oil sands

B.C. natives: Freighter grounding shows folly of shipping tar sands oil through coastal rainforest

A freighter's grounding in the labyrinthine back bays of northern British Columbia shows what a dumb idea it would be to ship oil from Alberta's tar sands area through the area in the Great Bear Rainforest, a band of natives says.

The Gitga'at First Nation pointed to the grounding of the 41,000-ton Petersfield, loaded with soda ash and lumber products, as evidence that supertankers carrying oil have no place in the fragile backcountry waters. The vessel is nearly as long as two football fields.

The best story on the whole affair comes from Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail, who traced it to a problem with the vessel's gyroscope that affected a number of systems on the bridge, including steering.  The Gitga'at observed in a press release:

The ship currently docked at Kitimat looking like a prizefighter with a broken nose is an ugly reminder of the threat posed by proposed pipelines and tanker traffic to the territory of the Gitga'at First Nation.

Canadian and American environmentalists have long  complained that developing Alberta's tar sands -- aka "oil sands" -- would unleash far too many greenhouse gases

Enbridge Pipelines, meanwhile, is planning  construct a pipeline to ship oil from Alberta to British Columbia, where it could be loaded onto tankers for transport to refineries on the West coast. Or, as became apparent recently when a Chinese government-owned firm bought into tar-sands development, the stuff could be shipped all the way to China.

Tar sands' greenhouse gas emissions underestimated, report claims

The amount of greenhouse gases to be unleashed in converting Alberta's tar sands into useable energy has been seriously underestimated, according to a new report by environmentalists.

Out in the last hour or so on the Edmonton Journal's site is a seven-paragraph story by the Financial Post on a report that says official estimates of the emissions fail to take into account that oil companies are knocking down a whole lot of boreal forest in the process. The forest stores tons -- literally -- of carbon.

The Financial Post says the report was done by Global Forest Watch Canada, and we were able to located a Sept. 23 report (PDF) that appears to be the subject of the story. Quoting from page 13:

 The bituminous sands Surface Mineable Area totals 488,968 (hectares) of northern Alberta's boreal ecosystems. In addition to surface mining, in situ bitumen production will occur over a projected area of 13,553,246 ha (Oil Sands Administration Area minus the Surface Mineable Area), although the availability of the entire area for bitumen industrial activities may change. Few, if any, of the biocarbon emissions resulting from land use change caused by the bituminous sands industrial activities in these areas are reported.

The whole report pretty much reads that way. It looks like a well-documented review of all the greenhouse gas emissions to be expected from mining the tar sands, aka the oil sands. It goes on to blame the counting rules of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among other factors, for the undercounting.

No response from the industry in what's on the web so far.

State Dept sued over Alberta pipeline

A coalition of environmentalists and tribal groups sued the U.S. State Department on Thursday for allegedly failing to assess the full environmental impact of Embridge Energy's project to build a pipeline to pump 450,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from northern Alberta to refining facilities in Superior, Wisconsin.

The nonprofit law group Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of The Indigenous Environmental Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California alleges that the State Department is ignoring the "serious environmental, climate, and human health impacts of tar sands oil" in a "departure from the Obama Administration's commitment to a clean energy future."

The State Department issued a permit for the Alberta Clipper pipeline on August 20th.  In its public statement, the department wrote:

Saskatchewan favors Obama's emissions plan

Saskatchewan would rather adopt the U.S. carbon emission reduction plan than cap-and-trade systems proposed by Canada because it would be easier on the coal industry in the province, reports Brian Laghi of The Globe and Mail. Saskatchewan is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in Canada, largely due to burning of coal to generate electricity for mining and refining deep oil reserves. The province worries Canada's strict requirements on capping carbon emissions would cripple its economy. The U.S. plan would reduce carbon emissions on each barrel of oil produced, increasing overall production and allowing continued growth of oil sands production. Whatever plan Canada adopts, Saskatchewan would like to see modifications targeted to specific industries.

– Emily Linroth