Barack Obama made headlines across Canada last week over his proposed national “low carbon fuel standard.” Such a proposal, if implemented, would be a serious hit to Canada's oil sands operations, which emit about 3 times the amount of greenhouse gas to produce when compared to the production of a conventional barrel of oil.
Not nearly as prominent in the Canadian press was an article in the Washington Times the week before reporting that presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain shares a similar view as Obama on a “low carbon fuel standard.” The Washington Times reported that:
Mr. McCain, who just this week praised Canada as a secure source of oil, embraced a national fuel standard plan last year at a press conference with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. McCain has made his support for environmental issues a major part of his presidential campaign, and uses it as a key issue where he breaks with many other Republicans.”
So both presumptive candidates in the Fall race for the White House have their doubts about Canada's dirty oil. A fact that no doubt has Canada's oil executives at least a little nervous.
Here's a few facts about the Alberta tar sands from the Pembina Institute:
- Tar Sands operations could eventually cover 149,000 square kilometers of pristine forest - that's an area roughly the size of Florida.
- Each day the tar sands use 600 million cubic feet of natural gas to, in effect, melt the tarry sludge into a usable form - that's enough natural gas to heat more than 3 million Canadian homes.
- Producing a barrel of oil from the tar sands produces three times more greenhouse gas than a barrel of conventional oil.
- Tar sands operations use about the same amount of freshwater in a year that the entire City of Calgary uses (population 1 million) - 90% of this freshwater ends up in toxic tailing ponds.
- Toxic tailing ponds already cover more than 50 square kilometers and are considered to be one of largest man-made structures in the world.