Climate

Lindsey Graham drinks the tar sands Kool-Aid: “It is less carbon intensive than oil we find in California,” extraction “really blends in with the natural habitat.”

Who are you going to believe:  Lindsey Graham or your own lyin’ eyes?

In an amazing interview with Canada’s The Globe and Mail, “U.S. senator sold on the oil sands,” the once-serious, but now utterly incoherent Senator from South Carolina visits what some have rightly called the “biggest global warming crime ever seen,” and pronounces it A-OK:

Q:  Why are you here?

LG:  Just do the math. There is more oil received from the oil sands region than Saudi Arabia and Iran combined. So from an energy source it is hugely important.

You talk about dirty oil. Oil sands oil is dirty. They are reducing their carbon footprint. They are making it cleaner. It is less carbon intensive than oil we find in California, within six per cent of oil received from Iran. So when you use the word, I think you have to look at the idea of the regimes. Dirty oil to me is oil coming from Iraq and Venezuela where you have really despotic people running the country. The money that is received by those regimes doesn’t go to the common good. It goes to some of the worst organizations in the world.

I am going to do everything I can to make sure that oil sands production is not impeded because of U.S. policy.

Not — see Podesta: Canada’s “green tar sands” like our “error-free deepwater drilling” and “clean coal”:  “Oil extraction from tar sands is polluting, destructive, expensive, and energy-intensive. These things are facts.”

I guess Graham is just repeating the incredibly misleading claim he was probably told that, once refined, the tar sands oil isn’t dirtier than regular oil.  But as Wikipedia explains:

Making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy for steam injection and refining. This process generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the production of conventional oil. If combustion of the final products is included, the so-called “Well to Wheels” approach, oil sands extraction, upgrade and use emits 10 to 45% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude.

The ultimate reason the tar sands cannot be made green from a climate perspective is that Canada is diverting a considerable amount of its natural gas resources to extract and process the tar sands. That natural gas could be used to shut down Canadian and US coal plants, reducing their emissions by some two thirds. Even if the tar sands had CCS, you’d still be wasting vast amounts of natural gas and creating an immense “opportunity carbon cost.”  Natural gas is simply too precious a carbon-reducing fuel to waste on making another carbon-intensive fuel like the output of the tar sands.

Here’s more from the interview:

Q:  Yes, but Nancy Pelosi didn’t go to the oil sands.

LG:  Oh gosh, yes. I had some ominous views of this place. But it really blends in with the natural habitat. Everybody should come.

We are always talking about Americans’ dependency on foreign oil. Every politician says we need to break our dependency on foreign oil and every American cheers. Well you know what, we are going to be depending on fossil fuels for a long time to come….

That’s why the trip is so important. And I would challenge anybody who has got concerns to come up here. Don’t believe me. See it for yourself.

Not:

2010-03-01-TarSandsDestruction_Web.jpg

As The Independent explained in 2007:

The booming oil sands industry will produce 100 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to a fifth of the UK’s entire annual emissions) a year by 2012, ensuring that Canada will miss its emission targets under the Kyoto treaty”¦.

The oil rush is also scarring a wilderness landscape: millions of tonnes of plant life and top soil is scooped away in vast open-pit mines and millions of litres of water are diverted from rivers “” up to five barrels of water are needed to produce a single barrel of crude and the process requires huge amounts of natural gas.

Hard to believe Graham once strongly endorsed climate action, saying:

The idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence. The odd thing is you’ll never have energy independence until you clean up the air, and you’ll never clean up the air until you price carbon.”

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53 Responses to Lindsey Graham drinks the tar sands Kool-Aid: “It is less carbon intensive than oil we find in California,” extraction “really blends in with the natural habitat.”

  1. mike roddy says:

    “It really blends in with the natural habitat”. Oh my God. Is it possible for even a Republican politician to be this stupid?

    A more likely explanation is that Graham, like his colleagues, has become another employee of the oil companies. McConnell applied the screws to him when the climate bill was being debated. Lindsay, instead of being a man and standing up to him, started coming out with weasel words. Maybe he figured that was better than giving a speech saying “The RNC will take my money away and sponsor a primary challenger if I don’t follow orders from Exxon and Peabody”.

    Now it’s total capitulation. When Graham’s an old man he may come to regret his cowardice, since we’ll see plenty of scary effects of these slutty decisions even in his lifetime. Deathbed remorse won’t be good enough. He and people like him need to somehow wake up now.

