Prentice Chides Big Oil To “Keep it Clean”

Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice addressed a business gathering yesterday in Calgary, the heart of Alberta oil country.  He had this advice for his audience:

The development of the oil sands and the environmental footprint of these industrial activities have become an international issue and as such, they now transcend the interests of any single corporation. What is at issue on the international stage is our reputation as a country.

Absent this kind of Canadian leadership, we will be cast as a global poster child for environmentally unsound resource development. Canadians expect and deserve more than that.”

What Prentice should have pointed out is that Canada already is a poster child for poor environmental policies and regressive climate change policy. Click here for some international reaction to Canada’s policies.

Prentice went on to stress the Harper government’s fondness for the oil sands:

Our government supports the continued expansion of the oil sands of Alberta. The oil sands are one of Canada’s greatest resource endowments, and developed responsibly, they hold the promise to be a driving engine of the Canadian economy.”

Well, at least Prentice is being honest about his government’s “environmental” policy, which is to develop the dirtiest project on earth more “responsibly”.

Calgary journalist Andrew Nikiforuk’s award-winning book, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, takes a close look at the oil sands.  Here’s some of the things that Nikiforuk finds:

  • The oil sands are situated in the world’s third largest watershed, the McKenzie River Basin.  This basin is home to 1/6 of Canada’s freshwater supply.  It takes 3 barrels of water to retrieve 1 barrel of oil. 90% of the water used in mining bitumen ends up in toxic tailing ponds (remember the 500 ducks that died after landing on one of these?).  There’s now enough standing water in these tailing ponds to fill 300 Love Canals.
  • The tar sands industry runs largely on natural gas, a relatively clean source of energy.  Everyday, the tar sands burns 1.3 BILLION cubic feet of natural gas, enough to heat 6 MILLION Canadian homes.
  • The tar sands are Canada’s largest source of climate-changing pollution.
  • A 2008 report to Congress concluded it was not better not to develop U.S. oil sands “in light of the environmental and social problems – e.g. water requirements, toxic tailings, CO2 emissions…”
  • The Rand Corporation also concluded that “The degree of progress in resolving environmental issues will almost certainly affect the general desirability of using this resource on a large scale.”

Luckily for Big Oil, for the Harper government trifling issues like poisoned water, global climate destabilization from climate change, and the health of First Nations people in the area are all trumped by the short-term economic gain to be had. With this kind of “leadership”, Canadians are in for a grim future.

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