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The FUTURE of OIL: A Straight Sotry of the CANADIAN OIL SANDS Have a peep inside the book



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 it is working. Support for environmental policies is crucial for access to public office. In 2012, the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, meant to carry oil from the province of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of the U.S., became an issue that many analysts said could make or break President Barack Obama's chances for re-election.
While there is reason to be excited about the prospects for environmental protection and with climate change finally getting the attention it deserves, not only in the public sphere but also in the political world, we still need a plan to reduce and eventually eliminate our use of oil. Unfortunately, this cannot be done today, and we are going to have to use oil for a while longer-perhaps a few decades more. This may well sound like the words of St. Augustine: "Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet." But the reason why we cannot move beyond oil today is not because we don't want to. It is not due to a lack of political will or successful lobbying by oil companies, as some would argue. Unfortunately, it is more complicated than that. We simply lack the technology to do it.
During most of the 20th century, oil reserves were plentiful. As a result, it was easy to extract and it was cheap. It was also of very good quality, known in the industry as "sweet crude oil" pure, fluid, and smooth, it gushed from young wells under natural pressure and could be pumped from the ground with basic machinery. But those days are almost gone, and most of the oil available today is thicker, lies deeper, and is more expensive to extract. Its extraction poses greater risks to the environment than ever before. We now look to the open ocean or into the fragile ecosystems of the Arctic to find new deposits, but still we do not find enough. The reserves of sweet crude oil have been in decline for years, and although supply is managing to keep up with demand, it won't do so for much longer.
In the meantime, global oil consumption is on the rise, driven by rapid growth in large developing economies such as China and India. This means that unless we are able to increase oil supply, we face a bleak future of ever rising oil prices suffocating consumers and companies, and making economic recovery and job creation impossible. We need more oil. Now. We must then look for alternatives to complement the declining reserves of sweet crude oil, and the only viable alternative available today is unconventional oil: biofuels, synthetic fuels, oil shale, and oil from oil sands. None of these is perfect, but we have no other choice.
There is a general feeling among environmentalists and the environmentally-minded that there is no point in discussing which sources of oil are better or worse, for they believe we should stop using oil altogether rather than struggle to find more. It is often said that our society is "addicted to oil," and some conclude from the drug metaphor that it would be wise to go cold turkey, but it is a mistake to take the metaphor literally. Drugs provide a pleasurable experience more or less detached from reality, and addiction leads to a sustained conflict between one's ability to experience reality and enjoy it. Ultimately, the addict needs to choose between the drug and reality. Oil, however, is an integral part of our reality, and we will not live better without it, simply because we do not know how to do so.
There are many alternatives to oil for energy production, from hydroelectric plants to solar power, but the transportation sector still relies almost exclusively on combustion engines powered by fuels produced from oil. Contradictory as it may sound, our clean future needs to be built from oil-there is no other way to build it. Recycling bins are made from plastic, as are much of the Toyota Prius and even Greenpeace's flags. This is not hypocrisy. It is reality. Whether we like or not, oil continues to be one of the foundations of our economy, and if we are rebuilding the foundations of our house while we continue to live in it, we must be careful. Whatever we do, we need to make sure that the economy continues to function while we make any necessary improvements. We cannot dismantle the oil economy with a wrecking ball.
We need a green revolution, but cutting down on new oil production is not the place to start. If you feel you are giving into consumerism, you buy less. You do not begin by quitting your job. It is problematic to use oil, but if enough is available at reasonable prices we can maintain economic growth, without which we sacrifice the quality of our schools and healthcare, and even the ability of governments to afford subsidies to support renewable sources of energy. Oil must have a future, or we do not have one, and the Canadian oil sands are the very best unconventional oil available today.
The Future of Oil is a clear, concise, and complete guide to the Canadian oil sands industry. It was written to respond to a very clear problem: it is difficult to obtain reliable information about the industry anywhere. Many or even most newspaper articles on the topic are ripe with exaggerated portrayals of the industry's dangers and benefits, and are written by people who know very little about the subject. Even those who work in the industry and who are specialists in their field find it hard to grasp the big picture-whether energy security is a real issue; the impact of oil sands on the global economy; how much water is really used; the effects of water use on the environment; the latest technological developments in recovering land used for tailings ponds; or how the most realistic well-to-wheels calculations of carbon emissions show that oil sands are far less harmful to the environment than is commonly thought. This book starts with a discussion about why we need more oil, why there is no better alternative than the Canadian oil sands to complement conventional oil, and how the industry is prepared to respond to the need for additional supply. Later on, the book focuses on issues raised by environmentalists, how they have been covered by the press, and tells the facts straight, both the good and the bad, about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the impact of land disturbance on biodiversity, water use, tailings ponds, human health concerns, and pipelines. There is also a short history of the industry, which helps readers to understand its present state, and a chapter on technology, discussing the research underway to improve environmental protection. The book ends with a chapter on the polarization of the oil sands debate and its impact on people's ability to understand the issues involved. After reading this book, it should be clear that we can speak of a meaningful compromise between ensuring our future oil supply and environmental protection. A transition to an age of cleaner energy is necessary and inevitable, but until then oil has a future, with the Canadian oil sands having a major and irreplaceable role to play.


"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today." - James Dean