This Blog tries to avoid a symptoms based approach to solutions but irrespective of Climate Change and morality, Tar sands production cannot solve our problems on the time scale we have. IEA graphs hardly show it on our future oil supply.
My letter in Professional Egineering makes this clear.
PE’s editorial frequently looks at sustainability issues but I note with concern that the article in today’s PE ‘Black treacle turns to Gold’ raises no such issues. Recovering reserves of oil sands in the context of global warming is at the least contentious, whilst the use of images such as ‘slushes the ore with warm water’ – ‘pumped hundreds of kilometres’ and the ‘addition of Hydrogen’ – creates any number of questions, some briefly alluded to.
- What is the useful energy gain created in this process?
- What heats the water – gas – nuclear power?
- How much water is contaminated in this process, where is it from and where does it go?
- How do we create the hydrogen and would it not better be used directly in fuel cells etc.
- How safe is carbon sequestration?
We need to use the remaining easy oil and gas to create a low carbon future before the adverse energy equation becomes too much of a hill to climb – like trying to escape a black hole. I feel Investing in these schemes is a criminal diversion of resources.
The Catholic bishop whose diocese extends over the tar sands has posted a scathing pastoral letter, “The Integrity of Creation and the Athabasca Oil Sands.”
The letter by Bishop Luc Bouchard concludes, “even great financial gain does not justify serious harm to the environment,” and “the present pace and scale of development in the Athabasca oil sands cannot be morally justified.” Equally powerful is who the letter is addressed to:
The critical points made in this letter are not directed to the working people of Fort McMurray but to oil company executives in Calgary and Houston, to government leaders in Edmonton and Ottawa, and to the general public whose excessive consumerist lifestyle drives the demand for oil.
We have met the enemy and he is us!
Other than sticking with the euphemism “oil sands” (see “Canada tries to tar-sandbag Obama on climate” the remarkably detailed and heavily footnoted letter is a brilliant piece of work dissecting what has been called the “biggest global warming crime ever seen.”
Bishop Bouchard notes that “The environmental liabilities that result from the various steps in this process are significant and include”:
- Destruction of the boreal forest eco-system
- Potential damage to the Athabasca water shed
- The release of greenhouse gases
- Heavy consumption of natural gas
- The creation of toxic tailings ponds
He writes at length on all five, and concludes……………