The Miracle of Oil From Sand

A visit to Alberta’s energy future

Fort McMurray, AlbertaStanding on the edge of the immense and spectacular pit of an oil sands mine for the first time, I was surprised by a sense of exhilaration. Later, seven stories up, equipped with earplugs and clad in bright blue overalls, I marveled at the cascades of black bitumen froth bubbling over the sides of a separation cell like a giant witch’s cauldron. The scale of the enterprise and the sheer ingenuity involved in wresting value and sustenance from the hands of a stingy Mother Nature provoked in me a feeling close to glory.

Yet as I stood at the edge of the mine, I understood that lots of people viewing the same sight would be horrified by it—and outraged by my enthusiasm for it. They would, instead, see the pit as a deep wound in the earth, amounting almost to a desecration.

Can I explain myself to those who see mining oil sands as a moral offense? I plead humanism. Modern capitalism and the technology it engenders has lifted a significant proportion of humanity out of our natural state of abject poverty for the first time in history. Even now, depending on the cycles of nature to renew supplies of fuel (in the form of wood and manure) means poverty, disease, and early death for millions.

So how did I happen to be standing at the edge of the Millennium oil sands mine in Alberta, Canada, this summer? I was on a propaganda trip with other journalists and bloggers paid for by the American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and natural gas lobby in Washington, D.C. 

The goal of the trip was to sell us on the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport synthetic oil produced from Canadian oil sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. When completed, the pipeline could transport 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. Environmentalist groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) not only oppose the oil sands production because of the greenhouse gas emissions, but also assert “the oil industry is transforming one of the world’s last remaining intact ecosystems into America’s gas tank.” 

A 2010 well-to-wheels study by the consultancy IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates calculated that with regard to greenhouse gas emissions, the “average oil sands import is about 6 percent higher than that of the average crude oil consumed in the United States.” A 2010 report from the Royal Society of Canada notes that other studies have found that producing oil from oil sands results in greenhouse gas emissions that average 10 to 20 percent higher than conventional oil. Oil sands emissions currently account for 6.5 percent of Canada’s emissions and 0.15 percent of global emissions. However, recent reports suggest that these emissions will triple by 2020. This is something to take into account when considering trade-offs between energy security and climate change.

The pipeline would almost certainly be a major economic boon, however. Studies project the creation of as many as 600,000 jobs and a $775 billion boost to the U.S. gross national product by 2035 as a result of importing Canadian oil. 

The Keystone XL project has already been delayed for three years. The U.S. State Department now says that a final decision will be reached on the pipeline by the end of the year. TransCanada Pipeline Vice President Robert Jones declared that the pipeline is “shovel ready” and construction would involve hiring as many as 10,000 Americans immediately, with up to 34,000 by 2014. Alberta’s Minister of Energy Ronald Liepert, who was present on my tour, dryly commented that in June Alberta (population 3.7 million) created 22,000 new jobs, compared to just 18,000 for the entire U.S.

The NRDC and other environmental lobbyists are right that mining oil sands does mean ripping up some boreal forest. Let’s put that in context: Canada’s boreal forest covers 2.2 million square miles, an area that is about 60 percent of the size of the entire United States. So far oil sands production has disturbed about 410 square miles of that territory. For comparison, the Chicago metropolitan area covers about 10,000 square miles.

Only 20 percent of Alberta’s oil sands are shallow enough to mine, which means that the other 80 percent must be recovered by other technologies. Just 50 miles from the open Millennium oil sands pit is another facility, this one a joint project of Conoco-Phillips and Total, which extracts oil using steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Horizontal drilling creates two parallel wells, one on top of the other exactly three meters apart. The well pairs can extend to about a kilometer. Once completed, operators inject high-pressure 500 degree Fahrenheit steam produced by four enormous natural gas-fired steam generators into the top wells. This melts the bitumen causing a mixture of bitumen and water to drain into the bottom pipe from which it is then pumped to the plant. The SAGD process recovers about 60 percent of the resource in the ground.

Thanks to horizontal drilling, the wells occupy about 13 acres and drain bitumen from the surrounding 250 acres. The wells will operate for between and 8 and 15 years. The facility I visited currently produces 23,000 barrels of bitumen per day, but ConocoPhillips plans to up that production to 136,000 barrels by 2015. The company estimates that it could produce as much as 500,000 barrels per day by 2040.

In contrast with the magnificent roiling mine, the SAGD facility was clean and orderly, almost shockingly so—not even stray bits of paper or oil smudges anywhere. Asked about the lack of visible oil, a clearly proud ConocoPhillips employee responded that seeing oil would mean that something is wrong; it’s supposed to stay in the tanks and the pipelines.

