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banyon
06-10-2007, 02:57 PM
Bahgdad burns, Calgary blooms
Saturday 2 June 2007 by Naomi Klein

The invasion of Iraq has set off what could be the largest oil boom in history. All the signs are there: multinationals free to gobble up national firms at will, ship unlimited profits home, enjoy leisurely "tax holidays" and pay a laughable 1 percent in royalties to the government.
This isn’t the boom in Iraq sparked by the proposed new oil law—that will come later. This boom is already in full swing, and it is happening about as far away from the carnage in Baghdad as you can get, in the wilds of northern Alberta. For four years now, Alberta and Iraq have been connected to each other through a kind of invisible seesaw: As Baghdad burns, destabilizing the entire region and sending oil prices soaring, Calgary booms.

Here is how chaos in Iraq unleashed what the Financial Times recently called "north America’s biggest resources boom since the Klondike gold rush." Albertans have always known that in the northern part of their province, there are vast deposits of bitumen—black, tarlike goo that is mixed with sand, clay, water and oil. There are approximately 2.5 trillion barrels of the stuff, the largest hydrocarbon deposits in the world.

It is possible to turn Alberta’s crud into crude, but it’s awfully hard. One method is to mine it in vast open pits: First forests are clear-cut, then topsoil scraped away. Next, huge machines dig out the black goop and load it into the largest dump trucks in the world (two stories high, a single wheel costs $100,000). The tar is diluted with water and solvents in giant vats, which spin it around until the oil rises to the top, while the massive tailings are dumped in ponds larger than the region’s natural lakes. Another method is to separate the oil where it is: Large drill-pipes push steam deep underground, which melts the tar, while another pipe sucks it out and transports it through several more stages of refining, much of it powered by natural gas.

Both techniques are costly: between $18 and $23 per barrel, just in expenses. Until quite recently, that made no economic sense. In the mid-1980s, oil sold for $20 a barrel; in 1998-99, it was down to $12 a barrel. The major international players had no intention of paying more to get the oil than they could sell it for, which is why, when global oil reserves were calculated, the tar sands weren’t even factored in. Everyone but a few heavily subsidized Canadian companies knew that the tar was staying put.

Then came the US invasion of Iraq. In March 2003, the price of oil reached $35 a barrel, raising the prospect of making a profit from the tar sands (the industry calls them "oil sands"). That year, the United States Energy Information Administration "discovered" oil in the tar sands. It announced that Alberta—previously thought to have only 5 billion barrels of oil—was actually sitting on at least 174 billion "economically recoverable" barrels. The next year, Canada overtook Saudi Arabia as the leading provider of foreign oil to the United States.

All this has meant that Iraq’s oil boom has not been delayed; it has been relocated. All the majors, save BP, have rushed to northern Alberta: ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total, which alone plans to spend $9-$14 billion. In April, Shell paid $8 billion to take full control of its Canadian subsidiary. The town of Fort McMurray, ground zero of the boom, has nowhere to house the tens of thousands of new workers, and one company has built its own airstrip so it can fly in the people it needs.

Seventy-five percent of the oil from the tar sands flows directly to the United States, prompting Brian Hall, an energy consultant with Colorado-based IHS, to call the tar sands "America’s energy security blanket." There is a certain irony there: The United States invaded Iraq at least in part to secure access to its oil. Now, thanks partly to economic blowback from that disastrous decision, it has found the "security" it was looking for right next door.

It has become fashionable to predict that high oil prices will spark a free-market response to climate change, setting off an "explosion of innovation in alternatives," as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently. Alberta puts the lie to that claim. High prices have indeed led to an R&D extravaganza, but it is squarely focused on figuring out how to get the dirtiest possible oil out of the hardest-to-reach places. Shell, for instance, is working on a "novel thermal recovery process"—embedding large electric heaters in the deposits and literally cooking the earth.

And that’s the Alberta tar sands for you: The industry already contributing to climate change more than any other is frantically turning up the heat. The process of refining bitumen emits three to four times the greenhouse gases produced by extracting oil from traditional wells, making the tar sands the largest single contributor to Canada’s growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, the industry plans to more than triple production by 2020, with no end in sight. If prices stay high, it will soon become profitable to extract an additional 141 billion barrels from the tar sand, which would place the largest oil reserves in the world in Alberta.

Developing the sands is devouring trees and wildlife—the Pembina Institute, the leading authority on the tar sands’ environmental impact, warns that boreal forests covering "an area as large as the State of Florida" risk being leveled. Now it turns out that the main river feeding the industry the massive quantities of water it needs is in jeopardy. Climate scientists say that dropping water levels are the result—fittingly enough—of climate warming.

Contemplating the collective madness in Alberta—a scene even the Financial Times has labeled "some dystopian fantasy"—it strikes me that Canada has ended up with more than Iraq’s displaced oil boom. We have its elusive weapons of mass destruction too. They are out near Fort McMurray, in the jet-black goo beneath the earth’s crust. And with the help of trucks, pipes, steam and gas, these weapons are being detonated.

http://alternatives-international.net/article927.html

banyon
06-10-2007, 03:00 PM
I don't agree with all of the opinions of the author, but there are a lot of interesting ramifications if all of this is accurate.

I think many environmentalists like myself simply assumed that high gas prices would force conservation and alternative energy. But without leadership it looks like things could get worse for a while before they ever got better.

