As oil creeps towards an unprecedented $150 a barrel the Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora has denied that India and China were responsible for the recent oil rise.

Deori said that the growth in consumption in India was less than in many nations: “I take this opportunity to set the record straight. While China and India account for over one-third of the global population, their combined oil consumption is less than one-eighth of the world’s consumption.”

But others believe that India’s demand for oil , is in part, causing the record oil prices. And now in its race to secure oil, India is looking at Canadian oil sands.

State-owned Indian energy companies are said to be looking to invest at least $2.5-billion and as much as $10-billion in Alberta’s oil sands as part of a national strategy aimed at finding oil to fuel India’s fast-growing economy.

“We have looked into those [oil sands] opportunities in Canada and done our due diligence,” said R.S. Sharma, the chairman and managing director of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC). “We can go up to $8- or $10-billion.”

For India, the oil sands are starting to look attractive, not only because of the rocketing price, but the oil sands are also one of the few remaining places in the world where companies can still acquire vast reserves of crude.

“In times to come, when we know that a resource base for oil and gas is drying up everywhere and the prices going up so high, this production from tar sands is a good commercial proposition,” Mr. Sharma is quoted as saying.

India’s involvement in tar sands gives its opponents a real headache. It is one thing to argue that America should not be developing this dirty, energy intensive and polluting fuel, as it has the economic capacity to invest in clean alternatives. But if western NGOs start attacking India’s involvement, and are seen as holding back India’s economic growth, their critics could start accusing them of ecological imperialism.

As the arguments intensify so does the activity on the ground in Alberta…


  • From “Scenes from the Tar Wars”,

    “Over the next five years, investment in the Alberta tar sands is expected to exceed $75 billion; oil production is set to increase by 160 percent by 2015. Alberta’s 59 tar sands sites now form the single largest industrial zone in the world. If it is fully developed, the result could be up to 54,000 square miles of man-made wasteland.

    Digging up the tar sands is a dirty, wasteful business. Yet in their desperate scramble to cash in, the provincial government and the oil companies have downplayed the environmental risks. The boom is a major reason Canada will likely miss its carbon targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Converting tar sand into gasoline emits up to three times the greenhouse gases as drilling and refining conventional oil.

    The extraction process consumes roughly twice the energy of producing conventional oil (in total, enough energy to heat a tenth of Canadian homes). And there are growing questions about the mines, which have transformed once-sleepy northern Alberta into an industrial frontier, and their health effects on wildlife and people.”

  • This is more a comment on the Rowell’s piece than a response to ‘Noah’.

    Coming as it does in the final few months (or days?) of the UPA government in India, the proposal to buy in to the Canadian tar sands project smacks of deceit and turpitude. The reasons behind the statement are likely many and strategic. Perhaps state-owned ONGC does not wish to be pressured by the Ministry in to bidding for costly, if not low-probability deep-water blocks currently on offer at home. Perhaps ‘domestic’ American investors chose to invest in tar-sands through a proxy from a developing nation in the hope doing so would side-step the environmental opposition at home. But, most likely, it is India trying to raise its projected baseline emissions before participating in carbon trading (and in the process finding a temporary safe-haven for ‘slimy’ money made from the Indian stock market to be traded for dollars when GEF buys out ONGC’s stake in future)?

    Then again, it could be an obvious lie meant to convey an opportunity at home!

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