Canada's Tar Sands: Looking for Oil in All the Wrong Places

Tar Sands Slide Show from Grist

Everyone realizes that America is dangerously addicted to oil.  What people need to know is that if crude oil is cocaine, tar sands oil from Canada is crack.  It doesn't make any sense to replace one with the other -- we need to break our dirty fuels habit.

Todd Paglia with Forest Ethics does a bang-up job in Grist with his overview and slide show of one of the world's dirtiest dirty fuels: tar sands.

At the moment, the world stands at an energy crossroads.  As cheap, plentiful conventional oil becomes a luxury of the past, we now face a choice: to set a course for a more sustainable energy future of clean, renewable fuels, or to develop ever-dirtier sources of transportation fuel derived from fossil fuels -- at an even greater cost to our health and environment.

The United States is the world's top oil consumer and thus the primary driver behind the development of new forms of dirty transportation fuels.  These unconventional fuels are derived from lower-grade, difficult-to-access raw materials, including tar sands, oil shale and coal.  Moving down this road has enormous consequences for the air we breathe, the water we drink, our climate, our wildlands and wildlife.

In terms of the tar sands, it's safe to say that we're truly scraping the bottom of the barrel.  In Canada, the oil industry is transforming boreal forests and wetlands -- one of the world's last remaining intact ecosystems -- into America's gas tank.  Read all about this ecological disaster that is fueling the climate crisis.

It's all the more galling, therefore, that some are willing to overlook the many problems with tar sands oil for the sake of a quick fix that would only feed our energy addiction.  Consider this irresponsible OpEd in the Rocky Mountain News.  Perhaps it's no surprise that the petroleum geologist who wrote it advocates ignoring the perils of global warming in order to secure a pipeline to tar sands oil that will offset America's reliance on foreign oil from hostile regimes.  I'm not sure it helps his case to argue that dirty fuel from friendly Canada could "help meet U.S. energy needs for decades."  Wow, decades, eh?  So not just a quick fix, but a short-lived one as well.

After blaming NRDC and other environmental groups for warning against this foolish fuel, the petro-geologist urges Congress to "stop indulging in global warming and unproven greenhouse-gas emission hysteria."  He calls tar sands oil "the bridge to the new future alternative fuel sources that must be developed but are presently neither economically viable nor available in sufficient quantities to meet our current or future energy needs."

We don't need another bridge to nowhere.  Our energy future is now -- and all it requires is investing in affordable, available clean and renewable sources today that will move us beyond oil and dirty fuels that imperil our planet and which ultimately threaten our security.