Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Seattle Times: Olympics and Tar Sands = "Special Opportunity"

The blunt goals of the tar sand industry are often avoided blunt talk by Albertan media, afraid of a general disgust with the reasons behind all the North American energy interests disastrous social, environmental and energy policies that are making astronomical profits on their way to building the single largest complex of industrialism to try and stave off peak oil and move away from Middle Eastern imports. Fortunately, American media knows far less of those constraints.

American business analysts, carefully avoiding the point that the tarsands gigaproject is a massive sprawl across all of North America and an issue for every person living on it in both social and environmental terms, tend to speak far more honestly about the goals of this "plan" to set in motion massive, run-away climate change. Further along this path of rare honesty is the direct link being made between the Olympics, massive industrial growth, and the tarsands gigaproject.

The only thing to add is that the other link is in the destruction of indigenous territories on unceded lands, the ruination of water supplies, and the Orwellian doublespeak of corporate environmental responsibility and aboriginal partnership being spewed by both industries that are bent on overturning just such "restraints" to "business as usual".


Canadians pump up oil-sands potential, Olympics
By Kristi Heim
Seattle Times business reporter
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A global market is booming in Washington's backyard, with economic growth that echoes China, and oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia.

"Canada is much more than mountains, Mounties and maple syrup," said Michael Virr, Canadian consul in Seattle. These days, it's about oil and the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Canada already is Washington state's biggest trading partner. Oil is transforming the province of Alberta and creating a host of new opportunities for Washington, Canadian trade officials told a Seattle audience Tuesday during an international export symposium.

Canada oil, by the numbers
Total production: 3.1 million barrels per day (2005)
Worldwide rank: 7
Exports: 1.6 million barrels per day, 99 percent to U.S.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Statistics Canada

Alberta is home to an area the size of Florida that contains vast oil reserves known as the Athabasca Oil Sands. About 175 billion barrels of bitumen, a kind of asphalt that can be processed into crude oil, are available from the oil sands using current technology, according to the Alberta government.

Estimates vary over how much the oil production will grow, but the government recently revised its figure to 311 billion barrels, said Kent McMullin, director of business attraction for the Edmonton Economic Development Corp.

Efforts to tap into that oil source — fueled by higher gas prices — have spawned massive development. Alberta has the highest investment per capita, with projects worth $146 billion under way, said Sam Shaw, president of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Vacancy rates for houses and condominiums are less than 1 percent. And there is a shortage of workers.

Companies have started bringing in workers from China to the oil sands, Shaw said. One company alone needed 20,000 construction workers.

McMullin said he visited Silicon Valley recently to try to recruit H-1B visa holders whose U.S. work visas were expiring.

"We've got this massive opportunity," he said. "We need everything. It's not just pipes. It's technology and innovation."

Demand is high for more efficient methods, such as lean manufacturing, that increase productivity, McMullin said.

For Northwest companies, there are opportunities to partner with Canadian firms and to supply a range of products, from building materials to specialized equipment like pressure valves, pumps and flow instruments.

"We need roads, hospitals, schools built," McMullin said.

While Edmonton is about 600 miles northeast of Seattle, plenty of business can be done closer to home in Vancouver, B.C.

As the city gears up to host the Winter Olympics in 2010, it plans to spend $2 billion constructing facilities. The federal and provincial governments will kick in $4 billion more on projects, including a new highway to Whistler and rapid transit from the city to the airport.

An online commerce site, www.2010commercecenter.com, has been set up to let companies register and get news about opportunities. The site works like a "corporate dating service" for interested companies, said Mark Jiles, of the Progressive Group, a B.C. marketing firm.

He advised Washington firms to include in their proposals ways to reach some of the Vancouver Olympics social goals: aboriginal participation, environmental sustainability and help for the inner city.

Olga Lafayette, president of Language Fusion, a small language company in Washington state's Vancouver, has secured a contract for translation services for the Vancouver Olympics over the next three years. She learned Tuesday morning her bid had been accepted.

Jiles expects more than a million additional visitors coming to Vancouver over the next five years. Those numbers could increase all over the Northwest with the right strategy and marketing around tourism, he said.

Kristi Heim: kheim@seattletimes.com

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