13 January 2007

Tar sands: a big, dirty business

A pamphlet the Pembina Institute dropped in my mailbox the other day reminded me yet again of the difficulty of comprehending the magnitude of tar sands development. Contemplate the following:
  • The amount of clean natural gas used daily for production would heat more than three million homes.
  • A barrel of oil produced from the sands results in three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional crude.
  • Mining operations are licensed to divert a volume of water from the Athabasca River twice the amount of water used by the City of Calgary. Ninety per cent of it ends up in toxic tailing ponds.
  • An area of boreal forest larger than Vancouver Island has been leased for in situ development.
  • Syncrude's and Suncor's emissions are ranked number one and two among Alberta's largest polluters, helping to make Alberta pollution king of Canada.
I find the first item particularly disturbing. Burning large volumes of clean energy to produce large volumes of dirty energy seems, as one wit observed, like transmuting gold into lead -- an alchemy of madness.

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