Anyone who read yesterday’s blog on oil sands will know it’s a fuel with serious ecological and social problems. Well, Canadian oil sands producers should brace for further bad news – this time from south of the border.

David Pumphrey, a former official in the Department of Energy and now a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said that increasingly oil sands are seen as “threat No. 1” in North America’s growing battle against greenhouse gas emissions.

Pumphrey said there are more than a half-dozen bills before Congress that would introduce a national system to cap greenhouse gas emissions and establish a market for emissions credits. Several of those bills would “penalize” energy sources like Alberta’s oil sands, which produce far more carbon dioxide emissions than conventional, lighter crude, he said.

The climate change challenge is only one of several “above ground risks” facing the oil sands projects, which nonetheless represent a promising source of additional crude oil for North American markets, the conference heard. Matthew McManus, an energy official in the State Department, said the U.S. perceives the Canadian oil and gas sector as one of “near zero political risk” and enormous investment opportunity.

For an industry that is meant to specialize in the long-term this is a no-brainer. If near zero political risk equates to huge and potentially catastrophic ecological risk, then that in turn will lead to increased political risk. This stuff ain’t rocket science.


  • Hipocracy and corruption from the very top of the social ladder yet again. History will look at Alberta’s oil sands as yet another smash and grab opportunity for the selfish and greedy to satisfy their hunger. After the extracting and refinement process is finnally completed i just hope they have a plan to restore Alberta’s sands to it’s former glory because after the dirty deeds have been done it will take thousands of years of natural ecology to replenish the area back to its natural state. I suspect it won’t be the oil companys clearing up the devistation but the local populations tax dollers will supplement the clearup.

  • As a chemist and engineer I marvel at the stupidity of the american public. On the one hand they demand bigger and better SUVs and on the other they want cheaper and more plentiful gasolene supplies. Unless all the supplies of hydrocarbon fuels available(oil sands, oil shale,offshore California and Florida plus Anwar) are put into the equation,the US can kiss goodbye to its relatively cheap energy.
    We must make use of the available sources of energy, Nuclear, Coal liquifaction Natural gas,geothermal energy where it is available and minor sources such as solar power, wind energy. We have very large amounts of natural gas which should be used to replace the use of oil for heating.
    Finally ethanol should not be made from corn, the energy required for conversion makes it a lousy tradeoff.

  • I think the push to make the oil sands development accountable for the environmental impacts is excellent. However, I agree with Mr Bishop above conservation should lead the way. The American and world public should fully understand their complaint and for those that are still driving, the hypocrisy of their environmentalism. I have found that while extraction of a barrel of oil requires emission of 80 kg of CO2, the burning of that barrel of oil will yield 530 kg of CO2. If you want your SUV, consider the alternative costs of your war in Iraq. Maybe you should do a environmental assessment of that mess! Americans have among the lowest fuel taxes for the G8 countries and the per capita fuel use is the highest. In Alberta we think that it would be entirely appropriate if Americans would pay an environmental fuel export surcharge that could be used to lower our carbon footprint.

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