Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

UTS Energy, Teck Cominco plan new tar sands mine

With each new project, the practical viability of a mere moratorium on tar sands production becomes ever more clear.

For those of you who have ever traveled throughout Vancouver Island, here's a mental trick to embark upon. If you have been on the one highway that stretches the north-south length of the island from Port Hardy south, imagine the drive time it took to get to Nanaimo, where you probably went onto a ferry to the mainland of BC. From Nanaimo, if you had not left the island, you would have traveled further south as far as Victoria. Along this route, in total, you would have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-9 hours of driving. Why do I speak of that?

Because the areas *already* leased to various mock-oil mining in the Athabasca region of Alberta alone put together equal the size of Vancouver Island. Yet, any moratorium call that was upheld by the province of Alberta (or rather, forced into it by the direct acts of those in opposition to their more than slightly dubious plans/actions) would explicitly leave these areas o be destroyed in exactly the same manner that they are being done today, at a breakneck pace that is already the second fastest rate of deforestation on the entire planet (a massive contributor to climate change), already spewing vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the air, decimating the rivers while poisoning entire communities downstream and sending what little social safety net exists in the province into utter disrepute, causing a grotesque expansion of homelessness, poverty, drug abuse in both big cities and especially the work camps near "Fort Muck" while expanding the survival sex trade ever higher in both places like Edmonton and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo all together.

These effects are already inhuman and a violation of human rights from Fort Chipewyan to Peace River.

As far as political advance is concerned, it is a great thing to see how well the campaigns to unite many social forces are accumulating. But let us not silence our understanding of the *real* costs of *any* tar sands development: death, destruction and ecological nightmares far beyond Alberta. It is still true, now more than ever, that the only solution is to "Shut them Down".

As the campaigns around a moratorium continue to achieve more traction, and appeal to more and more social sectors of the entire province, stories like the one below will appear with more and more regularity. The reason? Simple-- if a moratorium happens after the best areas are already leased, the oil cartels can look like they compromised while leaving the movement that was built in opposition to it appearing to have a victory, yet one celebrated on a lunar landscape with poisoned air and no water in the mighty Athabasca.

When we were all children, occasionally we got the things we wanted yet other times we didn't-- from our family, friends and others. Such outcomes are the breaks of life, you won't always get what you want. But those times when you did get what you wanted, it was because you weren't afraid to let many people know exactly what it was. If you are silent about your true desires, you will never see them come forward. It's true in relationships, it's true in negotiations with your employer, and on a social level it's true with social change.

Speak what you want, without shame or fear. It is likely the only way you will have any chance of receiving anything close to it. Especially with so much on the line.


UTS Energy, Teck Cominco plan new oil sands mine
Wed Mar 26, 2008 11:26am EDT

CALGARY, Alberta, March 26 (Reuters) - Oil sands developer UTS Energy Inc (UTS.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) and partner Teck Cominco Ltd (TCKb.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday they plan to develop a new oil sands mine capable of producing up to 160,000 barrels of tar-like bitumen a day.

The two companies, which each have 20 percent stakes in Petro-Canada's (PCA.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) planned C$14.1-billion ($13.9 billion) Fort Hills oil sands project, said the proposed Frontier mine could be producing bitumen, a form of extra-heavy crude that requires upgrading, by 2015.

The new project would be in addition to a 50,000 barrel per day mine, called Equinox, the partners are planning on a property close to the Fort Hills site. Equinox could be operating by 2014, according to disclosure documents filed by the joint-venture partners.

No cost estimates for the two mines were given.

The two projects are the latest in more than C$100 billion in investments planned to exploit the oil sands region of northern Alberta, which contains reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's.

Separating the bitumen from the sand and upgrading it into refinery-ready synthetic crude is expensive and technically challenging. However, high oil prices are making exploiting the resource profitable and production from the region is expected to nearly triple to about 3 million barrels a day by 2015.

The two projects would not include an upgrader, but Wayne Bobye, chief financial officer at UTS, said their production might be processed at the Fort Hills project or shipped as is to refineries.

Teaming up with a U.S. refiner capable of handling the bitumen is also a possibility. "We're going to start to look at that in the next little while," Bobye said.

Similar deals have been done by EnCana Corp (ECA.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) and Husky Energy Inc (HSE.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) in which the two Canadian companies surrendered a share in their oil sands holdings in exchange for stakes in U.S. refineries.


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