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Oil Sands

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by VolkerP, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. VolkerP

    VolkerP EU Model S P-37

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    In between the all Canadian shoulder pats, when do you predict to stop extracting tar sands?
     
  2. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    Well that's a straight up loaded question right there... the OIL sands (tar sands is a name designed specifically by people looking to antagonize people) will stop being developed when they are not economically viable to develop. Which means when people stop demanding so much oil.
    As long as the world wants oil, oil will be produced. For the remainder of my lifetime I expect that the oilsands will continue to be developed.
    Of course it should also be noted that this is a good thing, oil from the oilsands in Alberta is developed in a much safer way, and with much stricter environmental monitoring than most of the world's oil which is extracted in places like the middle east with ZERO environmental, or health and safety, rules or oversight.

    Obviously getting off oil entirely is a noble cause, but villinizing the oilsands while ignoring much worse oil production is awfully hypocritical.
     
  3. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    Actually tar sands was the historical name. Oil sands was introduced because it more accurately describes the product being extracted from them. More recently the terminology has become politicized, with opponents using "tar" because it sounds worse.

    In any case, that was an unwarranted pot shot, VolkerP. It's not like all Canadians are involved in it.
     
  4. artsci

    artsci Sponsor

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    I think you have a naively optimistic and perhaps partisan view on the environmental impact of the extraction of "oil" sands. The science certainly doesn't support such views. If the world keeps wanting and consuming oil without any regard to the consequences, were doomed.
     
  5. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    Do you honestly think that the oil extracted in the middle east is done so in a more environmentally responsible way?
    Look, I'm not advocating the continued use of oil, I'm just saying that as long as people use it, I'd rather it was extracted in a politically stable country with environmental and safety standards. That describes the oil sands, but does not describe the middle east where most oil comes from.
     
  6. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    .....YES!..... getting oil from tar/oil sands is MUCH MUCH worse than sucking it out of the ground. You're basically MINING oil. You get the waste water of Fracking AND the surface desolation of strip mining with none of the energy efficiency of an electric motor pulling oil to the surface.

    20110122_bbp001.jpg

    Oil Sands... when you want to punish your children and grand children in a way they'll NEVER forget.
     
  7. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    OK have it your way, the middle east, home of burning well heads, and rivers of oil across the surface, home of workers dying for lack of safety rules. But we'll save the oil sands from being developed (and then replanted as new forests)..
    Well, I always knew the propaganda machine worked well, seems you bought it hook line and sinker.
     
  8. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    candian-oil-sands-615.jpg

    Yep... a few trees... couple hundred years and that'll be fixed right up.
     
  9. RDoc

    RDoc S85D

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    Hmm, well, I guess I'd be more impressed if Germany were lowering it's CO2 emissions rather than raising them. Heavy oil is certainly bad stuff, but soft coal is no slouch.
     
  10. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    Guys, can we please not turn this thread into a "my country is greener than your country" type contest. If you guys really want to argue, I can give you plenty of websites where commenters uniformly deny climate change, embrace any type of fossil fuel no matter how dirty, and slam any renewable or green energy no matter how cost-effective or efficient. Argue with them instead. Yes, I fully realize that even countries that accept climate change as a problem and have fairly environmentally friendly governance still produce a huge amount of fossil fuel. Norway for example is the world's 14th largest oil producer despite green initiatives being very popular. That does not mean their desire to seek greener alternatives is not sincere. The conversation I would much rather have with you guys is what is the best, fastest, most effective way to wean off fossil fuels and pursue the future we all want here? That is a much more interesting question than which country is being more green than the other.
     
  11. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    Germany hasn't really raised its emissions, it just had Fukushima mess up its nuclear decommissioning timetable.

    In answer to the (V)O(lker)P maybe if natural gas jumps in price. EROI of tar sands is low, so loss of the ability to profit from conversion of cheap NG into expensive oil coule make it lose competitivity.
     
  12. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    That damage was self-inflicted - an irrational response given that Germany is not geologically active anything like Japan. Also I expect the German plants were much better run (evidence of TEPCO's mismanagement is pretty legendary at this point).

    Besides now you can buy lots of nice clean electricity from France...

    Canada may have the oil sands, but we also have gobs of "cleaner" conventional oil. Quebec is a massive exporter of clean hydro power to the USA. So the reality of Canadian energy is not as dirty as its image, even if it's not as clean as we'd like.

    Let's just all admit that all our countries are doing much worse on this than any of us would like.
     
