Tar Sand "Geocide" – What Actions Should be Taken to Reduce their Environmental Damage?

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History

Oil production in the Alberta tar sands is drastically damaging the Earth through scarring its crust, polluting its waters, and heavily polluting its atmosphere. Many scientists and organizations along with the First Nations chiefs are urging the Government to halt the production of tar sands due to its large environmental damage that contributes to the harming of wildlife and the jeopardy of human health and safety.

Facts

The tar sands are an area containing a vast supply of oil found in the form of tar. Canada’s tar sands are primarily  located in there major reserves: the Athabasca tar sands, the Cold Lake reserves in north-eastern Alberta, and the Peace River deposits located in western Alberta. Together, Canada’s oil sands cover 140000 square kilometres, an area greater than the total land area of England, and have proven to be able to supply 175 billion barrels of oil. Though the tar sands are greatly profitable for British Petroleum and the Canadian Government, the environmental damage is undoubtedly very large and can permanently scar the Earth’s crust as 3350 square kilometres of the tar sands must be obtained by mining the surface of the Earth. Furthermore, the process that refines the oil requires a lot of power and has to be filtered with fresh water which is then contaminated and leached into destructive tailing ponds, a process which has been proven to increase respiratory diseases and cancers in downstream First Nations’ populations.

*In addition, scientists have proven that producing a single barrel of oil from the tar sands produces three times greater gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil.*

Organizations such as Greenpeace, along with NASA scientists and the First Nations peoples of Canada, strongly urge the Canadian Government to stop the extraction of oil from Alberta’s tar sands as it can stop Canada from reaching its obligations under the international Kyoto protocol and can eventually jeopardize the survival of the human species. Scientists along with Al Gore warn that extraction of oil from Alberta’s tar sands could risk the survival of the human species and unless human kind radically changes from carbon-based fuels, the world may be headed towards Armageddon. Despite the fact that Canada’s tar sand reserves provide 16% of the world’s oil supply, 4 tonnes of landscape must be torn up in order to obtain one barrel of oil, and over 13 million litres of toxic water are being released into the environment by factories. Leading scientists from NASA believe that the federal government should draw policy over water pollution in order to significantly reduce the environmental damage of tar sand extraction, and that it should rely on conventional oil extraction and renewable non-carbon sources instead  Throughout the past several years, the Canadian Government has only invested $1 billion towards creating technologies that are environmentally-friendly and carbon-free such as solar and wind technologies. The Canadian Government would greatly benefit from the development and expansion of renewable energy industries as it could provide even more jobs which could replace those lost if the tar sands eventually phase out.

A possible solution?

Athabasca’s tar sands provide a vast source of energy for Canada and its neighbouring country. However, this comes with a price as there are many downsides to the production of oil from Alberta’s tar sands. Although they provide large revenue for both the provincial and federal governments, they can cause great environmental damage and can jeopardize the health of humans. Despite the environmental damage, the Canadian government has spent billions of dollars towards tar sands projects, while they have only spent a small amount of money on non-carbon energy sources. Instead of relying on Alberta’s tar sands, the government could continue to support conventional oil drilling methods which have less carbon emissions and do not drastically scar the earth and pose as great of a threat to the environment.

Though tar sand drilling undoubtedly affects the environment negatively, the overall impact it has on the environment can be greatly reduced. The government could create policies that force factories to recycle the water used during tar sand filtration, and policies that stop the expansion of companies in order to prevent competition, and therefore extensive tar sands digging and scarring. Furthermore, the government could invest on more non-carbon and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energies. This would provide a safer resolution and could also benefit the economy as it could replace or even increase the amount of jobs in the energy sector, which would eventually be lost in the tar sands. As a result of creating policies that reduce the impacts of tar sands, the Conservative Government could receive the votes of more people in future elections as they would be facing less opposition from First Nations peoples, and more jobs could be made available in the energy sector causing more Canadians to benefit with improved lives. Therefore, it would be a wise decision for the Canadian government to create stricter policies that reduce the environmental impact and the proliferation of companies currently active in the tar sands, and to increase its investment on conventional oil drilling and renewable energy sources in order to become less dependent on the tar sands.