Canada’s Biggest Eco Embarrassments

Green Living performed a reality check on the nation’s environmental record—and the results weren’t pretty

Embarrassment #2: Dirty Oil

It has been labelled the most destructive project on Earth for a number of reasons: Boreal forests the size of Florida are being grazed to get at the oily rocks below; each barrel of oil squeezed out produces up to four barrels of irreparably toxic water, housed in permanent lakes so big they can be seen from space; these are leaking a conservatively estimated 11 million litres a day (pdf) downstream and may be causing cancers in fish and people in the First Nations community of Fort Chipewyan. Aerial shots leave little doubt as to why people have described what is becoming of northern Alberta as a “moonscape.”

And the effects are being felt around the globe: Mining oil from tar sands releases up to four times as many greenhouse gases as pumping conventional oil from a well, resulting in 40 million tonnes of greenhouse gases released from the sands overall in 2007 (which could rise to 142 million tonnes in 2020)—and that doesn’t even count the carbon released when that oil is later  burned. And the technologies that we are developing in Alberta are going to be exported around the world to be used to mine oil shales and other fringe fossil fuel reserves in Australia, Europe, Brazil, China and Russia.