oilerrific

Extracting tar sands oil is no easy feat.  One method involves injecting super-heated steam under high pressure deep into the ground to liquefy the hardened tar so it can be extracted.  Only sometimes this results in a blowout and the toxic bitumen starts oozing out in unexpected places – like beaver ponds and lakes and forests.  And the best part is,

“This is a new kind of oil spill and there is no ‘off button,’ ” said Keith Stewart, an energy analyst with Greenpeace who teaches a course on energy policy and environment at the University of Toronto. “You can’t cap it like a conventional oil well or turn off a valve on a pipeline.

“You are pressurizing the oil bed so hard that it’s no wonder that it blows out. This means that the oil will continue to leak until the well is no longer pressurized,” which means the bitumen could be seeping from the ground for months.

And would you believe that the media and photographers are being kept away from these blowout sites and that government scientists are afraid to speak out about them?

No one knows how to stop these tar-sands oil spills | Grist.
‘Nobody understands’ spills at Alberta oil sands operation | Toronto Star.

 

University of Alberta scientist David Schindler holding a deformed whitefish collected from the Athabasca watershed, downstream from the oilsands industrial development.
University of Alberta scientist David Schindler holding a deformed whitefish collected from the Athabasca watershed, downstream from the oilsands industrial development.

Believing in clean oilsands is like believing in ‘magic fairies,’ top scientist says.

He said this reflects the current federal ideology — not anti-science, but “anti-some kinds of science. Anything with ‘environmental’ in it seems to be anathema.”

Showing his audience an aerial photo of a scarred landscape in oilsands country, he said environmental assessments show there is no environmental impact and companies claim the damage is later remediated.

“Why are people allowed to lie to the public like this? I just don’t understand this. We have to challenge them,” he said. “Obviously the people who used to challenge them, the civil servants, are no longer allowed to.

Tar Sands

The Tar Sands are a literal stain on our country’s landscape, and yet our political leadership has staked our entire economy on its development and expansion.  The process is wasteful, complicated, and throws off all kinds of toxic byproducts into our lakes, rivers and forests destroying ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

ThinkProgress on How To Make Gasoline From Tar Sands, In Six Simple Steps

After all of this, it takes as much as four tons of sand and four barrels of fresh water to make a barrel of synthetic oil, which is good for about 42 gallons of gas, or one fill up in a ’97 Suburban. The good news is about 10 percent of that water is recycled! (On the downside, the other 90 percent is dumped into toxic tailing ponds, which currently cover about 50 square kilometers [19 square miles] along the Athabasca River, and is leaking into the ecosystem at a rate of perhaps 11 million liters a day.)

This is nasty stuff, and our children will pay for our shortsightedness.