In his recent keynote speech to the ‘Greening the Oil Sands’ conference, John D. Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress highlighted a point that often gets overlooked whenever we start talking about development of Canada’s vast Oil Sands reserves.
As you may know, the tar sands are the second largest recoverable sources of oil in the world after Saudi Arabia, and the Alberta government proclaims that through responsible development, technology improvements and significant investment, it can help amplify Alberta’s role as a leading world energy supplier.
Even in Washington, D.C. one is hard pressed to hear anyone speak out against this development. “Hey, Canadian oil is better than foreign oil from ‘unfriendlies’?” I hear that a lot. And, “What is the matter with you, isn’t this a matter of energy security?”
Mr. Podesta’s speech answered these arguments by pointing out that continued development of unconventional energy sources like this, is stopping us from fully addressing the real issue of climate change.
“We all recognize we have to keep global temperatures under 2 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic climate change,” he said. “But our reliance on oil continues unchecked.”
There are significant environmental and social costs to this development, including the clear impact of this development on wildlife and human life. To me, who has been there, and seen this development with my own eyes, the scale and impact is sobering. The development could eventually impact an area of land comparable in size to the entire state of Florida! $125 billion has been earmarked for tar sand developments within the next few years, and industry is calling for this to be increased to $379 billion by 2025. Projects totaling more than 7 million barrels of oil production have been disclosed, and current approved production exceeds 3 million barrels per day.
As one of the largest contributors to global warming in North America, I agree with Mr. Podesta that the tar sands are not the answer to our energy security crisis. Instead, we must reinforce our much talked about commitment to alternative energy and simply put more investment into renewable sources.
What do you think about the development of the Canadian tar sands? How do you think this should fit in within U.S. energy strategy?