  2. george ennis says:

    As a Canadian, when I read the comments of Senator Graham in the Globe and Mail, a national Canadian newspaper, I thought at first it was just a joke.

    You guys really do have some crazies down there. To think the future of the planet depends upon Senator Graham and others in the US government showing some national and global leadership to deal with climayte change is absolutely frightening. Which alternate reality is he in?

  3. Chris Winter says:

    Lindsey Graham: “It [oil from Alberta tar sands] is less carbon intensive than oil we find in California, within six per cent of oil received from Iran.”

    I’d love to see him try to back that up.

    “Dirty oil to me is oil coming from Iraq and Venezuela where you have really despotic people running the country. The money that is received by those regimes doesn’t go to the common good. It goes to some of the worst organizations in the world.”

    Way to go, Senator Graham. Tell us again how the regime in Iraq, which we had a hand in establishing and are still supporting with 50,000 troops, is “really despotic.”

    The man is not just flip-flopping, he’s growing incoherent.

    Oh, and that bit about how it blends in with the natural habitat: That’s true only if the natural habitat in question is the Moon, or perhaps Moderan (as portrayed in the stories of David R. Bunch.)

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Tar Sands are a Crime against Humanity.

  5. fj2 says:

    Who says money can’t buy you love?

  6. Paulm says:

    Utah Oil Sands: Canada’s Infamous Tar Sands Extraction Coming To U.S.
    Huffington Post   |  Travis Walter Donovan First Posted: 09-14-10 12:24 PM   |   Updated: 09-14-10 12:45 PM
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/14/utah-oil-sands-canadas-infamou_n_716225.html

  7. Ani says:

    So did he just change the definition of dirty oil? When will people stand up and say its not OK to lie?

  8. Paulm says:

    good to see some nations are taking this thing seriously. We are at a stage were rationing is necessary.
    This is worse than any of the world wars before….

    China resorts to blackouts in pursuit of energy efficiency
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/19/china-blackouts-energy-efficiency

  9. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Yep, he did change the definition of dirty oil. Seems par for a politician though. Don’t like the old definition so change it whether that be for a word (e.g. torture), or for acceptable levels of pollutants in drinking water (i.e. make the ‘acceptable’ levels higher rather than enforce old levels).

    In school we learned about one company that was fined for discharging too much effluent into the river…the levels in ppm were higher than they should be at the monitoring station. They solved this problem by moving their discharge pipe further up the river so by the time the pollution hit the monitoring stations it was more diluted and was within acceptable limits. Laughable, if it weren’t so sad and commonplace.

  10. Lou Grinzo says:

    Joe: In addition to head vises, you’re going to have to equip this site with barf bags. This howler from Graham was nauseating.

  11. William P says:

    This is a perfect time to plan and conduct a large conference, open to the public, centered around actual science in climate change.

    CONTACT CLIMATE PROGRESS HEADQUARTERS AND REQUEST THIS CONFERENCE. THEY ARE THE ONES TO DO THIS RIGHT.

    Best regards,
    William P.

  12. Andy S says:

    The source of Graham’s comparison with California oil extraction probably comes from here, hardly an unbiased source. Note slides 7 and 16-18.

    http://www.albertainnovates.ca/media/19370/ipieca%20workshop%20sept.%202010.pdf

    Not that “TEOR California” means Thermally Enhanced Oil Recovery, (steam injection) and refers to the final phase of oil extraction for certain fields. The TEOR emissions numbers are therefore not representative of all California oilfields nor to the average production over the full life cycle of any particular field currently under TEOR. The comparison with the tar sands does not make the tar sands look good, it just points out that some incremental production in California is marginally even worse.

    More http://www.albertainnovates.ca/media/15753/life%20cycle%20analysis%20jacobs%20final%20report.pdfhere:

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    Psychology provides insight into why people doubt climate change

    Many people don’t believe in global warming because everyday life may have trained them to doubt it, according to a new University of NSW study that brings together climate science and cognitive psychology.

    As the physical science underpinning human-induced climate change has grown more and more solid, more people have been growing sceptical of it, according to the paper The Psychology of Global Warming, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. ”Simply presenting the facts and figures about global warming has failed to convince large portions of the general public, journalists and policy makers about the scale of the problem and the urgency of required action,” the paper says.