  13. Yggdrasill

    Yggdrasill Active Member

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    The thing about oil is that it's getting dirtier and dirtier, and this is going on all over the world. New oil fields are always deeper, with poorer reservoir quality, poorer oil quality, etc. More technology, energy and effort goes into extracting the next barrel of oil than went into the previous barrel of oil. And this will never stop, as long as there is a finite amount of oil in the world.

    Electricity, on the other hand, is always getting cleaner. More renewables are always being introduced and the efficiency on a new power plant is significantly better than an older power plant.
     
  14. Jeff Miller

    Jeff Miller Member

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    #14 Jeff Miller, Apr 24, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
    Sadly, that is true. And, globally, world carbon emissions are rising each and every year. And not by a little but
    by a lot. Here's a graph, current through 2012, from Jim Hansen:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2014/20140221_DraftOpinion.pdf



    GlobalGrowth.gif
    It's true that all of the rise is from developing countries. But emissions in developed countries, taken as a whole,
    have not declined in any meaningful way in recent decades- they have just leveled off. See figure 2 in Hansen's article above.

    China is a leader in renewables, but even looking at their electricity generation capacity that they newly installed in
    2013, annual energy production from fossil fuels, mostly coal, will exceed that of wind by a factor of 6 and solar by a factor of 27 (source: Hansen article above). And that is just electricity. It says nothing about heating, transport, manufacturing, or any of the other fossil fuel based sources of carbon emissions.

    TimeBombFig16.gif

    green1 is absolutely right when he writes that as long as there is demand for tar sands oil, or coal, or
    natural gas, or any other fossil fuel it will be mined and burned, with devastating local and global
    environmental consequences.

    And there will be demand as long as these sources are cheaper than the alternatives.

    Without a meaningful carbon tax, set at a significant level now, these sources will be cheaper
    for many decades to come. (If this were not the case, if renewables on their own, without
    a carbon tax, were likely to become cheaper than fossil fuels in the near future, there would not be
    such intense resistance to a carbon tax).

    Solar prices have fallen a lot, but energy storage is still expensive and is likely to be for a long time. I am a big fan of solar, I think we should build as much as we economically can, but it will not be enough to get us where we need to be in ten or twenty years.

    I see little hope of reducing global emissions to where the IPCC says they need to be by 2050 to keep the
    climate in some semblance of what it had been in the Holocene without two things happening very soon. One is
    a serious carbon tax and tariff (I agree with Hansen that the best form of this tax is when it is coupled with a 100% quarterly rebate to all citizens). The other is a political commitment to go all out installing new nuclear capacity, the only source of energy which has ever meaningfully lowered carbon emissions on the scale of a country (France, Sweden) for sustained periods.

    Unfortunately, a carbon tax is anathema to the right while advocating nuclear power is heretical to the left and much, although no longer all of the environmental community. I'm not sure how we overcome these political problems.
     
  15. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    ...although that is declining with the advent of fracking and cheap natural gas. Gas turbine plants are starting to displace imported hydro in the US north-east. Ontario's electricity mix is fairly clean (majority nuclear) however there is a vocal anti-nuclear minority proposing that we import hydro power from Quebec and scale back on the nukes.
     
  16. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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  17. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    I could almost guarantee if the USA were to move to EV's then there would be no need to build the pipeline. But if we continue to buy large quantities of oil it will be built.
     
  18. dsm363

    dsm363 Roadster + Sig Model S

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    The sad thing is I don't think there are any guarantees the oil from the pipeline would stay in the US to get refined. It goes to the coast and is sold on the international market.
     
  19. ZsoZso

    ZsoZso Member

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    We (as in the whole of humanity) would be much better off if the tar sands remained in the ground untouched. It is not only the dirtiest kind of oil when extracted (dilbit=diluted bitumen), but the etxraction process itself requires a lot of energy (mostly gained by burning natural gas, hence emitting lots of CO2) as well as producing a lot of environmental damage -- strip mining and leaving behind dirty liquid filled waste-ponds, see
    http://planetforward.ca/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/canadian-oil-sands.jpg

    However, due to the world having reached the peak of the traditional crude oil production in 2006, oil prices have gone up considerable since then, making it economically attractive to extract the tar sands. So the only way tar sand extraction would stop if the price of oil dropped below the cost of extracting it from the tar sands (below roughly ~$30/barrel), which would only happen due to some miracles new discoveries of cheap oil soruces. However, in that case ICE vehicles (and owners) would happily burn even more of the juice, so that's not exactly to be desired either...
     
  20. dsm363

    dsm363 Roadster + Sig Model S

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    Why can't the pipeline simply go to the coast in Canada and ship from there? Seems like the pipeline would be much shorter and cheaper.
     

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