Foreign Policy Blogs

"The Big Grab" – The Tar Sands vs. The Rest of Canada

"The Big Grab" - The Tar Sands vs. The Rest of Canada

There is an important series well underway at the Vancouver Observer:  “The Big Grab.”  It’s about how the tar sands industry is forcing choices on Canadians that they would not otherwise have to make in the absence of all the activity in Alberta.  What’s particularly important about this series, it seems to me, is that we have heard the many compelling arguments about the greenhouse gas implications for the climate system, the dangers of pipelines, continued reliance on oil and the economic costs therein, and the devastating public health and environmental impacts in Alberta, but not so much about how the industry looks for Canadians in the big picture.  (I wrote in December at DeSmogBlog about some of the ins and outs of the tar sands relative to how the US is proceeding on our stated goal of decarbonizing society.)

The series covers how Canadians are being impacted, soup to nuts.  It looks at how the tar sands cancel out decarbonizing efforts elsewhere in the country, how big the industry’s carbon footprint really is, and the drag on the Canadian economy from tar sands development:  “Maximizing prosperity in a restricted carbon future requires maximizing jobs and GDP per tCO2. But the oil sands Big Grab does the opposite.”  The series also challenges the industry assertion that its carbon dioxide intensity is getting better, as well as the notion that the industry is an economic boon for all Canadians.

The writer, Barry Saxifrage, is exceedingly well versed in his subject.  He also maintains the excellent website, Visual Carbon.

On another note relative to the critical issue of the Keystone XL pipeline, see this analysis from SolveClimate on the latest draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the project from the US Department of State.  The DSEIS is, according to one top expert, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international program director for Natural Resources Defense Council, shockingly lame.  This is particularly vexing given all the thoughtful, intense criticism the first iteration received last year, including from the US Department of Energy and EPA.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change