Monday, August 09, 2010

Rethinking Alberta : Tar Sands Disaster vs Gulf Oil Spill

Four "Rethink Alberta" billboards in Denver, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis proclaim the "Alberta Tar Sands Oil Disaster" is worse than the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster :

There's also a vid:

Alberta Preme Ed Stelmach is pledging $268,000 to mount a public relations offensive against the ads and has settled on a most unusual strategy :

"Of 350 million Americans — 330 million of them probably don't even know where Alberta is," the premier said. "Let's not ramp this up too much because that's the kind of exposure the group wants."
Of course not all of that $268,000 in public tax money is going to be spent on strategically ignoring the ads. At the website, Stelmach promises to counter the ads by telling "the real Alberta story" :
"disturbed land area actually smaller than London!"
He then links to nine already previously available vids on the Gov of Alberta Oil Sands page. Some quotes from those vids :

"50% of our oil in Canada is produced from oil sands and that's going to grow in the future. We think in about 10 years it will be about 75% of Canada's oil production and a large part of our exports will be oil sands derived crude."

"Virtually no more water will be used out of the Athabasca River"

"We do extensive water monitoring quality of the Athabasca River; we take thousands and thousands of water samples. We've been monitoring since the 1960's and so far we've not been able to find any impact from the tailings ponds itself."

"Over the last 10 or 15 years the air quality has been rated good 98% of the time."

"There is the perception out there that it's the largest industrial footprint on the planet. Actually it's one-tenth of 1% of global GHG emissions."

And so on and so on.
Stelmach's vids include footage of scientists gathering snow samples along a river and that reminded me of the testimony given to the Environment Committee on March 30 by Dr. David Schindler from the University of Alberta. He said he had conducted the first independent research done since 1983 on airborne tar sands contaminants found in the snow pack along the Athabasca River. Testing at 31 locations he found :

"Mercury emitted from these plants has increased three-fold in seven years, lead has increased four-fold in six years, and arsenic three-fold in six years as well."
Further, he said that although Environment Canada tests at only one location on the Athabasca, it has come up with the same numbers, as have the oil companies in their own research. Schindler contends the oil companies' reports on contaminants are duly submitted to Environment Canada, who used to do that research themselves before handing that responsibility over to Alberta and the oil companies, but he believes EC is being muzzled and prevented from making the findings public. The oil companies, whose first allegiance is to their stockholders, are of course not obliged to do so on their own.

And then the Environment Committee scuttled its own tar sands report.

Andrew Nikiforuk has an excellent article at The Tyee on what else the Environment Committee heard that it subsequently decided not to tell us about :
What Those Who Killed the Tar Sands Report Don't Want You to Know
and takes on the many claims made by the scientists and spokesies in Stelmach's vids :
Alberta Hides Dirty Truth as US Demands Tar Sands Facts

One thing's for sure in the Tar Sands vs Gulf Oil Spill Disasters comparison : our government, Environment Canada, and the Environment Committee are doing no better job at regulating the tar sands than the US Minerals Management Services did in overseeing the oil rigs in the Gulf.


deBeauxOs said...

Excellent post!

West End Bob said...

Your last paragraph says it all, and is a sad commentary on Canadian government in action/inaction . . . .

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