When the oil industry answers it critics about whether we are running out of oil, the word Alberta normally comes into the conversation pretty soon.

Alberta’s tar sands have reserves estimated at just behind Saudi Arabia, and are seen as the industry’s salvation (after Iraq). The only problem being for oil sands is that they are highly polluting and energy intensive to extract.

So just as high energy prices are beginning to bite, some may be looking at Alberta to relieve the pressure, crank up the production and bring down the price. But is the Alberta oil boom going to bust before it even goes boom?

This week the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers admitted that labour shortages and increased regulatory scrutiny are slowing oil sands development, just at a crucial time when that development should be expanding. Questions about rules on capturing carbon dioxide are one of a number of key issues muddying the investment waters, argued Greg Stringham, a vice president at the lobby group.

Project sponsors “are making the $1 billion decisions, they just need a little more certainty to make the $10 billion decisions,” Stringham told reporters at an energy conference this week. “The ultimate potential for the oil sands remains unchanged, it just means we’re going to take longer to get there.”

The task for oil sands opponents is to make sure that it takes so long for oil sands to get there that it gets stuck in the starting blocks, whilst clean technologies come sprinting from behind and win the race.

One Comment

  • “increased regulatory scrutiny are slowing oil sands development”

    Greg Stringham seems to imply this is a bad thing. I suppose we could just allow unregulated development, but that might result in the use of too much water from the Peace/Athabasca/MacKenzie River system, excessive use of natural gas, bird kills in settling ponds, widespread strip mining and general environmental devastation.

    Oh, right, this is happening WITH the current regulatory structure.

    “issues muddying the investment waters”

    What a lovely image from an industry that is (irreparably?) screwing up the waters of northern Alberta.

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