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Turning Tar into Oil: An Economic and Environmental Disaster Looms

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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-01-07 08:31 AM
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Turning Tar into Oil: An Economic and Environmental Disaster Looms
via AlterNet:


Turning Tar into Oil: An Economic and Environmental Disaster Looms

By Naomi Klein, The Nation. Posted June 1, 2007.



The Iraq War has set off one of the largest oil booms in history -- and the race to mine the tar sands of Alberta will result in environmental disaster.

The invasion of Iraq has set off what could be the largest oil boom in history. All the signs are there: multinationals free to gobble up national firms at will, ship unlimited profits home, enjoy leisurely "tax holidays" and pay a laughable 1 percent in royalties to the government.

This isn't the boom in Iraq sparked by the proposed new oil law -- that will come later. This boom is already in full swing, and it is happening about as far away from the carnage in Baghdad as you can get, in the wilds of northern Alberta.

For four years now, Alberta and Iraq have been connected to each other through a kind of invisible seesaw: As Baghdad burns, destabilizing the entire region and sending oil prices soaring, Calgary booms.

Here is how chaos in Iraq unleashed what the Financial Times recently called "north America's biggest resources boom since the Klondike gold rush." Albertans have always known that in the northern part of their province, there are vast deposits of bitumen -- black, tarlike goo that is mixed up with sand, clay, water and oil. There are approximately 2.5 trillion barrels of the stuff, the largest hydrocarbon deposits in the world.

It is possible to turn Alberta's crud into crude, but it's awfully hard. One method is to mine it in vast open pits: First forests are clear-cut, then topsoil scraped away. Next, huge machines dig out the black goop and load it into the largest dump trucks in the world (two stories high, a single wheel costs $100,000). The tar is diluted with water and solvents in giant vats, which spin it around until the oil rises to the top, while the massive tailings are dumped in ponds larger than the region's natural lakes.

...(snip)...

The process of refining bitumen emits three to four times the greenhouse gases produced by extracting oil from traditional wells, making the tar sands the largest single contributor to Canada's growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

The $100-billion in projected investments from the tar sands have also turned Canada into a global climate renegade. That money is the primary reason why, at next week's G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, my country's oil-friendly Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, will join George W. Bush in opposing all serious attempts to cap or reduce greenhouse gasses.
.....(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/environment/52745/?page=1

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