STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Alberta’s PR Machine goes to Chicago

Posted by mhudema on June 27, 2008

The filthiest crude: like squeezing blood from a rock and a zillion times more destructive.

POSTED June 25, 9:13 PM

Four tons of forest=one barrel of oil.

The practical…whatever will most predictably and most quickly make a profit…is synonymous with the immediate. The long-term effects of the values and acts of “practical men” lie outside the boundaries of their interest. For such people a strip mine ceases to exist as soon as the coal has been extracted. Short-term practicality is long-term idiocy.
~Wendell Berry

Last week, the Energy Minister for the province of Alberta stopped in Chicago. He was on a campaign to import oil wrung from Alberta’s tar sands into the U.S., via a pipeline that would run through Illinois.
Tar sands are extensive deposits of sand, clay and silt mixed with bitumen–a viscous, oil-rich tar–that sit beneath Canada’s Boreal forest. The only way to extract this bitumen, which makes up about 10% of the concoction, is by razing forests and then open-pit mining the sand. Only a fraction of the deposit can be reached by digging; the rest is forced to the surface by pumping steam underground. About four tons of earth is mined for every barrel of oil produced. Once the bitumen is separated out from other organic materials, it must undergo an energy intensive process to be converted into crude. Five barrels of water are polluted and over 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas are consumed to process one barrel of tar sands oil. The toxic water is held in storage lagoons large enough to be seen from space, poisoning surrounding wildlife and habitats. Tar sands oil refinement emits two to five times more carbon dioxide than conventional oil processing. Firsthand witnesses of the Alberta tar sands strip mining operation have likened the scene to Tolkien’s Mordor. Environmental Defence Canada released a report on the industry entitled The Most Destructive Project on Earth.
Recently, these tar sand deposits have come to be considered—by a few—as part of the world’s oil reserve, making Canada potentially the world’s largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia. Those few are surely the ones who stand to profit, for tar sands oil production has even been criticized by conventional oil producers for its environmental devastation and referred to in mainstream media outlets as deplorable.
The tar sands oil industry is indeed deplorable, ignoble and, perhaps even more importantly, a wholly irrational method of extracting energy. I’ve never much cared for the popular drug-addict analogy in reference to our nation’s oil reliance, but in this case, pumping in this dirty crude strikes me as the environmental equivalent of the scene in Trainspotting when Ewan McGregor dives headfirst into a nauseating toilet in pursuit of his accidentally excreted opium suppository. The idea of plundering one of North America’s largest forests and belching 500% more toxins into the atmosphere than we’ve been doing for a fraction of the desired substance is a final act of desperation, not a solution to a life-threatening problem.
Needless to say, the overtures of the Energy Minister were met with something less than enthusiasm. Two days ago, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution encouraging lifecycle analysis of fuel production and careful tracking of emissions produced from burning them. The names of ten mayors are currently attached to the document. Where does the Honorable Richard M. Daley stand on the issue? An official statement from City Hall is still pending…

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One Response to “Alberta’s PR Machine goes to Chicago”

  1. bweiland said

    good to have people like Mike Hudema creating awareness of the environment and various other causes my only question is what part of the Alberta population is he trying to spread he message to? Let’s face it, Alberta is a hick province where people only start to care about something when it affects them personnally (not in my backyard). Martha and Henry Albertan could care less about the environment or any other cause unless something happens (tornado, power line, toxic slug) to them personnally. So, instead of trying to be in people’s faces and trying to create awareness shouldn’t Mike and Greeenpeace’s strategy instead be a little more subtle. It’s kind like a commercial or tv show. If the commercial or tv show comes off being loud and abbrasive (which Martha and Henry Albertan feel about Mike and Greenpeace) they will tune out and make some ignorant comment like he’s crazy, dumb ass, what a goof etc. However, if the commercial or tv show is more subtle then people will be more inclined to tune in to the message.

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