I know this is an alternative fuels blog, but the fact remains that for the foreseeable future, oil will remain the fuel of choice. And the oil we use is about to get a lot dirtier, because as Canada ramps up production of oil made from tar sands, the U.S. is set to increase our imports of dirty oil three-fold.
Now for my money, getting oil from Canada is better than getting oil from Saudi Arabia. Dirty oil or not, I have a problem funding oppressive regimes with my gas money. But the tar sands are an environmental disaster already, desolating thousands of acres of untouched forest land and opening huge toxic wounds in the Earth.
The real problem with the tar sands if transporting the bitumen, which is a combination of tar sands mixed with liquefied natural gas that makes it easier to pump through pipelines. Much of the opposition to the Keystone XL extension of the pipeline was because bitumen is much harder to clean up than regular oil. Whereas oil floats on water, bitumen sinks to the bottom of rivers and lakes.
Bitumen is also much more acidic. Pipelines in Alberta carrying bitumen leak 16-times more than pipelines in America carrying light sweet crude do. Even without the Keystone XL pipeline, (which would more likely raise, rather than lower, gas prices) America is set to triple imports of Canadian crude.
This is a sticky situation to say the least. America has to get oil from somewhere, and Canada could end up importing 10% of our daily consumption. I’d much rather support Canada than Venezuela…but the tar sands make things a bit murkier. What are your thoughts readers?