Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Tarsands can't part with profits to protect wetlands

Sadly, it didn't surprise me to wake up to the news this morning that the Alberta tarsands companies think that it will cost too much money to protect the wetland areas near their mining sites. Oh right, the wetlands ARE the mining sites!

The companies walked out on negotiations, much of the content of which they had already agreed on in principle, after three years of work "citing cost concerns of a few cents per barrel for environmental protection measures as an unacceptable burden." I guess the couple of cents per barrel must have cut into the profit margins a little too much, now that oil is under $100 a barrel again. Maybe we should all take up a collection for these poor, destitute oil companies. And we should just stop bothering them so much when they want to destroy "over 80 000 hectares" of wetland to get at all that delicious gooey bitumen.

I wonder if any of these tarsand company CEOs actually drink water, or use water, or maybe even know that they need water to continue to live? I'm beginning to think that they must all be robots or aliens or something, given their utter disregard for water and their complete oblivion to it's necessity for all life on this, the one planet we have to live on. Among other things, wetlands clean surface water as it passes back down into the groundwater. Clean water is what sustains life.

Oil doesn't sustain life, water does. Why is this so hard for these companies to understand?

Picture courtesy Alberta Wilderness


Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Wow, this has to be incredibly frustrating. It is angering down here in Missouri to hear of what they are doing up in Alberta in regards to the tar sands. Probably in part because my country would like to have ready access to those supplies. Luckily, I don't own a car, so I won't participate directly to the destruction.

Why don't they care or seem to get it? My guess is that they assume an option they've long had will still be there should the environment in Alberta collapse - they can buy their way out of the situation. They can buy clean, filtered water, they can afford nice homes, sheltered from the destruction, they can purchase their safety - for now at least. There will come a point when there will be no "away" for these folks to escape too.

I mean, it would be nice to see corporations and governments do the right thing - but corporations, forget about that one! Most are legally bound to turn as high of a profit as possible for their shareholders, even a few cents for environmental protection can be a violation of this. Something that would help would be for this to change. Secondly the government, well I can't speak for Canada, but here in the States, the gov't doesn't represent us, it represents the upper classes and, of course, the corporations of this country, so we know what side always "wins". Sad thing is, if we keep this up, we ALL lose in the end.

Theresa said...

Thanks Jennifer for your thoughtful and considered comment. I still drive a car, so I guess I shouldn't get too high and mighty about it all. But I would be so very willing to pay double for my fuel costs to know that the wetlands and Boreal Forest were being protected. The oil companies have been making so much money for so long I just don't think they have any idea of what is fair value anymore, or what corporate responsibility is. Or what responsibility is, period.

I'm sure you're right that they feel they will always be in a position to buy their way out of any problems or inconveniences. And why would they think any differently when the provincial and federal governments fawn all over them and continue to subsidize all their money-making? It seems like the power of greed trumps everything else.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I hope I didn't imply that I felt some sense of superiority because I do not own a car. When I read your response, I had to re-read my comment to see what I had said. This is just one way I can do my part. I am no better than anyone else for not owning a car and still have very a long way to go to do my part, and like you would be willing to pay far more for transportation or even in taxes to have appropriate technologies researched and ecosystems preserved.

It's sad, but sometimes I think you are right that greed trumps everything else. I don't even know what to do sometimes.

Theresa said...

Oh no, it didn't come across that way at all! It was just a good reminder to me that I can point fingers all I want, but I have chosen to live outside the city and work in the city, so I am contributing to the very problem I am railing against. Sometimes I forget that and you (unintentionally) reminded me of that. It's all so frustrating because so much of the stuff I do to cut down my energy impact is really undone by my own car use.

I don't know what to do sometimes either. Some days are hard and sad.

Anonymous said...

Hi Theresa

I read last night on CBC that Danny Williams, the premiere of Nfld and Labrador, has registered as a third party with Elections Canada and is 'campaigning' against Harper. Regardless of your politics, you may find this website interesting.


~ Liz

Anonymous said...

Oops. Made a mistake. Danny Williams' site is


However, the first one I mentioned is very much tied to the environment which made me thing of you.

~ Liz

Theresa said...

