Canada Thinks Green Cars are a Problem (Really)

Alberta’s tar sands have been called “the dirtiest oil in the world” by Greenpeace and National Geographic, and “mining” these fields means high carbon emissions and serious pollution of natural water supplies. So why are Canadians afraid of electric vehicles?

Canada’s own government agents claim that the area’s boreal forests “could be gone within a generation.”  Canadians in Alberta, of course, are very interested in the progress of EVs, battery technology, and alternative fuels programs …

… they’re interested, because they’re scared to death of them.

“The entire country has evolved into a petro-dollar economy,” says Canadian news source CTV News.  “Canada’s fortunes – and its currency – are now more closely tethered to oil than any other industry.”  So, while the rest of the world looks to EVs and new technology to safeguard resources and global environmental health, Canadian newspapers like the St. Albert Gazette worry that EVs “could put some Albertans out of work.”

Think this is a short-term problem for Canada’s environment?  Think again.  CTV reports that “economic power is shifting, and the trend will continue and gather momentum as oil sands production increases over the next couple of decades.”

That’s right, people.  Canada is pushing for increased oil output over the next.  Few.  DECADES.  (!?)  Kind of makes your Monday morning, doesn’t it?

It’s not like the Canadian government isn’t aware of the environmental impact of the tar sand oil extraction, either.  Preston McEachern, who works for Alberta Environment (a government agency in the province) says that (beyond the greenhouse emissions) the tailings ponds are his top concern.  According to McEachern, the mines dump waste­water in the ponds “because they need to reuse the water.  As the thick, brown slurry gushes from the discharge pipes, the sand quickly settles out, building the dike that retains the pond; the residual bitumen floats to the top. The fine clay and silt particles, though, take several years to settle, and when they do, they produce a yogurt-like goop—the technical term is ‘mature fine tailings’—that is contaminated with toxic chemicals such as naphthenic acid and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and would take centuries to dry out on its own.” (from National Geographic)

Defenders of the oil-recovery effort are quick to point out that, under the terms of their license, mining companies are required to reclaim these chemicals.  However, these companies have been missing their deadlines and still have not fully reclaimed a single pond.

Are you horrified yet?

Even decidedly pro-big-block blogs like The Truth About Cars are pointing out the seemingly backwards stance the Canadian government is taking on the matter, reporting that, as Canadians are “reading the papers about the success of EVs, Albertans are worried about a bust cycle. People did what people do when they don’t know what to do: They assembled a panel of experts.  The panel will first meet next Tuesday in Edmonton.”

The proceedings of the panel’s meetings will be available at, and I (for one) hope someone organizes an EV / alt-fuel rally to meet these guys at the gates.

Sources:  National Geographic, CTV, TTAC, etc. (links, above).

Photos:  National Geographic (full, maddening photo gallery AVAILABLE HERE).

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.