Alberta’s oil sands are America's number one source of foreign oil The oil sands produce the world's most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, emitting high volumes of greenhouse gases during development, which contribute to global warming.
Oil sands and greenhouse gas pollution
- Oil Sands projects are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada.
- Production of oil from tar sands bitumen produces between 3 and 5 times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil production.
- By 2015, the oil sands could emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million).
Credit: Greenpeace / Eamon Mac Mahon.
Open mine pits in the tar sands are often 50 metres deep.
Click image for larger version.
Oil sands extraction pollutes water
Oil sands extraction uses significant amounts of water (2-4.5 barrels per barrel of oil produced), which ends up in toxic tailings lagoons that have never been successfully reclaimed. An analysis using industry data estimated that these lagoons already leak over a billion gallons of contaminated water into the environment each year.
Oil sands production uses huge amounts of energy
The term “oil sands” or "tar sands" oil refers to thick oil called bitumen that is mixed in with sand, clay, and water. Intensive energy is required to process the sands into crude oil.
Oil sands operations currently use about 0.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. By 2012, that level could rise to 2 billion cubic feet a day – more than the nominal capacity of the
proposed Mackenzie Gas Project. At the NWT-Alberta border, the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline would connect to a TransCanada pipeline, which would carry the gas onward to feed oil extraction in Alberta's oil sands. The Mackenzie Gas Pipeline will likely fuel accelerated oil sands development, not provide fuel to heat homes in Canada and the U.S.
Oil sands production destroys the Boreal Forest
A pristine forest covering over 65,000km2 (equivalent in size to California’s Mojave desert) is slated for tar sands expansion. This expansion will destroy some of Canada's Boreal Forest, the world's largest terrestrial carbon storehouse and home to the largest forest wetland ecosystems left on the planet.
Oil sands harm human health
Oil sands production harms human health in at least two ways: when extracted, and when processed and refined from bitumen into gasoline. As described above extraction pollutes water resources. Communities downstream, in some cases hundreds of kilometers downstream, have been impacted: directly, with elevated cancer rates; and indirectly, with their subsistence economy endangered by polluted fisheries.
The spread of refineries processing tar sands oil is a problem because the synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxics than conventional oil. Communities adjacent to tar sands oil refineries face increased carbon dioxide emissions, and increased exposure to heavy metals, and sulfurs.