    ”From a psychologist’s perspective, this is not surprising.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/psychology-provides-insight-into-why-people-doubt-climate-change-20100919-15hy4.html

    [JR: Actually, I know of very few situations where anyone has been the recipient of “Simply presenting the facts and figures about global warming.” The overwhelming majority of people have been subjected to arguably the most successful disinformation campaign in human history — and most people get their global warming “facts and figures” through the media, which grossly distorts them, as we’ve seen.]

  14. Andy S says:

    Oops, that last link of mine had a typo. Corrected:

    http://www.albertainnovates.ca/media/15753/life%20cycle%20analysis%20jacobs%20final%20report.pdf

    (2MB pdf download of report on well-to-wheels emissions)

  15. I’m confused about trust.

    I understand that corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profit to stockholders… and hence should never be trusted to act outside of those responsibilities. Exxon MUST fund denialism, etc.

    But I do not understand how a US Senator has a responsibility to represent constituents? Is it just for today? Or always? Just within their state? Or all people? If they make a decision to help one group in a special way, do they get to ignore science? Are Senators required to follow beliefs of campaign contributors? What if their electorate AND lobbyists ask for something that is so wrong that it is essentially a crime against our future? Do they do it anyway? Are they required to do as they are told?

    Of course the bigger question is: What do we do about it?

  16. Dana says:

    Blends in with the natural habitat?? What the hell? Do you think maybe they took Graham to a park in another part of Alberta and told him it was the tar sands? I don’t know how else to explain it.

    Every time Republican politicians open their mouths these days, whatever they say depresses me.

  17. Anne says:

    Sounds like a Homer Simpson moment.

    “Mmmm….. Tar sands Kool Aid.” [belch]

  18. Sailesh Rao says:

    Funny, the impact of the environmental despoliation will be most felt by creatures at the top of the food chain via bio-accumulation. I don’t believe Lindsey Graham is on a plant-based diet and will therefore be one of the foremost recipients of the toxic consequences.

  19. another joe says:

    Blends in with the natural habitat?

    See photos of deformed fish caught downstream:
    http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/09/17/AthabascaDeformedFish/

    Or papers in PNAS describing the air and watershed pollution:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/37/16178.full
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/04/0912050106.short

  20. Paul T. says:

    Apparently Sen. Graham didn’t hear about the other pollutants being proliferated from their bitumen and running off into our rivers.

    Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries

    “Canada’s or Alberta’s guidelines for the protection of aquatic life were exceeded for seven PPE—cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, and zinc—in melted snow and/or water collected near or downstream of development.”

  21. Dave E says:

    #15 “Exxon must fund denialism”. Actually, companies frequently hold on to the past rather than embracing the future and usually it ocmes back to bite them. Honestly exploring ways to exploit moving away from oil would NOT be inconsistent with Exxon’s fiduciary duties.

  22. Lore says:

    A great number of people are not about to react to a global energy or climate crisis until it’s upon us. I’ve come to understand that it’s not in our genetic makeup. Many will use every excuse right up to the end to say, “it’s not happening”.

    As far as Graham is concerned, he met Jesus when the extreme right wing of his party was ready to hang him upside down by his toes after the fiasco of the recent climate legislation proposal.

  23. Mark S says:

    Where did he come up with the 6% number? The oil companies? Or maybe CEI? No rational person can look at the process and come up with a 6% energy differential.

  24. Artful Dodger says:

    Things rarely stay the same. The U.S. has enjoyed a reliable supply of cheap light crude from the Middle East for nearly 5 decades. This time is coming to an end due to the realities of politics and peak oil.

    The Athabasca Oil Sands contains a 200 year supply of petroleum at present U.S. rates of production. If you honestly believe the U.S. will not move to secure its supply in a world with a Nuclear-armed Iran, you have indeed not been paying attention since 2003.

    Bituminous sands are used to produce Synthetic Crude Oil by washing the sand with superheated steam. This process is at the heart of the two REAL problems arising from replacing Conventional Oil with Oil sands, one of which is mentioned in Joe’s post, and one which is not.

    The first proglem is the creation of steam to drive the washing process. Presently, natural gas is burned to create the massive amounts of steam required for the process. Even with engineering efficiencies like heat exchangers, a lot of Natural Gas is consumed for this purpose.

