End The Expansion of the Canadian Tar Sand Industry
Daniel Horvath, Brook Wiley, Quinten Parker
Professor John Hessler
Due: January 31st 2014
Save the Canadian Boreal Forests
Semi-solid Bitumen has been a resource used by humans ever since the Neanderthals. It’s extremely sticky and hydrophobic nature made it ideal for creating foundations for buildings and waterproofing anything from boats to mummies. It was not until the industrial revolution hit France that people realized an extremely energy dense gas could be harvested from it if heated to the correct temperatures (Oil Sands). Using some other source of heat (usually coal), the fossil fuel bitumen turns into a fluid and will flow out of the strata it is stored in, releasing a mixture of liquid bitumen and carbon chain gasses that are all highly combustible. It is this combustible property that makes the oil addicted nations of North America so interested in its extraction. Bitumen deposits were identified in Canada by westerners almost as soon as
they arrived when the natives brought samples of the soil to members of the Hudson Bay Company in 1719 (History of … Petroleum Industry). Upon further investigation westerners recorded seeing springs of bitumen flowing from the ground, which were identified as large fossil fuel deposits. It wasn’t however, until 1893 that the true size of the deposits were understood when a well being drilled blew out and released 250,000 cubic meters per day until 1918 (History of … Petroleum Industry). Ignoring the ridiculously harmful volumes of the extremely potent greenhouse gas methane released in that incident, the sands were lightly extracted for the next century until about 20 years ago when the world’s thirst for oil became so vast that the expensive process of refining tar sands became a profitable venture (History of … Petroleum Industry). Ever since big oil turned its eyes to the massive bitumen deposits under Alberta Canada’s boreal forest, it has made a lot of bad news for both the environment and the people living in the area. The Canadian Boreal forest is not only the largest untouched boreal forest in the world but it is also one of earth’s biggest carbon sinks (NRDC). What does that mean? It means besides the Amazon and sea algae, the Canadian Boreal forest removes the most carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per day than any other place on the planet (NRDC). Its mainly coniferous forest population makes it especially important because it photosynthesizes year round unlike a temperate forest, this means it is removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere year round and is a crucial resource in the fight against global warming. And ever since big oil has gotten a hold of land within the forests it has turned beautiful wildlife into toxic wasteland.
Here is a picture of an area of the Boreal forest before and after mining the area for tar sands:
Here is an infographic that shows the process of mining tar sands and how much worse the process is for the environment compared to standard drilling:
Along with many negative effects to the environment from the Tar Sands there are also various negative effects on the people working and living in the area. To start off with the negative effects on the environment includes the area in which the tar sands are taken from, the land is stripped up all of the plants, shrubs, trees, and overburden. This takes away good land and its resources, but also the homes for the majority of the wildlife in the area. The wildlife population will slowly begin to decrease due to the fact that their entire environment, food, shelter, and safety has all been destroyed. Animal’s and their habitat are not the only ones being negatively affected, there is also the fact of mercury poisoning affecting people. Recently there has been a very large mercury contamination in the Boreal Forest of Canada at the tar sands plant. The contamination is said to be up to 7,500 miles and includes airborne mercury emissions which has been proved to cause severe birth defects and brain damage as it is a potent neurotoxin. Release of C02 into the air, as well as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, as well as fine particle matter is another example of the negative impact of the tar sands plants. There is also a large amount of water used, about 2-4.5 volume units of water to produce one volume unit of synthetic crude oil, which is a huge waste of water and such a large amount over the course of a plant’s lifetime.
This is a very serious issue and can affect many people. The current plants need to be shut down soon otherwise the effects will continue to spread and cause even more irreversible damage.
In order to counteract the negative environmental impacts of mining oil sands, several actions must be taken. First, regulations need to be placed on the mining of oil sands. The methods that are use to extract the oil from the tar sands needs to be regulated, the amount of sands mined per day needs to be regulated, as well as mercury pollution levels in areas surrounding in order to maintain an inhabitable environment. As it is today, there are very few regulations on the methods by which oil can be extracted from tar sands, thereby allowing mining corporations to use the cheapest and, by consequence, most ecologically harmful methods to complete the mining and extraction. Regulation of extraction methods would force corporations to be as ecologically safe as possible when mining and extracting the oil. Also, the quantity of oil sands that are allowed to be mined per day should be slowly decreasing as an eventual ban of tar sands is required to ultimately stop the negative environmental impacts the mining oil sands presents. Once the quantity of oil sands per day that a corporation is allowed to mine dips below a profitable amount, there will be less resistance to a ban on mining oil sands and it will therefore be easier to obtain.
Ultimately, our goal is to solve crisis of the Canadian tar sands, but we can’t do that without your signatures. In order to put the above solutions to the tar sands crisis in motion, we must bring the attention of a member of Congress or a governmental agency to the crisis and then present to them our solutions. However, we cannot get their attention without public support for the issue at hand, which means that we need as many signatures as possible. So, sign the petition and make a difference!
"Tar Sands." Stop Dirty Fuels:. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/
Prince, Andrew. "Infographic: How Tar Sands Oil Is Produced." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.<http://www.npr.org/2012/08/16/158907708/infographic-how-tar-sands-oil-is-
"History of the Petroleum Industry in Canada (oil Sands and Heavy Oil)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Jan. 2014.Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
"Oil Sands." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands#History>.
Daniel: Research and Background Info (First third)
Brooke: Negative Effects on Environment (Middle Third)
Quinten: Solutions and Purpose (Last third)