Tar sands smog seen worsening

Pollution will continue to plague Alberta’s oil sands despite plans to pipe harmful greenhouse gases deep underground, according to documents obtained by the Toronto Star.

Part of the task of cleaning up the oil sands involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them in geological reservoirs in western Canada.

But chemicals linked to acid rain, respiratory problems and ozone depletion could escape into the atmosphere at an even faster rate, thanks to an estimated tripling of production from one million barrels a day in 2007 to 3.4 million barrels a day in 2017. That could occur despite proposed national caps on air contaminants.

By capturing about 200 megatonnes a year of carbon dioxide, sequestration as carbon dioxide storage is known is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 80 per cent in 2017, says an Environment Canada study obtained under the Access to Information Act.

But, the study notes, “there are emissions of CO2 and air contaminants resulting from the generation of the energy required by carbon capture and storage facilities. The CO2 emissions offset the volumes captured by the facilities, while the air contaminant emissions add to the load on the environment.

Note that two out of the three main political parties in Canada (The Conservatives and the Liberals) support the expansion of this environmental disaster. Also, resource exploitation is controlled by the individual provinces and Alberta is almost united in support for its prime bread winner. So nothing will happen unless there is external (Read American) pressure. Harper is making a lot of noise about working with Obama on energy and climate policy in an effort to get ahead of this pressure, so we shall see what happens. If the US moves ahead aggressively on policy, the Tar Sands could lose its biggest customer and that would be all she wrote.

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