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I drink it up. Everyday. I drink the blood of lamb from Bandy's tract.
October 8, 2008 10:49 PM   Subscribe

Oil sands will pollute Great Lakes The environmental impacts of Alberta's oil sands will not be restricted to Western Canada, researchers say, but will extend thousands of kilometres away to the Great Lakes, threatening water and air quality around the world's largest body of fresh water. *****Report: How the Oil Sands Got to the Great Lakes Basin***** (pdf) Policy makers around the lakes, in both Canada and the U.S., are largely unaware that the tar sands will lead to massive industrial development in their region, and consequently have no strategy to minimize the environmental impacts.

In (its) new (POWI) report (NOTE: see the pdf link above), the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies says the massive refinery expansions needed to process tar sands crude, and the new pipeline networks (Keystone, Alberta Clipper)for transporting the fuel, amount to a “pollution delivery system” connecting Alberta to the Great Lakes region of Canada and the U.S.

...As many as 17 major refinery expansions around the lakes are being considered for turning the tar-like Alberta bitumen into gasoline and other petroleum products. While not all will be undertaken, enough of them will be to have a regional environmental impact.


There has been one major dispute in the U.S. over a tar sands-related refinery expansion, at a British Petroleum facility at Whiting, Ind. The company proposed a $3-billion refinery modernization that would raise discharges of two pollutants by about 35 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. But it backed down and pledged not to increase the pollutants after a public outcry.
posted by KokuRyu (33 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
***** IMPORTANT WARNING *****
Your posting style is going to derail this thread.
posted by ryanrs at 10:52 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the "Drill, baby, drill!" crowd will have to say about this.


Ermmm..... no, actually... on second thought, I don't wonder.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:58 PM on October 8, 2008


Now I know what *****this***** means.

Nice post. Lots of good info I needed to know.
posted by sluglicker at 11:01 PM on October 8, 2008


But more importantly.....

While it's great to see reports on the environmental impact of such endeavors, where is the discussion of the economic impact? This type of extraction is much more costly than your usual run-of-the-mill crude oil refinement. I understand there's a concern of the EROI for Alberta bitumen being so low that the viability of even beginning this enterprise is questionable.

Personally I'd much rather see us using our precious waning petroleum reserves for the development of new forms of energy collection, rather than the exhaustive straining of a wee bit more of the stuff from the Earth's depths. But, then again, I'm not in the position to profit from sales of earth-moving equipment, so, don't mind me.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:06 PM on October 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Armageddon in the oil patch
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 PM on October 8, 2008


Ah, thanks, KokuRyu. There it is, then. Apparently the dropping price of oil is going to have a significant affect on the attractiveness of moving forward with these high-cost projects. At least for the time being.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:15 PM on October 8, 2008


where is the discussion of the economic impact?

That's a good question. The fact is, there is no solution. There's too many of us.
posted by sluglicker at 11:17 PM on October 8, 2008


The last thing I read about this said that it would be the RISING price of oil that would make the ROI worth the effort in tar sands extraction. Now the falling price will do the same thing?
posted by rokusan at 11:37 PM on October 8, 2008


The fact is, there is no solution. There's too many of us.

Oh, there are LOTS of solutions in the works for that problem. Earth is a self-correcting system.
posted by rokusan at 11:38 PM on October 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Rokusan, you are correct. Now that the price of oil has plummeted a bit, the worthwhileness of tar sands investment will be questioned, at least in the short term. Back when oil was sitting high up above $100, it made a lot more sense to accept the high costs of sucking oil from tar.

However, there's no doubt that, unless we really do fall into a deep recession / depression, the price of oil is going to bounce up and down for a bit. So who the hell knows.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:50 PM on October 8, 2008


The last thing I read about this said that it would be the RISING price of oil that would make the ROI worth the effort in tar sands extraction. Now the falling price will do the same thing?

There is no real fall in price. Just wait a few weeks. Are people so short-sighted?

Oops. I live in a Red State. What I meant was: DRILL IT UP! "THEY" WITH "TECHNOLOGY" WILL FIGURE IT OUT--LATER--BUT SOON!

Despite the fact we treat science in schools ike a cockroach under a stiletto heel we still have faith that "good ole murican ingenuity" will save us somehow.

Somehow.
posted by sourwookie at 12:19 AM on October 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's a good question. The fact is, there is no solution. There's too many of us.

Good point. To quote ewkpates from an earlier thread:

It is time to admit that as a species we are indestructible... and that all we can do now is make ourselves miserable.

posted by sourwookie at 12:23 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's an overhead shot of one of the fields to give some perspective on whats happening. A couple more of them.
posted by lilkeith07 at 12:24 AM on October 9, 2008


We're at once brilliant and utter morons, aren't we?

On the plus side, we'll soon have enough people so that each of us only has to write a single name of god for the stars to start winking out.
posted by maxwelton at 12:57 AM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Fuckin' bitumen. I am aghast at what the oil sands boom is doing to Edmonton (my home town). Gretzky wept.
posted by painquale at 1:33 AM on October 9, 2008


Somewhere there must be an example of an extractive industrial project that actually kept its pre-drilling / digging promises rather than just leaving a God-awful mess that eventually costs taxpayers far more than the project ever made. But I won't be holding my breath.
posted by rhymer at 3:57 AM on October 9, 2008


Oil in air - So long as their is sun and O2, the microbes in the environment will break down the hydrocarbons - EVENTUALLY. (not that such makes the Hydrocarbons getting to the GL a socially correct choice)

Somewhere there must be an example of an extractive industrial project that actually kept its pre-drilling / digging promises

Sure - nuke power. Its gonna give us power to cheap to meter and it'll be clean and safe.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:22 AM on October 9, 2008


Back when oil was sitting high up above $100, it made a lot more sense to accept the high costs of sucking oil from tar.

