Energy shortages and silly solutions in the tar sands

The Calgary Herald recently reported here on the need for more energy to fuel expansion of tar sands extraction.

The tar sands require a lot of energy in extraction.  Most of it comes from natural gas.  And natural gas supplies are diminishing while the demands of the tar sands increase with expansion.  Nuclear power company Areva  sees great promise in these developments:

Speaking in Calgary, Areva CEO Armand Laferrere said continued oilsands development would consume virtually all of Canada’s current natural gas supply — some 92 per cent — by 2030.

“You need to diversify,” he said on the sidelines of the Canadian Energy Research Institute’s natural gas conference.

What Mr. Laferrere didn’t point out was that the tar sands also require a lot of water in extraction.  Some 3 barrels of water are contaminated and permanently taken out of the water cycle for every barrel of oil extracted.  The Athabasca River is already suffering from reduced flows.  Nuclear power plants, with their enormous necessity for cooling with water, would exacerbate this problem even more.

The truth is that if we used all the oil available in the world, the Earth would fry.  So why are we choosing such drastic measures to extract the oil that’s most expensive, most energy intensive and most ecologically damaging to extract?  We should keep as much oil in the ground as we can, and we should select the oil we will extract from the absolutely cleanest and easiest sources available.

If nuclear power plants are necessary to keep expanding tar sands oil, it is well and truly time to put a stop on the insanity.

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