Thursday, August 24, 2006

Oil fields the size of Greece

Speigel International has this fascinating story of Oil Sands in Canada. These Oil Sands contain the second largest petroleum reserves in the world.

It may not be the cheap, easily extracted stuff found in Saudi Arabia -- but geologists claim that Alberta could well match the Middle Eastern oil exporter as far as quantity is concerned. Experts believe the accessible oil reserves here could total as much as a whopping 174.5 billion barrels -- a volume greater than supplies in Iran and Libya combined. If the calculation is accurate, then Canada is number two in the global ranking for oil reserves.

There are political reasons for the run on the oil sands too. The Canadian government is fond of reminding people that this oil is located on the territory of one of the stablest democracies in the world and is not in the hands of petrocrats like Tehran, Caracas or Moscow.

But even the present ecological side effects of this latter-day alchemy are controversial. For every barrel of oil produced, up to five barrels of water are consumed. The toxic broth swashes about in giant lakes. Cannons constantly fire into the sky to scare migratory birds away from the poisonous mix.

But what is most worrying is that the Canadian government is no longer able to meet the targets for emissions reductions it set when it signed the Kyoto Protocol. Experts have calculated that emissions in areas with oil sands will continue to rise. By 2015, the area around Fort McMurray is expected to produce as much carbon dioxide as all of Denmark.

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