Like a frantic junkie licking the plastic bag for that last bit of meth. Jesus. The higher oil prices go, the more we'll be digging for shitty quality oil in places that we shouldn't go digging in.

Unfuckingbelievable.
posted by mediareport at 5:30 AM on October 9, 2008


Sure - nuke power. Its gonna give us power to cheap to meter and it'll be clean and safe.

Clean: what to do with the waste, though? That shit is highly toxic. Just bury it in some mountain? Isn't nuclear waste the ultimate NIMBY project?

Safe: My concern is how badly we cheaped out when constructing the facilities. Buildings do deteriorate over the decades.

I genuinely want to know the answers to my concerns when it comes to nuclear power. Are there new ways of building nuclear power plants that minimize the dangers in case of a failure? Are construction sites of these plants actually and truly inspected by real and qualified NRC inspectors that didn't get these jobs through patronage?
posted by NoMich at 5:48 AM on October 9, 2008


Stuff like this makes it difficult to explain to my younger cousins why they shouldn't litter. What's one more empty water bottle in the gutter when we're turning Alberta into a reasonable facsimile of the surface of the moon and flushing the waste down the St. Lawrence River?
posted by you just lost the game at 5:50 AM on October 9, 2008


> Just bury it in some mountain?

That frankly seems like a better solution than blowing almost equally toxic waste products into the atmosphere, which we do all the time.

I have more faith in our ability to manage Ye Olde Nuclear Waste Dumpe, all concentrated in a single location somewhere, than in our ability to not kill ourselves by diffusing wastes into the ecosystem. Managing a single pile of waste is a tractable problem, albeit an expensive one, and seems vastly preferable to using a shared resource as a dumping ground, which will aways lead to tragedy-of-the-commons-esque situations.

The problem with nuclear waste is that it's visible, and has to be dealt with immediately, or it will kill you. I don't see this as a bug; it's really more of a feature. If the downsides of using fossil fuels weren't so subtle and seemingly tailored towards buck-passing and responsibility-avoidance, we'd probably use a lot fewer of them and have a lot fewer environmental consequences as a result.

An energy source that leaves a highly-concentrated, impossible-to-ignore waste product is pretty close to optimal, IMO, second only to some hypothetical energy source that created no waste products whatsoever.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:16 AM on October 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Nuclear waste is 'concentrated' when it comes out of the reactor; dumping it in the ocean has been an invisible solution for nuclear waste disposal in the past... There's an interesting piece on some deregulation of nuclear waste here.
posted by acro at 9:16 AM on October 9, 2008


I genuinely want to know the answers to my concerns when it comes to nuclear power.

I'm in the same boat, I don't want people to brush the problems of this particular source of energy under the rug as has been done with, uh, every source of energy that came before it(?)

To me, a major requirement for the storing of nuclear waste, is that it has to be safe enough to store in populated areas. It is completely irresponsible to be storing waste where humans are not, seeing as, ya know, we created it. We created it, WE deal with it; not other life.
posted by symbollocks at 9:27 AM on October 9, 2008


So ya, acro, dumping it in the oceans: irresponsible. Just because it's hard to measure the effects, doesn't mean there aren't any.
posted by symbollocks at 9:28 AM on October 9, 2008


I genuinely want to know the answers to my concerns when it comes to nuclear power.

As someone said in another thread somewhere (hat tip, forgotten poster), I just want someone to ask Republican Energy Expert Sarah Palin "How does a nuclear plant work?"
posted by rokusan at 10:06 AM on October 9, 2008


In a great confluence, there has been talk of building a nuclear plant in the prairies just to generate electricity to heat the bitumen to extract oil from the tar sands.
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuckin' bitumen. I am aghast at what the oil sands boom is doing to Edmonton (my home town). Gretzky wept.

Do you mean bitumen or Bettman?
posted by mazola at 11:02 AM on October 9, 2008


I think we'll find this form of energy extraction is a bit of a tar baby.
posted by dhartung at 11:25 AM on October 9, 2008


I guess I'm late to the party, but the nuclear waste problem isn't 100% problem ---there's some opportunity there. Most of what we're storing/planning to bury should more properly be considered fuel, just fuel that existing plants don't process. If we build the right kind of plants, not only will the amount of waste be dramatically reduced, but it will have a much shorter half-life (and therefore there is no need to build structures that will last tens or hundreds of thousands of years).

See for example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor
Also some interesting stuff here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reactor_technology#Future_and_developing_technologies

(yes, it's wikipedia, but I've seen this info elsewhere, it's legit).
posted by Humanzee at 1:02 PM on October 9, 2008


I suppose spent fuel might be considered a resource, but look at the tremendous (mountains) of money Japan has thrown at breeder reactors in an effort to create a "plutonium economy". It has been a failure. Not only that, the sheer, monumental size and scale of efforts to create a plutonium economy in Japan over the the last thirty years has lead to a culture of secrecy, which has had deadly results. The plutonium economy is bad science and bad policy.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:32 PM on October 9, 2008


Oil and water - still not getting along.

Yeah, I’d be a bit put off* by someone dumping waste into my drinking water.

*By put off I mean volcanically enraged to extreme violence.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:35 PM on October 9, 2008


But you say that about everything.
posted by ryanrs at 5:14 PM on October 9, 2008


I will eventually read that whole PDF. lots of good info just from scanning it.

thanks for posting this stuff.
posted by bilgepump at 8:27 PM on October 9, 2008


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