    Currently, a proposal is under review to create the steam with a CANDU nuclear reactor. This proven technology will create the massive amounts of steam required with no net CO2

  25. Artful Dodger says:

    (Continuing from Comment 24)
    As you may imagine, there is a long review process underway, and a good deal of ‘Not-in-my-backyard’ knee-jerk reaction, but CANDU reactors have been running in Pickering Ontario (near Toronto) for so long that the most people accept the technology as safe. It will take time and seem unfathomable, but steam generated from Saskatchewan Uranium will reduce the carbon intensity of the long-term U.S. petroleum supply to the same as Convention Oil from the Middle East.

    The second problem is a more serious challenge for the local environment than for Global Climate. It was not mentioned in Joe’s post, but each barrel of Synthetic Crude produced consumes 7 barrel of water. Yes, that means 45 gallons of Diesel fuel delivered to a U.S. consumer means in 315 US gallons of water taken from the Athabasca watershed. This is the dirty water you see sitting in the tailing ponds in the photos above. It smells bad, and it kills Ducks when it isn’t properly managed.

    This is a problem the Government of Alberta needs to get tough on. Petro-bucks make it tempting to cosy up to Industry, but with modern Electronic Media, that’s a fool’s strategy. The Public Policy will be put in place to require the proper technology to be developed and deployed to manage the water resource. To do otherwise would be a PR catastrophe, and the locals would not abide it.

    The bottom line is, as long as U.S. consumers demand fossil fuels, multi-national Companies will provide it. Oil sands can be reformed, but they STILL inject fossil carbon into our Atmosphere. In the medium term, we should move as quickly as possible to electrify transportation. But really, with 4 separate/equal branches of Government, how do you in the U.S. expect to make ANY meaningful change? The rest of the world will not act before you do, so look in the mirror.

  26. Lobo says:

    Right on target, but please try to keep those oil shale ads off your site — it makes you look hypocritical.

  27. riverat says:

    #3, Chris. I’m guessing he meant Iran. They are one of the US’s villain’s du jour.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Graham’s diatribe is a beautiful example of the Big Lie, indeed several of them. Rightwing politics, the only type permitted these days, the only type that does not incite an immediate hatemongering and slandering vilification campaign from Rupert Moloch’s Evil Empire, now relies more and more on lies piled on lies. Of course the lies regarding the environmental destruction wrought by this horror are blatant, shameless and conscienceless, but there are also nasty, but typical, lies regarding Iran an, in particular, Venezuela, does not, emphatically have ‘really despotic people’ running it. Iran has pretty despotic people, but no more so than Egypt or Kuwait and less so than Israel, but Venezuela is a country run by a man, Chavez, who has won numerous free and fair elections and plebiscites, accepted his rare defeats, has no political prisoners, does not torture anyone and who tolerates a vicious Rightwing media that daily traduces him. Of course, according to the reptiles who dominate US politics, a ‘despot’ is anyone who refuses to follow orders from Washington, while those that do, like Pavlovian dogs slavering on orders, are ‘democrats’ no matter how many thousands they have murdered, ‘disappeared’, tortured or terrorised.

  29. bob says:

    looks like Mordor. All they need is the eye tower

  30. Prokaryotes says:

    That’s the theme bob! Just frodo would have became very ill when getting in contact with all the very poisonous sewage, from direct or indirect contamination. Let alone other groups of earth megafauna.

  31. Lars Karlsson says:

    bob wrote: “looks like Mordor”

    We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious.

  32. NeilT says:

    I find it funny that the “so called” energy companies are actually fuel companies. They sell fuel which is used to create energy.

    Now if they mined heat and trapped solar and sold electricity they would then be “Energy Companies”….

    Odd world.

    Of course thier raw materials would then be free and they would only have the processing costs. Much as it is today. BUT, they would be able to keep drawing on these reserves (especially solar), continuously without worrying about it running out and all those exploration costs (long,long, long discussion about how they extract heat from the ground being avoided).

    Makes you wonder who is looking at the future in our “energy” companies and who is looking at the bottom line for the next quarter…….

  33. JasonW says:

    #30: How do you think the Orcs came to be? ;)

    So, any bets we’ll have to fend off hordes of Alberta Uruk-hai in the near future?

  34. You see, if I look at a ballot and I see the designation of “R” or “D,” I may not know for sure what that candidate stands for, but at least I have an idea of their general views. Take away the designation and now I have very little to go on. The remedy to this of course is for voters to educate themselves better, but time is limited and the local races often go overlooked. […]

    With all of this considered, the Butte County Republican Party recently decided to get more involved in local elections. We have been actively vetting candidates to determine whether or not they match our values and deserve our support. We have already made some endorsements this year and we plan to make more. We will do our best to publicize our endorsements so that the voting public will know where we stand and who we support.

