On the exploitation of oil shale and sands… 1


You think drilling for Arctic oil would be an ugly mess ? Then have a look at the exploitation of oil shales and tar-sands that is already occurring in Canada and the United States.

The WWF released a new report on how recovering these difficultly recoverable oil barrels are literally destroying entire regions with massive deforestation and large air and water pollution.

Oil is already the second most polluting energy source. With such practices it is becoming an even bigger problem. It is high time for these countries to work on efficiency.

According to the WWF presentation of their latest report :

Exploitation of North America’s shale and tar-sand oil reserves could increase atmospheric CO2 levels by up to 15%, a new report from WWF-UK and the major UK financial group Co-Operative Financial Services (CFS) has warned.

Extraction of the projected 1,115 billion barrels of recoverable oil from unconventional fuel sources such as Alberta’s oil sands and Colorado’s oil shale, which involve much more energy intensive procedures for extraction than traditional oil reserves, would significantly increase global risks of dangerous climate change, the report said.

Unconventional Oil: Scraping the bottom of the barrel reported that companies including Shell, ExxonMobil and BP have announced over $CAN 125 billion worth of development in Canada’s oil sands by 2015. Increasing oil prices are also increasing interest in unconventional oil sources has been given added impetus by rising oil prices.

“The extraordinary lengths some oil and gas companies go to in attempting to make the climate-hostile fuels somewhat less so should be re-directed to bringing forward low-carbon energy,” said Ian Jones, head of Responsible Investment at Co-Operative Investments, part of the CFS group.

“Most oil companies have hardly begun to factor in the externalities that are currently imposed on the environment.”

These externalities include mass deforestation, such as Alberta’s Boreal forests, which lie above 140,000 square kilometres of oil sands, and are now crisscrossed with seismic lines and open-cast mines.

This region, identified as a “life support system for the planet,” is home to 11% of global terrestrial carbon sinks, themselves necessary for mitigating the climate change.

Production of oil sands is also extremely water intensive, requiring three barrels of water to produce each barrel of oil. This is threatening the ecosystem of the Athabasca river by reducing flows to dangerous levels.

Canada’s indigenous communities are also concerned with water quality in former wetlands now featuring tailings ponds up to 50 square kilometres in size which can be seen from outer space. Only 5-10% of waste water is judged sufficiently non-toxic to be returned to waterways.

The complete report is full of dreadful pictures that will make you think they are computer related works for the production of the Lord of the Ring movies series for describing Mordor (idea suggested by the WWF… )

Indeed, oil companies are transforming forests and natural zones into deserts when working massively on energy efficiency would avoid exploiting oil shales and sands and decrease the threat climate change represents.


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