On the plus side, it is better to be beholden to Calgary than Riyadh or Tehran.

banyon
06-10-2007, 04:59 PM
So everyone else already knew about this and it's not a big deal?

Cochise
06-10-2007, 05:08 PM
The way I read it, the only reason this is being considered is because profits are so high, and that they have to be this high before the cost of producing crude that way becomes profitable. So it might be a fix if we run into supply problems, but it wouldn't seem to be an option to alleviate price concerns.

banyon
06-10-2007, 05:22 PM
The way I read it, the only reason this is being considered is because profits are so high, and that they have to be this high before the cost of producing crude that way becomes profitable. So it might be a fix if we run into supply problems, but it wouldn't seem to be an option to alleviate price concerns.

I think that analysis is correct, but the implication that concerns me is that this appears to be the "default" position whenever prices reach a price threshhold. But since petroleum is a nonrenewable resource, the supply of the easier-to-reach crude is guaranteed to decline and drive prices up regardless of the current political and military pressures.

It appears, absent some criticial mass for alternative energy, this is our plan.

Logical
06-10-2007, 05:33 PM
I don't agree with all of the opinions of the author, but there are a lot of interesting ramifications if all of this is accurate.

I think many environmentalists like myself simply assumed that high gas prices would force conservation and alternative energy. But without leadership it looks like things could get worse for a while before they ever got better.

On the plus side, it is better to be beholden to Calgary than Riyadh or Tehran.

I don't know those insane Canucks might force us to watch that Ice and Broom sport. :LOL:

Fishpicker
06-10-2007, 05:48 PM
I'd watch curling rather than have to watch camel races, Oil wrestling, or soccer

listopencil
06-10-2007, 06:59 PM
I'd watch curling rather than have to watch camel races, Oil wrestling, or soccer



There is no way you could possibly mean what I think you mean. Maybe we have a different definition of "oil wrestling".

Fishpicker
06-10-2007, 08:42 PM
There is no way you could possibly mean what I think you mean. Maybe we have a different definition of "oil wrestling".

ya, I'm referring to Turkish oil wrestling. dont bother looking it up, it will scar you forever.

patteeu
06-10-2007, 09:29 PM
alternatives-international.net is a joke.

OK, I'm just kidding. I've never heard of them before. This article sounds right to me. It makes sense that as the price of crude goes up that research into both alternative sources of oil and alternative non-oil energy sources would increase. These extraction methods were already on the shelf waiting for higher oil prices so it makes sense that they would swing into action relatively quickly.

banyon
06-11-2007, 08:07 AM
alternatives-international.net is a joke.

OK, I'm just kidding. I've never heard of them before. This article sounds right to me. It makes sense that as the price of crude goes up that research into both alternative sources of oil and alternative non-oil energy sources would increase. These extraction methods were already on the shelf waiting for higher oil prices so it makes sense that they would swing into action relatively quickly.

Actually I read it in my print version of The Nation, but could not get into their online version.

Radar Chief
06-11-2007, 08:26 AM
I don't know those insane Canucks might force us to watch that Ice and Broom sport. :LOL:

Curling. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curling)

banyon
06-11-2007, 08:48 AM
Alberta, Alberta,
Where you been so long?
Alberta, Alberta,
Where you been so long?
Ain't had no loving
Since you've been gone.

Alberta, Alberta,
Where'd you stay last night?
Alberta, Alberta
Where'd you stay last night?
Come home this morning,
Clothes don't fit you right

Alberta, Alberta,
Girl, you're on my mind.
Alberta, Alberta,
Girl, you're on my mind.
Ain't had no loving
Such a great long time.

Alberta, Alberta,
Where you been so long?
Alberta, Alberta,
Where you been so long?
Ain't had no loving
Since you've been gone.

Radar Chief
06-11-2007, 08:52 AM
Sheila: Times have changed
Our kids are getting worse
They won't obey their parents
They just want to fart and curse!
Sharon: Should we blame the government?
Liane: Or blame society?
Dads: Or should we blame the images on TV?
Sheila: No, blame Canada
Everyone: Blame Canada
Sheila: With all their beady little eyes
And flapping heads so full of lies
Everyone: Blame Canada
Blame Canada
Sheila: We need to form a full assault
Everyone: It's Canada's fault!
Sharon: Don't blame me
For my son Stan
He saw the damn cartoon
And now he's off to join the Klan!
Liane: And my boy Eric once
Had my picture on his shelf
But now when I see him he tells me to **** myself!
Sheila: Well, blame Canada
Everyone: Blame Canada
Sheila: It seems that everything's gone wrong
Since Canada came along
Everyone: Blame Canada
Blame Canada
Copy Guy: They're not even a real country anyway
Ms. McCormick: My son could've been a doctor or a lawyer rich and true,
Instead he burned up like a piggy on the barbecue
Everyone: Should we blame the matches?
Should we blame the fire?
Or the doctors who allowed him to expire?
Sheila: heck no!
Everyone: Blame Canada
Blame Canada
Sheila: With all their hockey hullabaloo
Liane: And that bitch Anne Murray too
Everyone: Blame Canada
Shame on Canada
For...
The smut we must stop
The trash we must bash
The Laughter and fun
Must all be undone
We must blame them and cause a fuss
Before someone thinks of blaming uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!!!!