Environment Forum

“The other oil disaster”

July 15, 2010

billboard

Forget the BP oil spill for a moment. An international PR war is heating up this week between environmentalists and the oil industry over an entirely different sore spot: The Alberta oil sands in northern Canada.

Billboards targeting the region with the largest crude reserves outside the Middle East sprang up in four major U.S. cities this week in the launch of a multi-million dollar, multi-year campaign led by NGO Corporate Ethics International.

The campaign, supported by a network of foundations including Polaris Institute, Friends of the Earth and Earthworks, is scheduled to also run in Europe and Asia.

Billboards in Denver, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis urge U.S. travelers to boycott Alberta, (dubbed “The Other Oil Disaster,”) because the energy-intensive extraction process of the oil sands is destroying wildlife and habitat on a scale that far exceeds other hotbeds for environmental concern, including the BP oil spill, according to their website.

“We think that actually in the end there’s no comparison. The tar sands are much worse (than the BP spill),” Corporate Ethics director Michael Marx told the Edmonton Journal.

Unlike conventional oil and gas, production of oil sands is more carbon-intensive because it requires the use of hot water and chemicals to separate the sticky black bitumen from the sands. The used water then collects in toxic ponds. Upgraders convert the bitumen into synthetic light oil that is shipped to refineries in Canada and the United States.

Last month, a judge found Syncrude Canada Ltd, Canada’s largest oil sands producer, guilty in the deaths of 1,600 ducks that landed on one of the “tailings ponds” in 2008, and ruled the company should have had deterrents in place. The company faces maximum penalties of C$800,000.

But the oil sands are a major source of revenue for the Canadian province. After investment in the region collapsed during the financial crisis, companies have again begun to spend on new oil sands projects and the Energy Resources Conservation Board expects output to reach 3.2 million barrels by 2019.

Last week, the province paid $55,000 to run a half-page ad in the Washington Post to defend the oil sands industry, after 50 U.S. Congress members urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to delay the $12-billion Keystone XL pipeline expansions to Texas.

“Most Americans, and probably most Canadians, don’t know we are the largest supplier of petroleum to the United States, bigger than Saudi Arabia, bigger than Venezuela,” spokesman to Alberta’s premier Jerry Bellikka told The Edmonton Journal.

Following the Syncrude incident, the Alberta government tightened regulations and now requires companies to prepare plans for the ponds and file reports on them annually.

During the court case, the oil industry mounted a PR blitz about how it is tightening procedures and developing new technology to stop the spread of tailings ponds and deal with the waste.

The boycott campaign “absolutely will affect business,” Ken Fiske, vice-president of tourism and marketing for the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, told the Journal.

What do you think? Is the oil sands a bigger environmental concern than the BP oil spill?

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Image shows one of the “Rethink Alberta” billboards launched in four U.S. cities the week of July 13, 2010, reprinted courtesy of Corporate Ethics International. REUTERS/Handout/Corporate Ethics International

Comments
11 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

I guess that depends on what ecological services the Alberta oil sands development is destroying and for how long vs the gulf oil spill. We get an awful lot of food, carbon capture (plankton), recreation, and biodiversity resources from the gulf. How does that compare to the negative impacts of strip mining the tundra and using carbon intensive cracking techniques to get usable oil? Having seen neither with my own eyes, it seems silly to speculate.

Posted by josefski | Report as abusive
 

This is almost funny. Now that there is a disaster all of a sudden Alberta is the devil. I the US thinks we are so bad, stop taking our resources. Really. You are looking for a scapegoat and you think that no one in the entire world recognizes this. Put up as many signs as you want and put out as many ads as you want. We all know that Alberta did not wreck the Gulf. BP did.

Posted by KateHulit | Report as abusive
 

I guess oil has always leaked into that closed system.

What is insane (as I understand it) is that 5 units of energy are burned (as natural gas) to get one unit of gasoline to the USA. It is absolutely insane.

Posted by Malc97979 | Report as abusive
 

It is ridiculous to paint all of Alberta with this brush. It would be like saying that people should think again about visiting Louisiana because of the Gulf Oil Spill. Target the companies that are polluting not the place they are working in. Alberta is a beautiful place that has so much more than just the tar sands. These activists are hurting the wrong people. Do they really think that the oil execs care if the guy working the front desk in a hotel loses his job because nobody comes to Alberta? I don’t think so.

Posted by AlbertaGirl | Report as abusive
 

The “other oil disaster..” is not in Alberta.

The other oil disaster started over 20 years ago and continues to this day.

I wonder how many of these environmentalists can spell or find ‘Nigeria’?

Posted by ThisBoyTV | Report as abusive
 

911 was committed by Saudi Arabian’s, funded by Middle Eastern Oil. Canada is one of the few friends the US has in the world, it’s biggest trading partner, and a secure source of, and it’s largest supplier of oil. The Tar Sands are in the process of cleaning themselves up as fast as they can. Is this another ego media play by cause and publicity seeking people like Michael Marx to say “we forced them to clean up the Tar Sands” when they are already well into the process? ( is he related to Karl or Harpo?)
China will pay whatever Canada ask for every barrel it can produce of it’s oil. Canada does not need the US to buy it’s oil and if the US would rather fund terrorism against itself, well it wouldn’t be the first time (think Iraq). Also, how about putting your own house in order first, think ugly carbon spewing coal fired electrical generating plants, powered by huge earth scarring open pit mines,eh?
Canada has stood with the US many times throughout history, it is time to think long and hard before it starts any kind of economic campaign to damage one of the only true friends it has in the world.

Posted by malwat | Report as abusive
 

Is BC a Police State
Rigging Provincial Elections

The media refuses to cover this issue.

One day after informing elections BC of my interest in running as a candidate , the RCMP planted drugs on me held me in custody durring the time period used to obtain signatures and other prerequisits. then released me under house arrest for the durration of the election. I have been under house arrest, or in jail ever since!
The day after I sent two emails to the international criminal court containing what I considered as evidence to support a Genocide Complaint against these RCMP for planting the drugs and rigging the election, the same RCMP did the same thing resulting in six weeks incarceration, before release under house arrest.
Why are they holding a grudge,,,,, because I ran in a Federal Election against Stockwell Day , where I believe I prevented the planned changes to the young offenders act to imprison 10 years old children.
What are they trying to keep secret…. The solution to climate change!

dennisbaker2003@hotmail.com
RE : The solution to climate change.
( human excrement + nuclear waste = hydrogen )
The USA discharges Trillions of tons of sewage annually, sufficient quantity to sustain electrical generation requirements of the USA.
Redirecting existing sewage systems to containment facilities would be a considerable infrastructure modification project.
It is the intense radiation that causes the conversion of organic material into hydrogen, therefore what some would consider the most dangerous waste because of its radiation would be the best for this utilization.
I believe the combination of clean water and clean air, will increase the life expectancy of humans.
The four main areas of concern globally are energy, food,water and air!
The radiolydic decomposing of organic materials generates Hydrogen
By using our sewage as a source of energy we also get clean air , clean water, and no ethanol use of food stocks. Eat food first, create energy after.
Simply replacing the fossil fuel powered electrical generating facilities with these plants, would reduce CO2 emissions, and CH4 emissions, to acceptable levels, globally.
This would require a completely new reactor facility capable of converting human waste into hydrogen and then burning the hydrogen to generate electricity on site.
This solution is sellable to citizens because of all the side issue solutions. I’ve been able to convince most simply with concept of using nuclear waste to a productive end.
Superbugs ( antibiotic resistant ) apparently are created in the waters sewage is discharged into, which is one more side issue solution.
Anything not converting into hydrogen will potentially be disposed of using Transmutation.
The water emitted from hydrogen burning will have uses in leaching heavy metals from other contaminated site clean ups.
I thank you for your consideration, please feel free to contact me anytime.
Dennis Baker

Posted by D.Baker | Report as abusive
 

The world is run by multinational corporations. They own the politicians of most industrialized nations because of huge reelection campaign donations said corporations are allowed to give. Those very same politicians in turn control law enforcement agencies and or write the law as well. The Preamble to my government’s constitution should read “We the Corporations” instead of “We the People”.

Posted by coyotle | Report as abusive
 

We the Corporations” instead of “We the People”.

acceptance that “resistance is futile” is not the answer!

golieth was not defeated by fighting on his terms!

Making clean water a human right will do!

Posted by D.Baker | Report as abusive
 

Do you want Oil in the Sand or Blood in the Sand?

As the US’s oldest friend they would not have to invade Alberta for a secure source of oil. They wouldn’t, would they? .<..>.

Posted by Hariy1 | Report as abusive
 

And it’s Canada’s dirty oil or the US’s dirty coal. Either way it’s time to seriously think about Thorium Florid Reactors.

Posted by Hariy1 | Report as abusive
 

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