Critics of the oil industry’s relentless expansion into the Canadian tar sands have been pointing out for a while something that they thought was obvious: the multi-billion investment strategy is completely flawed.
They have repeatedly pointed out that exploiting the highly polluting and energy intensive tar sands is extremely financially risky in a carbon constrained world (apart from the obvious impacts on the climate).
For example: Peter Lee, director of the environmental group Global Forest Watch Canada, argues: “There is no place for oil sands in a low-carbon future. Canada is ignoring its global responsibility and betraying its promises.”
But the Canadian government is not the only one ignoring its responsibility: so too are the oil companies. Seemingly oblivious to their responsibity to their shareholders, if no one else, companies like Shell have ploughed ahead, regardless.
They are pouring billions into an investment that could become worthless if carbon becomes tightly regulated – makes sense to you? Of course not.
The concept that the tar sands investments might be heading for trouble is beginning to gain traction in the mainstream press. There is good insightful piece in today’s Times newspaper, by the paper’s energy editor: Robin Pagnamenta
Pagnamenta writes: “The prospect of a successful climate deal in Copenhagen threatens to hit the industry with a cost that could drive it out of business: international carbon regulation.”
He points out that “As one of the most carbon intensive fuels around, the Canadian oil sands industry would be one of the biggest losers” if a global carbon market was set up.
Of course neither the Canadian government or industry is going to give the tar sands without a fight – and will argue that offsetting and Carbon Capture Storage will come to the industry’s rescue. But both potential solutions are flawed too. And one more supposed solution is even more potty: building a nuclear power plant to help process the bitumen….
Pagnamenta finishes by saying “Whatever the outcome of the meeting, the battle for the future of the tar sands will be raging in Copenhagen.”
Expect the oil lobbyists to be there in force.