CNN’s senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is a one-man public relations team for the polluters that advertise on his network. In response to rising energy prices, Velshi has spent months promoting the Nazi-era technology of liquid coal. On CNN’s American Morning, Ali Velshi previewed his weeklong tribute to another disastrous and dirty boondoggle, the Alberta tar sands — or “oil sands” among its backers.
After showing off his “equipment” — a Calgary Stampede belt buckle — Velshi described the sands as “the largest reserves of oil in the entire world,” where “oil workers make $100,000, $120,000 to start.” Velshi conceded that “it’s doing something to the land.”
The Athabasca Oil Sands development, now producing 1.3 million barrels of oil a day, is an ecological disaster. The bitumen-drenched sands — essentially the same composition as asphalt pavement — lie a few hundred feet below the surface in a region of northeastern Alberta the size of Wisconsin. Like “oil shale,” tar sands are millions of years away from being true oil deposits — there are no gushing oil wells here. To produce usable crude oil from the sands, man has to shortcut the geological processes at huge expense of energy, water, and land. The result leaves an industrial moonscape in Alberta and a tremendous global warming footprint. Here’s how:
Four Tons Of Material Are Required Per Barrel Of Oil. Tar sands oil production chews up the earth at a prodigious rate. After the hundreds of feet of “overfill” (read: the living habitat of Alberta’s boreal forest) are bulldozed, enormous trucks haul out tons of tar sands to the natural-gas fueled production plants. After extracting one barrel of bitumen for every two tons of tar sands and two more tons of mined rock, the remaining toxic sludge and sand is dumped as “tailings.” [The Pembina Institute, 11/05]
Tar Sands Plants Use Two To Four Barrels of Water Per Barrel Of Oil. “Currently, the water consumption is enough to sustain a city of two million people every year. And after it’s been through the process, the water is toxic with contaminants, so it cannot be released into the environment. Some of it is reused, but vast amounts of it are pumped into enormous settlement ponds to be retained as toxic waste.” [Energy & Capital, 9/07]
Tar Sands Generates Two To Four Times The Greenhouse Pollution Per Barrel Of Conventional Oil. A 2005 Pembina Institute report found that a barrel of tar sands oil had 2.98 times the greenhouse gas intensity of a barrel of conventional oil. Production of oil from bituminous sands also generates twice the nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution as conventional oil. [The Pembina Institute, 11/05]
Tar Sands Are A Double Climate Disaster For Canada. Global warming has already decreased the flow of the Athabasca River by 20 percent in fifty years, even as its water is increasingly used for oil sands production. Greenhouse gas emissions from bituminous sands production are “projected to reach 45-50 MT by 2010,” half of Canada’s increase above 1990 levels, further hastening the climate change threatening the region. [WWF, 11/05]
At current production rates, the Alberta tar sands exploitation chews up four million metric tons of earth, a billion cubic feet of natural gas, and 400 million gallons of water and produces 100 thousand metric tons of greenhouse gases a day. A three-mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy for the United States fleet would eliminate the entire need for the 1.3 million barrels of oil synthesized each day from the tar sands.
Velshi’s “Energy Hunt” is one of desperation, where oil companies profit only because they don’t have to pay the costs of their pollution. Instead, they keep the money and the rest of the planet pays the price.
Read the transcript.