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Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth

Environmental Defence has released a report calling the Alberta Oil Sands the most destructive project on Earth.

Few Canadians know that Canada is home to one of the world’s largest dams and it is built to hold toxic waste from just one Tar Sands operation,” Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence.

And according to the report this is just the beginning. Approvals have already been given that will double the size of existing operations and Canada’s leaders have been talking with the US government to grow oil sands operations in a “short time span.”

Even a former Premier of Alberta is concerned. Peter Lougheed who served as Premier from 1971 to 1985 was recently quoted on the oil sands as saying:

“… it is just a moonscape. It is wrong in my judgment, a major wrong… So it is a major, major federal and provincial issue.”

However, there is a silver lining in all this. A recent Canadian parliamentary committee recently stated that:

A business as usual approach to the development of the oil sands is not sustainable. The time has come to begin the transition to a clean energy future.”

Here’s a few facts about the Alberta Oil Sands:

  • Oil sands mining is licensed to use twice the amount of fresh water that the entire city of Calgary uses in a year. The water requirements for oil sands projects range from 2.5 to 4.0 barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced.
  • At least 90% of the fresh water used in the oil sands ends up in tailing lakes so toxic thatpropane cannons and floating scarecrows are used to keep ducks from landing in them.
  • Processing the oil sands uses enough natural gas in a day to heat 3 million homes in Canada.Natural gas requirements for the oil sands industry are projected to increase substantially during the projected period from 17 million cubic metres (0.6 billion cubic feet) per day in 2003 to a range of 40 to 45 million cubic metres (1.4 to 1.6 billion cubic) feet per day in 2015.
  • The oil sands operations are the fastest growing source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas in Canada. By 2020 the oil sands will release twice the amount produced currently by all the cars and trucks in Canada.
  • A 2003 report concluded that “an accident related to the failure of one of the oil sands tailings ponds could have catastrophic impact in the aquatic ecosystem of the Mackenzie River Basin due to the size of these lakes and their proximity to the Athabasca River.”
  • By 2015, the Alberta Oil Sands are expected to emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million).

A full copy of the Environmental Defence report, please click here.

Original post from desmogblog.com | 18 February 08 | TERRANCE BERG


The Suncor upgrader and tailing ponds operation nestles up against the Athabasca River just north of Fort MacMurray.


Getting at the oil-bearing sand requires stripping away a layer of soil and vegetation (known as “overburden”) roughly six metres thick. Then massive dump trucks, as big as a tow-story house, are used to haul it away. The bitumen goes down 30 meters, so the mining must skim off vast areas to feed the refinery.

For more photos by Edward Burtynsky, please click here.

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