Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta Is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn't Seem to Care)
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A bestselling investigative journalist takes a tour of the Alberta oil and gas industry, revealing how Canada’s richest province is squandering our chance for a sustainable future.
In its desperate search for oil and gas riches, Alberta is destroying itself. As the world teeters on the edge of catastrophic climate change, Alberta plunges ahead with uncontrolled development of its fossil fuels, levelling its northern Boreal forest to get at the oil sands, and carpet-bombing its southern half with tens of thousands of gas wells. In so doing, it is running out of water, destroying its range land, wiping out its forests and wildlife and spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, adding to global warming at a rate that is unrivalled in Canada or almost anywhere else in the world. It’s digging, drilling and blasting its way to oblivion, becoming the ultimate symbol of Canada’s – and the world’s – pathological will to self-destruct.
Nowhere has the world seen such colossal environmental destruction as is being wreaked on Alberta. At one point the province even went so far as to consider a scientist’s idea of nuking its underbelly to get at the tar sands. Stupid to the Last Drop looks at the increasingly violent geopolitical forces that are gathering as the world’s gas and oil dwindle and the Age of Oil begins its inevitable slide towards oblivion. As Canadians deplete their energy reserves, selling them off to Americans at bargain-basement prices, no thought is given to conservation or the long-term needs of the nation.
In this powerful polemic, William Marsden journeys across the heart of a province seized by the destructive forces of greed, power and the energy business, and envisions a very bleak future.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the hopper, the sand drops into a crusher. This breaks up any pieces over fifteen centimetres in diameter to prepare them for the “hydro transport” system. Hot water and caustic soda are added to create “slurry” that’s pumped through a pipeline to the bitumen extractor, located three kilometres away. The huge cone-shaped extractors aerate the liquefied sands, turning the slurry into froth. Heat then separates the oil from the sand. The froth floats to the surface, with the oil clinging to the bubbles, while the sand and clay sink to the bottom.
But he felt a nuclear solution for the oil sands was premature for the 1960s. This had nothing to do with issues of radiation or environmental damage; he believed the Gnome explosion proved the radioactivity could be contained. Instead, he wrote that, given the abundance of cheap oil, “that particular project (nuking the oil sands) seems to lie in the indefinite future. ” Alaska was drawing attention of oil companies away from Alberta’s oil sands. New oil fields had just been discovered in Prudhoe Bay on the north shore.
If you spoke up, you might get personally denounced. There was a whole abusive kind of power play coming out of the premier’s office. So that politicized me. I knew that a lot of what they were telling the public was untrue and even openly deceitful. ” Until then, Taft had regarded himself as a consultant and civil servant. He had never been involved in partisan politics. In 2001 he won a seat for the provincial Liberals and became leader of the party. Other university professors were also disciplined for speaking out against the Conservatives.
His survey included sampling and pinpointing the richest oil sands areas in the north. He returned upriver to Athabasca Landing in late fall with several scows loaded with ten tons of oil sands. His “crew of Breeds and Indians” harnessed to tracking lines “fought their way grimly along the shores, often through tangled overhanging brush, knee-deep mud and waist-deep water,” he later wrote. “The ceaseless torture of myriads of flies from daylight till dark, the harassing and heavy work which only the strongest men could long endure made tracking one of the most brutal forms of labor.
A lot of our shareholders wanted us to settle on the basis that it was taking up too much of our time,” he says. “My position was it was a real matter of principle. I had never seen someone fabricate a bunch of documents, sue you and then say, ‘Hey, you do this and I’ll do that. ’ Forget it. ” It was a big win for Stampeder against two of Alberta’s most aggressive players. Two years later, Judge Virtue’s judgment was substantially upheld on appeal. Damages, however, were reduced to $1. 8 million. The appeals court denied the $1-million punitive damages but imposed additional legal costs on Colborne.