While Americans hear much about the Keystone pipeline little is seen in the American media regarding the ongoing controversy in Canada regarding the many concerns about the tar sands. The British Columbian paper The Tyee had an interesting series, the salient points bear repeating:
"Canada has joined the ranks of exporting oil nations and now supplies more petroleum to the United States than Mexico or Saudi Arabia. The unconventional character of mined bitumen as well as the startling revenue it generates for government coffers has irrevocably changed the country. Five per cent of the nation's GDP comes from oil while bitumen makes up 25 per cent of the nation's exports....
"Since 1996 the global oil industry has invested nearly $200 billion in bitumen mines, upgraders, pipelines and steam plants. Seven of the world's largest companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Sinopec, Petro China, Total and Chevron) now propose to invest another $180-billion on the resource over the next two decades to boost production from 1.6 million barrels a day to more than 3 million barrels. By 2030 industry will have dug a 40-metre hole in the boreal forest the size of Rhode Island. It has already created lakes of mining waste (170 square kilometres) great enough to flood Washington, D.C. or downtown Vancouver. Moreover, the world's longest and therefore least secure pipelines are all connected to the project. Everything about the project gives a new meaning to the word big.
"In 2011 the government of Alberta released a startling infrastructure plan for the world's largest energy project. It forecasts that oil sands production will grow from 1.6 million barrels a day to 6 million by 2035. At the same time the population of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo could more than double and grow to 240,000 people.
"Yet this rapid expansion poses more risks than benefits for Canada. For starters, the U.S. demand for oil is in steep decline due to the global recession and rising domestic production from North Dakota's unconventional oil fields. That leaves Communist China as a core market for expanding bitumen supplies. Yet renewable energy reforms combined with slowing growth in its industrial megacities could also lesson demand for imported oil. Moreover oil remains the world's most volatile commodity. The Deutsche Bank has predicted that oil price volatility alone could diminish demand for petroleum as a transportation fuel and cripple high cost projects such as the oil sands as early as 2015.
"A damning 2011 report by a Montreal investment group, MRB, concluded that the nation has crossed a critical threshold: "A severe case of Dutch Disease has dramatically reduced the breadth of the Canadian business sector over the past decade, hollowing out manufactured goods exporters and making the nation increasingly reliant on commodity demand. Canada has often been referred to in jest as the 51st state, due to its historical reliance on the U.S. as a key export market. However, it is becoming more accurate to regard Canada as another Province of China."
"Just about every oil sands developer claims that they can clean up messy bitumen production and its large carbon and water footprint with better technology. "Technology is the key to further progress," says the American Petroleum Institute in its oil sands propaganda.
But this technology doesn't exist yet. Although the energy industry may be dependent on technology for making fossil fuels, it doesn't invest much in innovation. According to Forbes, big energy companies are fat and lazy creatures that devote barely 0.3 per cent of their sales to research and development (R&D). Many have even axed their R&D departments. In contrast, the pharmaceutical industry spends 19 per cent of its sales on research. The auto industry follows closely behind. But not the oil patch. In fact, Canadian energy firms devote no more than 0.2 to 0.7 per cent of sales to research.
Americans in the meantime are told these tar sands in Canada will free the country from "foreign oil dependency" which should give even Canadian conservatives pause.
Rick Perry in Iowa: “Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source.”
They already own the place in their own minds.
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