phrase called “externalizing the costs,” a term cooked up by economists to justify dumping the expense on the public.

The term describes the practice of removing from the books all responsibility for the damage caused by its waste-generating practices – as long as the company doesn’t go too far and break a pollution law. Since it has a polite name, and carries a stamp of approval from economists, turning a blind eye has become respectable.

The irony is we are going to pay Suncor to eliminate the water, foul the air, and deface the landscape. There will be government subsidies and tax breaks to assist in the expansion. There will be no questions asked about the water that will go missing.

In its expansion, Suncor plans to inject steam more than 100 metres below ground. The steam’s heat will make bitumen – the viscous, tar-like form of petroleum – flow more easily, and allow the company to extract it. In addition to the bitumen, water will flow from the well, and it can be reused until it becomes too dirty. Then it will be injected deep underground where it will remain trapped, removing it from Earth’s biological systems indefinitely.

According to the Pembina Institute, which tracks oil sands operations, Suncor will probably inject about two-thirds of a barrel of water underground for every barrel of oil it will produce.

Over a year that will amount to 2.1 cubic kilometres of water. Lake Nipissing holds 3.8 cubic kilometres of water, so the water lost to the world in Suncor’s expanded operation would be equivalent to draining the lake in a little under two years.

It’s a travesty that this kind of loss is not factored into calculations that determine a project’s worth.

Cameron Smith can be reached at camsmith@kingston.net.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: