One of the reasons that we all fought for Barack Obama was to have a sane climate change policy come from the White House which would be based on science. But right now in Alberta an area the size of the state of Florida is in the process of being strip mined and "cooked" to extract oil from oil sands and shale oil for US consumption.
The sheer scale and devastion that these projects are causing, and will cause, is mind boggling. The oil companies know that if the world really takes a good look at what they are doing they will be shut down. So the conservative Bush-ite Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is trying to nail down US approval for these projects before we wise up to what is going on...from the Globe and Mail:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is proposing to strike a joint climate-change pact with president-elect Barack Obama, an initiative that would seek to protect Alberta's oil sands projects from potentially tough new U.S. climate-change rules by offering a secure North American energy supply.
We must get President-elect Obama to reject Canadian tar sands and shale oil NOW before the policy is set in stone. He needs to hear from us.
Some facts to consider about the current projected future of OUR oil consumption in North America:
- Fully exploited the oil companies expect 1.5 trillion barrels of oil to come from "heavy crude" i.e. tar sands and shale oil from an area of Boreal forst covering 54,000 sq. miles.
- Total estimated carbon emissions from this would make Canada the largest emitter of GHGs on the planet. Canada's GHG emissions were already 26% above 1990 levels. If these projects go forward at the pace desired by industry, the production and use of the fuel would account for 87% of ALL OECD country emissions in 2050 (Under a 450ppm stablization pathway.) To put that into perspective, the entire developed world could reduce its emissions by 60% from todays levels and those reductions would be offset by the emissions from these projects.
- The amount of energy needed to get a barrel of tar sands oil equals roughly 3/4 of that barrel. So in using energy for extraction equivalent to a barrel of oil you only get a barrel and a third.
- The energy being used to process the tar sands comes from natural gas mined at the arctic circle. (one enviornmental disaster feeding another.)
- The amount of natural gas being used for this between 2005 and 2007 rose from 800 million cubic ft. per day (cf/d)to 1.3 billion cf/d. That is enough natural gas to heat over six million typical Canadian homes - approximately HALF the households in Canada.
- Leading Climate Scientist Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute recently told an audience at the National Press Club that climate change is no less than a planetary emergency. Hansen went on to say: "If we squeeze oil out of the tar sands then there is no hope for life as we know it."
- Right now, unless we act and demand strong action on low carbon fuel standards from Congress and President-elect Obama, this WILL be our source for oil for for the future. For good or ill.
Obama has stated some good energy policy goals but since the impacts of this development happen north of the border this can all still happen the not counter act his campaign promises:
- Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined. [We use 19 million a day and produce 5 million. Our production is falling and even with reductions we'll need to get oil from somewhere, so the pressure will be on to use Canadian tar sands oil...]
- Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America. [There are some 125 million cars on US roads so this is a drop in the bucket...]
- Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. [Canadian tar sands emissions happen in...Canada.]
In fact a text search of Obama's environmental and energy plans doesn't turn up the terms "Tar Sands", "Oil Sands", or "Shale Oil". This is both a problem in that the issue hasn't been defined by Obama and also an opportunity for us to help him set the agenda.
If you're convinced and want to act go:
Here - Obama's campaign headquarters.
or Here - Congress.org - a great resource for contacting representatives...
Here's a cut & paste letter you can use to send to Obama's campaign headquarters (now his transition team) and also to your representatives:
Dear XX(decision maker),
As a citizen and tax payer concerned about our future I'd like to bring to your attention an issue which needs to be addressed urgently - the development of the tar sands and oil shale reserves in Canada. These reserves are being touted as prospective new sources of oil for the US. These "heavy crude" reserves have green house gas emission rates some 2.5 times the rate of conventional oil and exploitation of them will have catastrophic effects on our planet's climate system. To develop them would use massive amounts of both energy and water; in fact, a nuclear power plant is to be built to provide the needed energy in order to access that oil.
I urge you to place a ban upon the import of oil from tar sands into the United States and a ban on all shale oil developments within US borders. Our climate system is destabilizing and we may have already passed the point of no return. Exploitation of these reserves will surely push us into a catastrophic climate scenario. As Dr. James Hansen, the leading climate scientist in the US, recently stated at the National Press Club, "If we squeeze oil out of the tar sands then there is no hope for life as we know it."
We cannot solve our climate problem by pushing it onto Canada, but should put our money and efforts towards energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources that will function to replace the need for tar sands and shale oil entirely.
Thank you for you time and consideration in this essential matter.
Sincerely, your constitutent [Youe Name Here]
Something else to consider if I haven't made the case yet -- once more from the Global and Mail:
Ms. Barratt-Brown noted that, unlike U.S. plans, Canada's approach does not include a firm cap on emissions, but instead uses an "intensity target" which regulates emissions on the basis of production levels.
Gary Mar, Alberta's representative in Washington, said he is confident the Obama team is familiar with the oil sands projects and is expected to encourage their development, given the desire for energy security.
Mr. Mar said international studies suggest that the emissions from the oil sands are comparable to conventional sources of oil, if the companies implement so-called carbon-capture-and-storage technology.
What a pile of BS! See, all these tar sands and shale oil projects talk about ameliorating climate change impacts with carbon capture and storage (CCS). Even then you still only get down to "conventional sources of oil" levels of emissions. Currently CCS costs about $200 a ton and there are no scale projects in any of the tar sands operations to do this despite plans to expand these operations to over 1.2 million barrels a day by 2021.
This is what they (Shell, BP, Suncor, Total, etc) have already built.
There ain't no carbon capture going on here nor will there be. There's no requirements to do it now so why spend money on it now?
Dr. Hansen nailed it in a recent report to Congress saying that the oil company CEOs were acting with full knowledge of what they were doing and should be tried for their crimes:
We must draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide to preserve the planet we know. A level of no more than 350ppm is still feasible, with the help of reforestation and improved agricultural practices, but just barely – time is running out.
Oil is used in vehicles where it is impractical to capture the carbon. But oil is running out. To preserve our planet we must also ensure that the next mobile energy source is not obtained by squeezing oil from coal, tar shale or other fossil fuels.
Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future.
CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
Stephen Harper is now trying to rope Obama into sealing his approval for this climate debacle. Let's make sure he hears from us first.
Economics and Tar Sands:
One last point -- at the moment oil prices have come down enough so that these projects have been put temporarily on hold because they are not economical. Total SA estimates that they will need oil prices of around $90 per barrel to be profitable with tar sands. So this gives us a window of opportunity to stop these project from being expanded. But the EIA is expected to forecast $100 per barrel in foreward looking projections in a day or two (11/7/08) so we don't have forever. What's driving the price down is demand, or lack thereof - with a global recession demand is low, once growth ramps up so does oil price.
Recently, Cambridge Energy Resource Associates came out with a study called "Break Point" in which they concluded that at prices between $100 and $120 per barrel, economic growth gets restricted and stops. they showed how the recent oil price spike was instrumental in worsening economic conditions. More on that here from the Canadian International Bank of Commerce... In other words, we cannot afford this oil even if it DOES get developed. Add in carbon price and the impact costs, determined by the Stern Review to be over $85 per ton of emissions and the value proposition just doesn't add up.
This insanity is only allowed to go on because it's just an extension of what we've always done. We need to stop and wake up now. Thanks for reading - Doolittle.
[Credit: The photos were taken by David Dodge for the Pembina Institute. You can find them and more at www.OilSandsWatch.org. ]www.OilSandsWatch.org