Does Big Oil Now Have Some Science on its Side? Hardly!

by Larry Powell

It's hardly surprising that Big Oil is already brandishing the latest scientific study on the Alberta oil-sands as a weapon in its crusade to peddle bitumen to the world. 

The study was done by a noted Canadian climatologist, Andrew Weaver and a colleague at the University of Victoria. 

This is the part Big Oil likes.

If all of the oil-sand's reserves considered "economically viable" were developed, the resulting rise in global temperatures would be "almost undetectable," when compared to massively larger, global deposits of coal.

But there are other parts of the study you won't hear Big Oil quoting. 
For example, what if all of the tarsand's reserves known to be there, (known as "oil-in-place and seven times larger than Saudi Arabia's) are developed, over time?  In that case, Earth's temperature would rise up to ten times as much as in the last scenario! And that would represent almost half of the man-made warming the planet has already experienced over the past 100 years!

Surely, that would be detectable!

While total oilsands development might seem unlikely, given improved technologies and the almost messianic bent of this and (heaven forbid), future governments to exploit the resource, surely it is not imposssible, either. 

To quote from the study;

"Greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from expanding oil-sands production are Canada’s fastest-growing emissions source, and have the potential to contribute significantly to anthropogenic climate change. This is accentuated by the fact that the oil sands are more energy-intensive to produce than conventional crude oil — and have a greater ‘well-to-wheel’ carbon footprint."

"If North American and international policymakers wish to limit global warming to less than 2 °C, they will clearly need to put in place measures that ensure a rapid transition of global energy systems to non-greenhouse-gas-emitting sources, while avoiding commitments to new infrastructure supporting dependence on fossil fuels."

One of the report's authors, Prof. Weaver, said this in a recent, online video: "The tar sands are an interesting example of end-to-end environmental degradation, whether it be excessive use of water, toxic sludge that affects eco-systems, or greenhouse gas emissions."

After carefully reading the study myself, I remain convinced (as do these scientists) that untrummelled development of the tar sands is still just wrongheaded

But my main message to honest activists everywhere would be this: Let's show the world we are not like the cranks or vested interests we all reject - that we can actually learn from the science we are presented with.  

It is therefore time to redouble our efforts to slay the ugly elephant in the room - coal. 


Kate Storey said…
Hi Larry,
Great blog. Thanks for getting the truth out to the public.

Nuclear proliferation is another dark side of the tarsands. The oil companies are quietly preparing to generate nuclear power to extract the tarsands oil. Nuclear is very expensive, so they are lobbying government to eliminate safety regulations in order to bring the cost down. This means that the Prairies will be downwind from unregulated and dangerous cheap nuclear. An accident just waiting to happen.

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