It sounds like good news. A new study, "Oil Sands Economic Benefits: Today and in the Future," states that tar sands production supported more than 478,000 direct, indirect and induced Canadian jobs in 2012 and contributed $91-billion of Canada's GDP, an economic contribution greater than that of the province of Saskatchewan. Government revenues in the form of tax receipts and royalties totaled $28-billion, over half going to Ottawa. Furthermore, the study claims that in 2025, the tar sands will provide 753,000 jobs, add $171-billion to the GDP, $61-billion going to the provincial and federal governments.
All of this sounds wonderful indeed, but in fact it is a curse. The tar sands are just too rich. No matter how much harm producing bitumen may do, corporations seeking profits, governments seeking taxes, and workers seeking jobs, just can't say no.
And the harm is immense. First and foremost, the tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emission in Canada and therefore our fastest growing contributor to global warming, the greatest threat humanity faces.
There are other harms as well, such as the serious harm tar sands production has done to our international reputation. Then there is the danger of becoming increasingly dependent on an industry that could collapse if renewables are developed faster than expected, or if our foreign markets become increasingly reluctant to buy our junk oil. This is a very unhealthy dependency, both morally and economically.
But what can we do? We are hooked. And with the money and the jobs flowing like good beer, no political party is going to turn off the taps. Like every civilization that ever collapsed because of excessive demands on its environment, we have no trouble rationalizing our self-indulgence. Sensible people can only cross their fingers and hope renewables will soon put this nefarious trade out of business. Until then, we will no doubt continue down the dark path of our addiction.