Baby, it’s hot outside!

April 11, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Forget Stephen King. You want to see a horror story? Turn down the lights, maybe put some creepy music on and – ready? 

The title is: The Tar Sands – The Great Ruiner Of The Earth!!! 

First of all, the story begins at the beginning: a tremendously huge swath of oil “ponds”:

They cover 140,000 square kms, approximately the size of Florida (what a theme park that would make – scary!). Although they were known for a long time, it wasn’t until oil reached $60 a barrel that it could said to be worth the cost of extraction. That began in 1967.

Any horror story depends on enormous temptation, enough to lead the protagonist thoroughly astray and none do this better than THE TAR SANDS. Their potential development increased Canada’s oil reserves from about five billion barrels to a massive estimated 173 billion barrels!! This put Canada’s oil reserves at Numero Three in the world!! Who’s going to resist that kind of temptation? Noooobody!!!

So, we and our oil company pals, we dug in. Yes, and we built pipelines for sure. And the money came rolling in.

By George, by 2012, that production was contributing something like 91 billion bucks to Canada’s GDP and was responsible for more or less 475,000 jobs, about three per cent of all the jobs in the country!!! Wow – what’s so bad about that? 

This is a horror story, after all, and the worst  is yet to come. That benefactor is not all he seems; sometimes his moods and gifts leave a sour taste in the mind of onlookers. While the extra-extra large popcorn grows cold in the bag, we continue to stuff it into our mouths, hardly knowing what we’re doing. All we know is what looks so good will surely turn out to be so bad. 

Early on in the tale, the gold – or bitumen, as it actually is – was “overburden”, that means covered with stupid layers of vegetation, soil and earth but the oil lords had their men dig that out of the way and then, with the open mines, the beautiful bitumen was dug out with shovels and carried away in trucks to the wonderful chemical plants to be processed.

Pretty soon, the dark oil lords realize this is only good up to 100 meters of digging but there is plenty more deeper than that. They have to have it; the nation needs it; the world needs it!!

Technology is once again to the rescue of horror. Good horror stories rely on innovation to push the plot along. Along comes steam-assisted gravity drainage with its side kick, cyclic steam stimulation (called in-situ drilling – it is fracking), bitumen mining at depths. 

The camera pans the landscape which is a desperate view of a land in pain and death to those who used to count on living there. The Great Canadian Boreal Forest, called one of the earth’s lungs, along the Amazon Rain Forests, which are also being destroyed, has been diminished by 715 square kms for surface mining. The oil lords have grabbed licenses for another 4,700 square kms (78 times the size of New Yorks’ Manhattan Island) to be mined.

The toxins fill the air like billions of demons  laughing at us, trembling in our chairs, spilling the popcorn on the floor, slippery under our feet. The tailings ponds seduce wildlife to an unimaginable death of oil soaked bodies.

Every barrel of oil needs two tonnes of bitumen, two to five barrels of water, with an emission price of 35 kg of carbon dioxide. No problem – there’s plenty of it once they get rid all that in-the-way forest!!!

As for the bitumen that is a lot deeper, that’s okay too, because – never mind that every barrel of oil garnered by steam-assisted gravity drainage creates 55 kg of carbon emissions and burns 28m (to the power of 3) of natural gas – we can still get it and 88 square kms were licensed for in-situ drilling in 2013. Imagine how far they have come already!!

Well, how does our horror story conclude? 

The hardest horror of all: now Canada is Numero Uno in Global Warming! Our north, where this horror has been playing, is warming three times faster than the rest of the world, with the rest of the country warming twice as fast. New technologies are coming, according to an article in Forbes magazine, but late in the day where, clearly, too much damage is already done. 

Too bad for the polar bears, the caribou, the birds – the world – as our boreal forests are consumed by mining (and toilet paper?) and the pristine northern lands and waters are ruined. 

Meanwhile, we’re paying carbon taxes with no plans for truly making electric vehicles and sustainable, economical public transportation realities, in a general sense, any time soon and we still own an extremely controversial pipeline.

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