“Dirty Oil” Imports About To Triple


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?

Source: CNN | Image: Tar Sands via Shutterstock

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Noz

    Atta boy Canada…be America’s bitch one more time!

    Just look at that above picture of the tar sands….what a truly proud thing to behold hey?

  • chuck stone

    America could require that Canada clean the fuel before it goes into the pipeline, but with our corrupted politics and the amount of payoff money available to buy Congress, they wil not do that.

    The US Supreme Court sold out the American people when they decided that any corporation in the world could send money to US politicians because those corporations are equal to a US citizen under the US Constitution. Us old folks were taught that a citizen had to be born within the US or go through an immigration process.

    Today the politicians have forgotten what a citizen looks like and they lack the spine to be “Honorable” as well. I think we should vote all the incumbents out and start with new elected people. We should get rid of the current Supreme Court too. But at 76 I don’t expect to see anything like this to happen.

    Us little people (label by Exxon) are just cannon fodder for dying in wars and paying taxes while the “big people” (1%) buy bigger castles and sell their souls in exchange for their cash flow. America is a lost cause as it is now.

    But we are busy working out the details of a contract to license the “WATER FUELED ENGINE” rights for world production. We were surprised when we were visited by a group of future minded rich people who wanted to get this alternative on the road. You can expect this WATER FUELED ENGINE to be in production before the pipeline is finished!

  • Not ‘thousands’ of acres. HUNDREDS of thousands of acres of pristine boreal forest. Jump on google earth and search on ‘tar sands Alberta Canada’ Focus in. You will see an area larger than Rhode Island that has been devastated. Then watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkwoRivP17A

  • Mark

    Been up to fort McMurry, it’s a bad, but not as bad as some make it out to be. They are doing everything under the watchful eye of some fairly Eco friendly elected officials and unlike the usual petro despots everything is transparent.
    The real issue with all heavy crude is the amount of energy needed to refine it into useable gas that can be dropped into a cars tank. Light sweat crude takes about 7 kwh to refine per gallon of gas produced. Heavy crude takes at least 12 kwh. ( note some have even quoted 35kwh, but tar sands stuff is around 12) This energy is a combination of electricity and btu from coal fired power stations and natural gas, and some nasty petro byproducts.

    It’s simply more efficient to put that same power directly into electric vehicles , rather than pollut twice, once refunding the gas, the second time burning it in some 10 year old pickup truck.

  • Tem

    It is really unfortunate that the by-products of the whole tar sands to oil process are not useable for other industries, such as construction of roads, bridges and so on. It is a large bunch of matter that is being thrown out.

  • MD

    They could extract every bit of oil from all of the matter there, using this process.

    • I think that would be a bad thing.

    • Tem

      That would be a better step. I would worry about the heavy use of toluene in the process.
      It is a very strong solvent, not good for living things to be exposed to it as I understand it. Maybe, an alternative can be found that can be recycled/reused as well?

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