    Yeah great… just great! “Time is limited”! But don’t worry, we’re here to help! Who needs to educate himself on the facts of climate science… when all he needs is for someone to show up and tell him how to vote?

    The quote above was seen on the Butte County Republican Party blog, which is registered to none other than climate inactivist Anthony Watts.

    frank

  35. I am going to coin a new phrase for these climate turncoats:

    “going Koch,” as in:

    Lindsey Graham has gone Koch.

    or

    Lindsey Graham drank the Kool-Aid and went Koch.

  36. Colorado Bob says:

    Meteorologists in Taiwan said Fanapi had brought as much as 44 inches (112cm) of rain to some southern areas.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11360782

  37. Colorado Bob says:

    The NWS always posts all caps in it’s record event reports –

    NOTES: BROWNSVILLE/SOUTH PADRE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT HAS SHATTERED
    ITS PREVIOUS RECORD FOR THIS DATE…SEPTEMBER 19TH. AS OF 4 PM
    AM…6.48 INCHES HAD FALLEN WHICH WAS UNOFFICIALLY 1.24 INCHES
    ABOVE THE PRIOR RECORD OF 5.24 INCHES. FOR SEPTEMBER 2010 SO
    FAR…BROWNSVILLE/SPI AIRPORT HAS EXCEED 10 INCHES AND IS NOW
    UNOFFICIALLY AT 10.87 INCHES WITH MORE TO COME.

    http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=BRO&product=PNS&format=CI&version=1&glossary=1

  38. Colorado Bob says:

    The radar precipitation loop for the last 5 days out of Brownsville

    http://radar.weather.gov/radar.php?product=NTP&rid=bro&loop=yes

  39. Ranger47 says:

    This would be a wonderful time to show them how the land should be used, would be used if we had control.

  40. Bob Doublin says:

    I think we need to seriously look at the possibility that all these so-called “reasonable” Republicans are DECOYS AND PLANTS FROM THE VERY GITGO meant to funnel off wnergy and time from people trying to accomplish something. They’re nothing but phonies from the start.

  41. Whatshisname says:

    An environmental, tea party-style revolt against British Petroleum is rumbling in southern Louisiana, where a BP liaison officer, Kindra Arneson, is leading a fiery campaign aimed at moving coastal residents away from the Gulf Coast. Reports continue to indicate a growing epidemic of various and serious illnesses in several communities, including persons vomiting and passing blood. Kindra Arnesen and her fellow campaigners need a lot of light kept on them.

    http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/gulf-news-how-do-we-get-people-to-leave-kindra-arnesen-on-intel-hub

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsAT-qeZ_0w&feature=player_embedded

    http://www.floridaoilspilllaw.com/reporter-entire-communities-theyre-vomiting-blood-very-very-serious-situation-video

  42. Dorothy says:

    I’ve been reading the Christian Science Monitor story yesterday, “Who’s picking up the tab for the tea party?”: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Election-2010/2010/0919/Who-s-picking-up-the-tab-for-the-tea-party and a little parable takes form in my brain.

    A Canadian mother and her little son like to make visits to the online site of an American zoo. The big caged monster is what fascinates the boy the most, mainly because it keeps getting larger. He sees the zoo keepers, constantly on the run, going back and forth throwing food over the fence and carting away the waste.

    The monster grows alarming each day. “Mommy, Mommy,” asks the boy, “What if he get so big and strong, he can break out of his cage and come and get us?”

    “Don’t worry dear. He’s an American monster, and we’re Canadian. He can’t hurt us. Just close your eyes, and he’ll go away.”

    My message to all Canadian Mommys and Daddys, closing your eyes to the powerful influence of corporate America just won’t work.

  43. Mark says:

    As pointed out above, the small emissions differential the fossils like to quote comes from a well-(or mine)-to-wheel evaluation. Shell, for instance, likes to quote 15% incremental over conventional oil (IIRC).

    The thing is, most of the emissions come from the end-use, when burned in a vehicle, so that swamps the pro-rated emissions from the mine and reforming. If you looked just at the direct extraction-related emissions it would be a much greater difference.

    The well-to-wheels number has to assume an efficiency for the vehicle, usually fleet average, I think. This means two things: if you are driving an efficient car the well-to-wheel incremental is much greater, and as CAFE standards and changing buying trends improve the average MPG the well-to-wheel incremental will go up as well.

