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The Book

Official Video

Contents

Introduction

We have known for a long time that our use of oil is irresponsible and unsustainable. Today, for the first time, we seem to be reaching the point where a critical mass of people seem to be willing to do something about it. More of us are voting for leaders who promote renewable energy production, and who vow to reshape environmental laws and regulations. The pressure is on and…

Chapter 1 - Our Energy Needs and the Growing Importance of Unconventional Oil

Despite much wishful thinking to the contrary, the world’s economies rely heavily on oil and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Although there has been some limited progress in obtaining energy from new and renewable sources, we continue to consume oil at a rate that has never been higher, and every year the consumption rate grows. We find it hard to produce…

Chapter 2 - The Future of the Canadian Oil Sands

We have seen that the Canadian oil sands promise to be one of the best sources of additional oil, but in order to determine whether they will be able to deliver on that promise, it’s important that we quantify what their future role in the global oil supply could be and examine the challenges ahead. We will do this by first taking a closer look at the global oil supply gap. Then we…

Chapter 3 - History of the Canadian Oil Sands

All central events of the history of the oil sands take place near Fort McMurray, where the oil sands deposits are concentrated. The city is located 435 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, nestled in the boreal forest at the confluence of the Athabasca River and the Clearwater River. Fort McMurray, once a small fur trading post, has been growing since the large scale commercial production…

Chapter 4 - A Brief Portrait of the Canadian Oil Sands

The preceding chapter described the history of Canadian oil sands, which began about 300 years ago. But the oil sands were formed millions of years ago, like many other sources of petroleum. In Canada, the oil sands formations straddle the Alberta and Saskatchewan border, with the majority of them in Alberta. To date, the industry has produced only 4.5 per cent of the…

Chapter 5 - GHG Emissions & the Dirty Oil Disgrace

As demonstrated in previous chapters, the Canadian oil sands have significant potential and are, by far, one of the best options for meeting growing world oil demand. However, further development of this large resource faces a number of challenges. Perhaps the most damaging is the image of oil sands as a source of “dirty oil.” This is not a trivial problem and must be taken seriously…

Chapter 6 - Bitumen or Biodiversity: A False Dichotomy

Environmental groups have been concerned about the impact of oil sands exploration on biodiversity. They often present the issue to the public in ways that make it seem that we can either have oil exploration or environmental protection, but not both. Dire warnings about massive and irreversible impacts on biodiversity are common, but these arguments are exaggerated and misinform…

Chapter 7 - The Truth About the Athabasca River and its Fragile Ecosystem

Environmentalists have long expressed concern over the amount of water used by the oil sands industry, and in particular over the amount of water that oil sands companies are allowed to withdraw from the Athabasca River, their main source of water. They are particularly concerned about the potential impact of lower flows on the degradation of the fragile river’s ecosystem. The leaders…

Chapter 8 - Tailings Ponds: Image and Reality

Oil sands tailings ponds have received a great deal of media attention in connection with two types of environmental problems: how they impact ecosystems while active, and whether or when the land they occupy will be reclaimed. The media hype and distortion have had serious—and unfair—consequences for the industry’s image. This has made it difficult for those outside of the industry…

Chapter 9 - The Real and Perceived Impacts of Oil Sands Development on Human Health

The oil sands industry is making an essential and significant contribution to Canada’s economy and energy security. But concerns over potential environmental damage, and especially health impacts on people living in this region, particularly First Nations communities, are creating tension throughout North America. Specific environmental challenges were discussed in a previous…

Chapter 10 - The Pipeline Protest

Previous chapters discussed how the “dirty oil” lobby uses a variety of tactics to target the oil sands industry. One of the most common approaches used is to highlight selective information from various reports while neglecting to provide the context necessary to make an informed decision. Not long ago, these critics used this approach to target the oil sands industry, not on GHG emissions or…

Chapter 11 - Oil Sands Technologies: Past, Present, and Future

Oil sands contain a hydrocarbon (in the form of bitumen), but this hydrocarbon is practically useless in its natural state. It can’t be used as a lubricant because up to 90% of the ore consists of minerals nearly as abrasive as diamonds. Natural bitumen is too hard to pump—it’s as hard as a hockey puck—and at room temperature it’s virtually immobile. Bitumen can’t even be burned as a…

Chapter 12 - The Casualties of a Propaganda War

Although articles calling for the oil sands industry to be stopped continue to garner considerable media attention, the oil sands are probably here to stay. In Canada, the Harper government continues to support the industry, and elsewhere, legislation being considered with the aim of limiting the carbon intensity of fuels, which could set a potentially damaging precedent for the industry…

Conclusion

The Canadian oil sands are controversial but an important source of reliable and secure energy for Canada, the U.S and the world. One of the biggest challenges of the oil sands extraction is to ensure the profitability while simultaneously achieving continuous improvements in environmental performance on a sustainable basis. It is difficult but also quite possible to achieve these two goals…

About This Book

Unless we are able to increase the global oil supply, we face a bleak future of depleting reserves and high energy prices. Since conventional oil reserves are dwindling, we have no alternative but to increasingly rely on unconventional oil, and for political, economic, and environmental reasons, the Canadian oil sands offer the very best unconventional oil we can get.

Never before has a book offered an insider’s view of this controversial industry. The Future of Oil objectively considers economic necessity and the nature of current technological limitations to arrive at a series of connected and inescapable conclusions. The transition to an age of cleaner energy production is necessary and inevitable, but we cannot yet live without oil. Oil must have a future, or we do not have one, and the oil sands of Canada are the centrepiece of that future.

The Future of Oil is a clear, concise, yet complete guide to the Canadian oil sands industry. It addresses all the main objections to oil sands development that have been posed by journalists, environmentalists, First Nations leaders, and others. The author does not sugarcoat the hard facts, but objectively presents the arguments of oil sands critics and proponents alike. As a result, readers should have a much deeper understanding of all the issues involved, and be able to form their own opinions.

The straight-spoken, journalistic style of The Future of Oil will appeal both to a general readership and those working in the oil sands industry, serving as a valuable resource by providing the big picture. Most of all, it offers, for the first time, an insider’s view of a crucial energy debate that will be with us for some time to come.

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