The footprint of SAGD operations typically occupies only 5 percent of the land from which oil is being recovered, leaving most of the forests undisturbed. Perhaps for this reason, anti–oil sands activists who eagerly highlight photos of vast oil sands mining pits like the one I found so striking don’t tend to show photos of SAGD facilities. The tidy, compact facilities are unlikely to provoke the horror—or the exultation—inspired by the open mine pits. 

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is available from Prometheus Books.

Disclosure: My travel expenses to visit Alberta's oil sands were covered by the American Petroleum Institute. The API did not ask for nor does it have any editorial control over my reporting of this trip.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Beloved Commenter Tim||

    "Later, seven stories up, equipped with earplugs and clad in bright blue overalls, he marveled at the cascades of black bitumen froth bubbling over the sides of a separation cell like a giant witch’s cauldron."

    Man needs a grilfriend.

  • Aspiring||

    Nice alliteration and imagery though. I might have said, "By and by, in the building, blocks in his ears, blanketed in bright blue breeches, he was besotted with bubbling black bitumen brought forth like the belches of some biblical behemoth." But that's why I'm a hack.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Meh||

    Pretty sure you fucked up a few edge cases, SF.

  • Warty||

    So Galt's Gulch is in Canada? No wonder everything sucks so much.

  • ||

    I really hope Alberta doesn't end up being the only reasonably prosperous place on the continent. It is way too cold there and Calgary is one of the ugliest cities I've ever seen.

  • PantsFan||

    You've never been to Edmonton.

  • ||

    Correct. My sister has been working in Edmonton a lot over the past few years and loves the people there but those winters sound... rough.

  • PantsFan||

    Edmonton at least has chinooks to warm things up for a few days.
    Winnipeg is 6 weeks of -30

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • ||

    Did we forget our insulin tonight?

  • ||

    I assume she's never been to Regina either.

  • Metazoan||

    what about those greenhouse things? they look pretty badass.

  • ||

    Two more things libertarians should know about Alberta:

    10% flat income tax. 0% sales tax.

  • Juice||

    Is that on top of federal taxes? If so, no thanks.

    10% flat provincial income tax plus whatever in other income taxes? Forget it.

  • ||

    I thought they had gone at least partially down the healthcare privatization road but a cursory Google seems to indicate it's back to socialized and right on schedule pols are running as fast as they can to distance themselves from the no-no word "privatization."

  • ||

    I'm fairly sure the federal mandates do not allow much flexibility in privatization.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ron Bailey: In the pocket of Big Oil.

  • Driver||

    I fucking love Big Oil. W12's for all!

  • Realist||

    I guess Ron and Al have broken up.

  • Happy Pessimist||

    I do believe that Bailey is the last real libertarian at Reason.
    Great reporting, Ron.

  • ||

    I do believe that Bailey is the last real libertarian at Reason.

    He supports government funded stem cell research and he is global warming true believer....

    Anyway despite those two I have no problem calling Ron a real libertarian....nor do I have a problem calling any of reason's writers real libertarians.

    What is your problem with doing that?

  • Happy Pessimist||

    I have this hangup with linguistic precision.

  • Pip||

    So you're always happy and always pessimistic?

  • Happy Pessimist||

    Some call it "realistic." I eschew that cliché.

  • Pip||

    "I eschew that cliché."

    No one gives a shit.

  • Happy Pessimist||

    As evidenced by your continued interest in my commentary. You can stop now. Or can you?

  • Happy Pessimist||

    It worked!

    [Makes note to self: Troll repellent successful]

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Happy Pessimist||

    No one gives a shit.
    Wait. You do!

  • Hi from exiledonline!||

    Now you're a "self-congratulatory" pessimist.

    Hey, once you kids grow up, shoot on over to exiledonline.com

    Toodles!

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Tony||

    You heard it here libertarians: you can't be a real libertarian and believe in science at the same time.

    If enough liberals said anything of the sort I'd definitely stop being a liberal.

  • sevo||

    "If enough liberals said anything of the sort I'd definitely stop being a liberal."
    Liberals lie, shithead.

  • Hi from exiledonline!||

    Libertards lie to themselves because no one wants to listen to a bunch of Randroids.

  • ||

    you can't be a real libertarian and believe in science at the same time.
    ---------------------
    of course, you can; but, being a libertarian and believing in the cult of manmade global warming, which is a sort of anti-science, are mutually exclusive. Believing in AGW is all liberal.

  • Dude||

    Establish Causality for CO2 as causing warming, then we'll talk. What? You can't? Ok. Give me a weather model that is more accurate than chance beyond 20 days in the future and then we'll talk. Wait, you can't. Give me a balanced energy budget that shows we are accumulating heat, then we'll talk. Wait, you can't.

    But you believe in science. Are you sure that's not scientology?