Thanks for those links Liz :) I have heard of Danny Williams' campaign and I like that he is speaking out against Harper, even though he is a provincial Conservative himself. I have the sad suspicion though, that with the left of centre vote split so many ways that Harper will get a majority with a pathetic 38% of popular support. If that doesn't scream out for the need for electoral reform, I don't know what does!

SoapBoxTech said...

Living in the currently richest province in Canada SHOULD be a source of pride due to myriad of potential positives that such wealth can bring, but I am increasingly ashamed to speak of where I am from. The reasons for this shame are many.

For one thing, as is typical now, this wealth is far from evenly shared. Indeed, most of it leaves Alberta. Most oil sands developers are now foreign owned and Alberta charges some of the lowest energy royalties in the world. In addition, many oil patch or sands workers are from out from province, meaning the vast majority of those wages are spent out of province.

More subtly, but perhaps also more importantly, this kind of increased economic activity on the back of exploitation, and speculation of further exploitation, seems to cause an increased social air of consumption. I believe this is often because very young and inexperienced people are given high paying (but unsustainable) jobs which allows them to access greater amounts of credit. This means that 21 year olds are accepting the credit load of those who typically would have had to work for 10 years to achieve that sort of credit. These young folk are earning $70k/yr but accepting debtloads of twice that based on having that salary for their entire working life. How many of these jobs will last even 10 years?

Finally, and most importantly, all of this wealth is coming from a completely destructive and unsustainable industry that brutalizes both the land and water supply. While the oil patch is slightly less destructive, I am sure all viewers of this blog have a good idea of just how horrible an effect the oil sands development is, locally and all the way up to globally. Maximum oil sands development will one day leave a relative wasteland from the Rockies to Hudson`s Bay.

I live in Grande Prairie Alberta. I grew up here and returned about 4 years ago, after around 8 years away. In that time I lived on Vancouver Island for 2 winters, and Edmonton the rest of the time (other than 2 6-month winter time stints on a Caribbean cruise ship). Growing up here, Grande Prairie was shifting from a timber and agricultural community, into an energy source exploitation community. In the mid-90`s, as global hunger for fossil fuels spiked, Northern Alberta, primarily Fort MacMurray and Grande Prairie, began to see extreme boom conditions. Housing projects spiked unimaginably as did both wages and cost of living. Fort Mac has about tripled in size since the mid-90`s and GP has almost doubled. As such, these cities are now flooded with folks who are near totally unconcerned with the longterm ramifications of this type of activity...from both an ecological and societal standpoint.

Peter Lougheed was the province`s Premier at the time of oil sands discovery, which was also right around the first global energy crisis. He championed a sustainable approach to the sand`s development, pushing to exploit the resource slowly over time, and building up both energy and financial reserves at the same time. This viewpoint is now heavily mocked and for over a decade, oil sands development has been (for lack of a better word) pimped to anyone interested, including the US. We now sit, mostly ignorantly, perched on the largest remaining "bubble" in North America. When it bursts, in all likelihood both our natural and financial ecosystems are likely to be wastelands. The few ultra rich will be gone, surrounded by a sea of military guards, while the rest of us wonder how we didn`t see it all coming...

I`m not really sure what my point is other than to say there are still a few `right-minded` folks in these places and I am trying desperately to invite more. I believe it is vital to develop "havens" in or near these areas through forming village style permacultural/educational/natural/sustainable communities. These regions desperately need spiritual rebirth.

Oh, and jennifer(of veg*n cooking), I just wanted to also let you know that somewhere around 40% of oil sands crude goes directly to the US. I expect it likely goes directly to military applications tho.

And yes, it is all incredibly frustrating. I cannot even imagine what it must be like for the native Canadians on their reserves downriver of the sands.

Theresa said...

Hi Soapboxtech - thanks so much for coming by and taking the time to outline these very important issues. It is so good to hear of other Albertans who are concerned about the effects of the tarsands and all of the negative societal impacts that come with their unrestrained development/exploitation.

If only Mr. Lougheed would speak out more about his concerns, maybe that might get some people with Conservative Party leanings thinking a bit more rather than just voting out of longstanding habit.