Alberta's oil sands development is the most destructive project on Earth

Yes it produces oil, but also more negative externalities (environmental and other damage) than any other on-going project on the planet, according to an Canadian environmental group.

Environmentalists’ report to call for Ottawa to act on oil sands. By Bill Curry. The Globe and Mail

View. Toxic Alberta. Part of a 15 part series.





  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I travel to Alberta and on north each year for a month or two.
    Alberta has been taken over by big oil and big lumber. There are Haliburton, Shell and Duke Energy trucks, wells, and piplines all over the place. The forests seem to be controlled by Weyerhauser. Every town over 5,000 population has a Wal-Mart. A new oil pipeline is being constructed right through Jasper Park to deliver oil to the west coast. The oil sand extraction will just add to the destruction that big corporations are inflicting on their Province.

  2. SmokyMtMan Avatar

    The price of oil will inevitable increase as time goes on. I doubt you are able to find anyone that will dispute that with a straight face.

    So, as the price of oil increases, developments such as this one will become only more financially attractive. Few governments on Earth turn down the lucrative revenue that natural resource exploitation provides.

    The Canadian government, nor the U.S. gov’t for that matter, do so often or easily. The future holds many more of these projects, not fewer.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Because these things become financially feasible, is one reason why their externalities need to be internalized, and because of all the money available there are the funds to do so. Further, in doing so the method of extraction’s real cost can be known.

    Unfortunately, the oil companies have so much money that a mere province can’t resist them or even regulate them, or even a country like Canada. That makes the United States more important, and the awfulness of George Bush even worse.

  4. dbaileyhill Avatar

    This process is rediculous because it expends much more energy in the extraction process than the end product will yield. That also applies to producing ethanol.

  5. SmokyMtMan Avatar

    I think that oil and its products are so vital to modern economies that even if all the costs were known and public, it wouldn’t make much difference.

    What do you think it would take to curb our society’s consumerism and reliance on the automobile? What do you see stalling the demand for oil on a global scale?

    The answer: nothing. If the “method of extraction’s real cost can be known” was publicized it wouldn’t make a ripple on the surface of the oil issue.

    When the American people are polled, why is the economy the #1 issue year in and year out? The environment doesn’t even register at all, and the “method of extraction’s real cost” falls into the chasm between these 2 issues, and would vanish without a trace.

    The score so far over the last 500 years: Economy 45,846,933….environment: 23.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The rising price of gasoline reduces the quantity demanded from what it would otherwise be, and it does so without having to change anyone’s opinions. That is true of any product or service where the price rises faster than for other goods and services — basic economics.

    The 1970s energy crisis was solved not by production, but by price and government action leading to increased efficiency of energy use.

    Paying the real cost of production would reduce the quantity demanded even more.

    Because energy is such an economic fundamental, rapidly rising energy prices is likely to lead to stagflation, the economic malady of the 1970s.

  7. Monty Avatar

    Ralph, Alan Greenspan agrees with you, he believes that gasoline should be taxed at $3.00/gallon which is politically an impossibility! Mr. Greenspan goes on to say that in the 1980’s gasoline consumption accounted for 4.5% of the disposal income, today it only account for 3% . I think that the only thing that can stop this “energy holcaust” is new automobile technology & I hope that the next admisitration will move this country in a “green direction”.

  8. SmokyMtMan Avatar

    Taxing gasoline at $3.00 a gallon will guarantee a long recession. European and Asian countries can afford high gas prices because you can drive across their countries on 2 gallons of gas.

    Not so in the U.S. And due to the size of the U.S., our transportation sector eats up too much gas to be able to absorb those high tax rates. Not to mention that the Defense Dept consumes a huge amount of oil, and most countries don’t have that concern, either.

    Besides, as you admit, it will never happen, anyway. Not by Democrats, not by Republicans, not by anyone. Not ever.

    Americans commute too far to work on average. Far more than other countries. You cannot alter that reality just by increasing gas taxes to some ridiculous number.

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, SmokyMtMan, I agree that It’s politically impossible to raise the gas tax very much in the United States. Price increases for gasoline and other petroleum productions will come through depletion coupled with movement to higher cost sources (assuming there are no dramatic breakthroughs in efficiency of use). Increased efficiency of use (mileage) is being held back by a kind of politics that is easier than a tax, but still not easy to change.

    Because U.S. oil reserves are well depleted, oil resources very high cost, and refinery capability deteriorating, trillions of dollars will flow out of the United States, causing a long economic decline.

    The economic future, barring surprises, does not look good.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan