Alberta's tar sands are already known to contain the world's second largest proven reserves of petroleum. The only problem is that extracting the oil requires energy and water, and the tar sands (also called "oil sands") must excavated (or "mined" if you prefer that term) and heated, to separate the petroleum from the sand and rock. Fortunately, the tar sands are located in the north of Alberta, a territory which otherwise has little appeal for human settlement, and which is accordingly very sparsely populated.
With oil prices seeming to stay above $50 a barrel for the long term, extraction of the vast oil reserves becomes economically feasible. A figure of $45 a barrel is usually cited as the necessary minimum to make the industry sufficiently profitable, using current technologies. Imagine having the equivalent of the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia located a pipeline away from or borders, in a friendly country, and a province which is reckoned to be the most pro-American region of Canada.
Naturally, the greenies are escalating their rhetoric, decrying this move toward energy security and a vastly-increased oil supply. Al Gore is already on the record opposing it. But that hasn't stopped development, and Alberta is currently processing an application for its first nuclear power plant to be devoted to supplying the energy to extract oil from sand.
If and when the large scale construction of nuclear power plants begins, supplying cheap and clean power for the extraction of the oil, our dependence on overseas sources of oil will start to decline significantly, and the money we ship to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela will start going to Alberta, whose citizens love to vacation in south of the border, buy North American-produced vehicles, and go to rodeos like the world-renowned Calgary Stampede.
Perish the thought. No wonder the greens are now calling development of the oil sands "The biggest environmental crime in history." They don't like mining, they decry CO2 emissions, and they worry about all the water that would be used. Yes, water is used in processing the oil, but the Canadian Rockies are even more blessed with water than with petroleum resources. Landscape once mined can be reclaimed. And water can be recycled. Ultimately, the vision which animates these people is misanthropy, seeing man and his works as pollution of nature. Just as the largely desolate ANWR has been idealized as some pristine paradise, and as domestic oil shale development (similar in concept to tar sand development) has been stymied, the greenies want to prevent Alberta from becoming an even bigger supplier of secure energy.Hat tip: Joseph Crowley
Update: Evans Roderick writes:
Why aren't the greenies addressing the impact of all fuel production on water resources?
They are pushing for more ethanol use versus petroleum. This has a significant impact on ground water resources; for instance, the ground water in the Ogallala aquifer from South Dakota to Texas. There are areas in KS and TX that are already exceeding replenishment and are seriously lowering the water level (Texas has areas where ground water irrigation is no longer practical due to use exceeding recharge; This occurred when the water was being used to produce food).
Since ethanol has become subsidized, the acreage used for ethanol corn production has increased along with the demand for the water to produce it.
The choice could become fuel or food and water.
Depends on the production area and method in question.