Mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, nickel, zinc—they’re all getting into the waters of northern Canada in dangerous amounts because of mining in the oil sands, according to a study coming out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Canada‘s oil sands hold an estimated 13 percent of the proven oil reserves in the world, and the United States grows increasingly reliant upon them to meet our petroleum needs. However, the process of extracting and refining the oil is energy-intensive, and dirty. An industry-led group called Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) oversees the pollution coming from oil sands exploration, and it has maintained that elevated levels of toxins in the nearby Athabasca River system come from natural oil seepage. However, the University of Alberta’s Erin Kelly and David Schindler say in their study that no, it’s the oil exploration that’s increasing the concentration of these elements in the water.
With the perpetual flow of filthy crude from BP’s oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, just about anything seems like a better energy solution than deep sea offshore drilling. One new proposal, though, has the potential for similarly disastrous environmental harm.
The Keystone XL is a huge proposed pipeline that could carry oil from Canada’s oil sands on a snaking path through the American Midwest and all the way down to Texas, where it will be refined. The idea has been up for public comment for months, and that period comes to a close soon. So, should we build this thing?
There is one good thing about the project: It would be a source of energy that’s not the Middle East, Iran, Venezuela, or another region or country hostile to the United States.
From an energy perspective, Keystone XL delivers one thing the United States needs: plentiful oil from a friendly neighbor. Most oil companies have invested heavily in Canadian oil sands and are firmly behind it [The New York Times].
The project would bring in another million barrels of oil per day from Canada, which is already our biggest foreign oil supplier.
A study released this month by the Perryman Group, an economic analysis firm based in Waco, concluded that the project could generate as much as $2.3 billion in new spending for Texas during construction and $1.1 billion in property taxes to local and county governments over the pipeline’s operating lifetime [Houston Chronicle].
The oil sands are one of the dirtiest energy projects in the world. The oil is dirty to extract and dirty to refine, plus there are the transportation dangers.