By Tim Vanderheide

A CBC news article from January mentioned that the United States wants Canada’s oil sands project to be expanded by five times its current capacity.

I personally believe environmental standards should be a balance between the concerns of tree hugging vegetarians and the greed of multinational corporations. Other than the obvious that the US gains all the geopolitical advantage by taking rich resources and leaving behind the toxic environment and air, there is simply no way the area can keep up with 5 times the level of current expansion. Well, the Chinese are doing it, but they don’t have to deal with labour shortages, unions, regulations, and all of the other inconveniences that come with trying to get things done in Canada. Include China in our picture of the world and our environment-destroying woes are miniscule in comparison.

A fact that is conveniently ignored by media reporting on oil sands mining is the fact that for every barrel of oil extracted, some 60% of that energy value is needed to extract it. (check this fact). Of course, there is also that issue of water rights. There are already big fights with the territorial indigenous people about any expansions already in the pipeline of bureaucracy and red tape (link to article). Reclamation has still not been done anywhere ever in the Athabaska region despite decades of operation.

All developed countries simply need to reduce their dependence on oil. Follow the lead of Brazil, using corn to produce ethanol as a major additive to gasoline. Pour billions into oil-saving strategies rather than extraction facilities– things like fuel cell cars and wind farms. Wind farms may be unsightly, but there are vast corners of the world that are uninhabited….and windy. Tidal power promises to be important in the future (CBC NEWS Stephen Harper announcement).

I could say that Northern Alberta is ugly enough without a mass of pits and settling ponds, but I really don’t want to offend anyone. Instead I’ll wonder out loud; what will happen when that natural gas supply that provides energy to the oil sands projects runs out?