  44. Michael Tucker says:

    Graham is now a champion of tar sand from Canada and opposed to any climate legislation. It would be wonderful if these people could get behind promoting low carbon jobs in America and not environmentally destructive jobs in foreign countries.

    “I am going to do everything I can to make sure that oil sands production is not impeded because of U.S. policy.”

    BUT, what about Canadian policy? Is the Canadian government sucking up to American interests or is it simply sucking up to American money?

    “I had some ominous views of this place. But it really blends in with the natural habitat.”

    Is Graham insulting the natural habitat of Canada?

    Any reasonable person can see the effect of tar sand mining; the destruction to the environment cannot be ignored. But economic necessities still trump environmental concerns. As Graham points out, “we are going to be depending on fossil fuels for a long time to come….”

    The biggest lie is that we will STILL get oil from places where “…really despotic people [are] running the country.” as well as from Canada.

  45. re: 30

    Mumblebrain,

    Chavez is a classic megalomaniac dictator. That you cannot see this is incredible.

  46. oops. that was directed toward #28

  47. Richard Brenne says:

    Tenney (#45) – You might be right (as usual) in some ways about Chavez, but Mumblebrain (#28) misnames himself because he’s basically right about everything else, and makes important points.

    As usual there are many excellent points about Lindsey Graham Cracker and the tar sands. There are a few other important points: The smallest point is that Alberta is Canada’s Texas and so that’s how that province will behave.

    The medium point is that the problem is always demand, not supply. The Reagans’ pathetic “War on Drugs” and ever since has been focused on supply, not demand. Where there is demand there will always be supply, or at least destructive attempts at supply.

    Mexico’s president rightly points out that it is the U.S. demand for drugs that created and maintains the horrible Mexican drug cartels that have killed 25,000 in the last year (about the same number of U.S. gun fatalities of all kinds, another of our mindless addictions). Our addiction might contribute to making Mexico a failed state that really bites us in the butt, as all failed states ultimately do, especially such a large one right next door.

    And so it is our addiction to oil that creates the tar sands nightmare.

    The overarching point is that this is a nightmare that Jim Hansen says will ultimately create a dead planet, something he says he’s “Dead certain” will happen if we burn all available tar sands and oil shales. (Last paragraph of page 236 of Hansen’s book, “Storms of My Grandchildren.”)

    When that happens, Lindsey Graham can and will need to accept his share of responsibility, if the religion he and all other cracker-staters believe is true is true. Good luck at the Pearly Gates with your defense of that one, Lindsey.

  48. Relative GHG intensity of oil sands crude has been studied a number of times. The most recent analysis was released by IHS-CERA earlier this month. Its conclusion was that oil sands derived fuels released 6% more GHGs than the average crude refined in the United States. That’s a wells-to-wheels measure, the measure that organizations such as the NRDC state is the most relevant. The study is here: http://www.cera.com/aspx/cda/public1/home/home.aspx
    (Incidentally, you will find that among the lowest GHG-intensity crudes consumed in the Unted States are also from Alberta, far, far below the average intensity.)
    The site visits made by the senator included not only the mines depicted in this blog post (and which are only about 2% of the oil sands area), but also in-situ developments which do not require surface mining. It is likely that the senator was also shown reclaimed, former mine areas. If readers wish to see examples, there are video and still photos here: http://oilsands.alberta.ca/
    As to the use of natural gas, Alberta produces 14 billion cubic feet of it per day, the vast majority exported to the US.
    The Independent’s prediction of 100 million tonnes of CO2 from oil sands by 2012 has some way to go in just over a year: Current emissions are 38 MT, or about 5% of Canada’s total emissions. Water use in oil sands production is as low as half a barrel of water per barrel of oil, and the average is 3-4.
    Oil sands development definitely has an environmental impact, there’s really no need to exaggerate it to have a rational discussion about it, to be concerned about it, and to want to know what we are doing to minimize and mitigate that impact. We welcome the scrutiny.
    – David Sands, Government of Alberta

  49. bill green says:

    #48 from the government of Alberta cites the IHS CERA study I attempted to cite yesterday, but my posting disappeared while “awaiting moderation.”

    Neither the “Kool Aid” in the title of the posting or the provocative lead in “Who are you going to believe: Lindsey Graham or your own lyin’ eyes?” meets the standard of focusing on facts and science that CP and JR usually stand for.

    The “ultimate reason” argument advanced by JR that tar sands cannot be made green due to the diversion of a considerable amount of natural gas resources to extract and process the tar sands is also very weak. IN fact, with the recent shale gas revolution t here is an oversupply of natural gas in both the U.S. or Canada — so much so that declining natural gas prices are posing a threat to the competitiveness of renewable power generation, and natural gas sells for about 1/3 the price of crude oil on an energy equivalent basis. Under these conditions, the claim that tar sands development is impeding coal-to-gas substitution in either the US or Canada simply does not withstand scrutiny.

    Bottom line — I like CP (and JR) a lot, but in this posting the rhetroic is not supported by substance. Even a fierce blooger should have the courage to admit when he has gone too far. An no blogger should take the low road of censoring comments that are civil and factual.

    [JR: You have thoroughly misrepresented what I have written, which I will not stand for. I am letting this misrepresentation through so that people can see what you are up to. I think it rather obvious to any objective reader, given the photo I led off with, that the “lyin’ eyes?” quote refers to something you can see — the direct environmental devastation being caused by the tar sands, in direct contradiction to Graham’s absurd line “it really blends in with the natural habitat.”

    I didn’t say the “ultimate reason” that tar the sands cannot be made green is the natural gas issue. It is “The ultimate reason the tar sands cannot be made green from a climate perspective.” The tar sands is not green for a vast number of other reasons. Bishop Bouchard notes that “The environmental liabilities that result from the various steps in this process are significant and include”:

    * Destruction of the boreal forest eco-system
    * Potential damage to the Athabasca water shed
    * The release of greenhouse gases
    * Heavy consumption of natural gas
    * The creation of toxic tailings ponds

    I have written extensively about shale gas. I hope it can and will be exploited in an environmentally responsible fashion. But it isn’t too cheap to meter yet. When it is, your analysis might be true. Until then, Canada is squandering it on the tar Sands.

    If you want to comment here, you need to stop misrepresenting what I say in order to create strawmen to attack.]

  50. AL says:

    @ Alberta Government.

    The video on reclamation you linked to says oil sands companies are obliged to pay for the reclamation, but just recently a study was released that indicated the tax payers of this province will be on the hook for the cost of the clean up, which is largely underestimated by your employers and by industry.

    http://www.pembina.org/oil-sands
    http://pubs.pembina.org/reports/toxicliabilityfactsheetfinal.pdf

    Also, the way reclamation is represented in your video is very misleading. The fact is that the results of reclamation are not as positive as that video would lead some to believe.

    http://www.pembina.org/oil-sands/os101/reclamation

    If the Government of Alberta and its members want to have a reasonable discussion about the impact of oil sands i suggest they stop producing one sided industry friendly propaganda.

    AL – Citizen of the Alberta

  51. @ AL, Pembina is generally a well-informed critic of oil sands development and we listen carefully to what they have to say. I don’t think there’s any disagreement that the security collected against reclamation is not adequate to fully fund that should a company fail to meet its legal requirement. But what we’ve been more concerned about is the pace of reclamation – acknowledging that this is an activity that can take several years. We are looking at policies and regulations that will increase the pace of reclamation work, and have more land undergoing reclamation at a given time (ideally at the same rate that land is disturbed). And we of course will be listending to what Pembina and others have to say about those.
    – David Sands

  52. GHG - Former Citizen of Alberta says:

    Dear Mr. Sands,

    If you’re so concerned about the failure of the pace at which the tar sands companies are working to reclaim lands why doesn’t the Govt of Alberta do something beyond “listening”?

    How about you commit to halting any further expansion of production of dirty tar sands oil, spend your Govt $$ on meaningful steps to transition to clean energy instead multi-billion dollar PR campaigns like http://www.rethinkalberta.com?

  53. AL says:

    Dear David,

    That does not really excuse the false picture that the video you linked to conveys. Yes there is reclamation work going on – but that video made it sound far more successful than it is. Also, what about the costs? The video says that industry is going to pay for it. The study i linked to raises some serious questions about that, and if you look at precedent in these situations industry never actually foots most of the bill or does the required clean-up.

    http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=319

    What happens when oil goes back down below $30.00 USD a barrel? Are you guys just going to use more of my money to subsidize this slow motion ecocide?

    It seems to me that the GOA is spending much of our tax money on PR, and very little on meaningful action.

    AL – Currently ashamed citizen of Alberta.