Imperial Oil Defends Oil Sands Development

Well, it’s offical.  Oil sands are going to save the planet, bringing much
needed prosperity to all.

The Calgary Herald reported today that Imperial Oil (whose parent company, Exxon, is one of the biggest corporate “climate change disblievers” out there) has demonstrated how good and selfless they are in developing the oil sands – for the sake of all the poor people in all the undeveloped countries out there.

Imperial’s new chief executive, Bruce March, described the oilsands as a vital global energy source in a world where billions of people live with poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water and inadequate or no electricity.

Call me naive.  Call me crazy.  But there are a few things that disturb me about this – and in my rage, I might not get this in quite the right order, so forgive me.

  1. Oil sands contribute a large percentage of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions – maybe around 20% between 1990 and 2005.
  2. Canada, according to recent government reports (I’ve got to cite a Reuters report for the time being stating that although Canada’s population makes up only 0.5% of the world’s total, it pumps out 2% of the worlds GHG emissions.
  3. GHG emissions are putting poor starvign people in “undeveloped countries” under water, under sand (desertified) or under hurricanes/typhoons and other extreme weather conditions.  Pushing ahead with super-carbon intensive petroleum development like oilsands using current technology isn’t going to help them one iota.
  4. Oil sands exports go to fuel US and Canada-based SUVs.  They don’t go to fuel poor starving people in ‘undeveloped countries.’  Please.  I know plans have been rekindled for Enbridge’s gateway pipeline, but there still nothing on the ground there.

I think Imperial’s got to take a good look in the mirror if they think they are doing the world a big huge favour by using present technology to develop oil sands.  Nobody – especially the poorest people in the world – needs more GHG emissions than are absolutely necessary.  And Alberta’s oil sands have time after time been proven to be a huge source of such gasses.

Let’s push Imperial, and all the other oil sands developers – to use the most cutting edge technology to reduce GHG and other emissions (including tailings). Let’s push the Alberta government to resist approving new development until new technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage are developed and commericalized.  The world doesn’t have time to be grandfathering carbon-intense technology just because the price of oil is high today.

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