  • Metazoan||

    Some (not necessarily you joshua) seem to think that if you accept science (even if you DON'T support government intervention) then you're not a libertarian. That's ridiculous.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Big TexLaw||

    Was in Calgary a few weeks ago on one of these deals. It is the Wild West out there -- gobs of money if you have the balls. Good times to be in the hydrocarbon industry!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    The Wild West indeed. It attracts these types to those oil fields. And speaking of balls, Dean, the guy on the right had to leave one of his in Alberta. Tragic, but hilarious.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • PantsFan||

    Even Bill O'Reilly supports the Oilsands
    http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Po.....48016.html

  • Happy Pessimist||

    Probably because the Canadians are not Mexicans.

  • Gimlet||

    He supports the immigration of our southern neighbors. You lack a certain brightness. Must really suck.

  • Happy Pessimist||

    Must really suck...

    ...to be you!

  • Gimlet||

    Wow!

  • Happy Pessimist||

    I know! My dearth of "certain brightness" is a handicap!

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Happy Pessimist||

    I'm so sorry that I've gotten under your skin. Hug?

  • ||

    I'm so sorry that you have an inflated sense of accomplishment. Carry on embarrassing yourself.

  • Hi from exiledonline!||

    It's so nice to know that Reason readers are just as petty and petulant as the rest of the internets.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Gimlet||

    He also airs ads from GLAAD during his TV show. The man is not the monster the Left claims he is. And the only person who consistantly talks over other people on the show is Alan Combs. When Alan comes on I change the channel.

  • Happy Pessimist||

    The man is not the monster

    Correct. He's just a simple populist, a man of the media. The common clay of the new journalism. You know...a moron.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • PantsFan||

    is there something going on between you two that we should know about?

  • ||

    If everyone else is going to keep talking to Queen Dipshit, why can't I?

  • ||

    Damn, the trolls around here switch up their tactics too frequently to keep track of. I'm in meetings for a day and all of a sudden we've got a gamboling meme and Mr. (ahem, Ms.?) Happy over here.

  • ||

    "Gamboling" is a White Indiot shibboleth and the other one is just another polyp in the ongoing infection.

  • ||

    And this is your man-pushed-to-his-breaking-point moment a la Straw Dogs?

  • Happy Pessimist||

    SugarFree has problems. Big problems. We should not make light of his psychosis.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Alan Kellogg||

    No it's not and no you don't.

  • ||

    "Gamboling" is a White Indiot shibboleth and the other one is just another polyp in the ongoing infection.

    If you can't tell the difference between this wordsmith of the highest order and the dipshit posting as him, you obviously need to recalibrate your sarcasm meter, and pull you head out of your ass.

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

    Reads much more like a pathetic rectal attempt to spoof someone than our beloved Nutra-Sweet.

  • Colin||

    Sorry, Obama's gonna ban it.

    Just because he can.

  • Gimlet||

    He's has only 12 1/2 months to do so.

  • Big TexLaw||

    Thankfully he wasn't elected by the Canadians. The Keystone XL is important for North America, but Asia is more than willing to take the oil if we aren't. Canada and the industry make money either way.

  • Rob||

    DO you really think Obama gives a shit that it's occuring in another country? He'll ban it anyhow.

  • ##||

    Couldn't he just declare them terrorists and send in a few armed drones?

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Hi from exiledonline!||

    YES! Keep it up. Give these libertards hell!

  • Raston Bot||

    what's the economic comparison SAGD vs open pit? SAGD sounds way more expensive. you need lots of clean water plus natural gas to heat the water. and wouldn't you have to pull out and redrill your two stacked horizontal wells fairly often.

    are they even making money doing it the SAGD way?

  • Wesley||

    The operating cost is much less (I think it's about 1/3 less) for open pit mining, but the capital expense in the open pit mining is enormous, so a lot more SAGD projects are going in. Also, the leases for most of the oil sands that are close enough to the surface to mine have been bought up.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Shouldn't this be called "Ron Bailey's Excellent Hard-On?" Or "Coming Attractions"? Or "Fracking Off Up North"? Or "Ron Finds a Better Hole"? Or "What Makes a Libertarian Stiff?" Or "Ron Bailey, Kochsman"? I gotta say, Ron, you didn't spare the Vaseline on this one.

  • Happy Pessimist||

    I think it's called an honest appreciation of the beneficial effects of capitalism, albeit the unfortunately mixed-economy version we're saddled with these days.

    "[T]he enterprise and the sheer ingenuity involved in wresting value and sustenance from the hands of a stingy Mother Nature."

    My god! Bailey is surely a man-hating monster!

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Not||

    Your psychosis is fascinating!

  • sevo||

    Alan Vanneman|10.19.11 @ 5:20PM|#
    "Shouldn't this be called "Ron Bailey's Excellent Hard-On?"

    Got a crush on Ron, do you? Or are you just proving yourself to be an ignoramus?

  • juris imprudent||

    They would, instead, see the pit as a deep wound in the earth, amounting almost to a desecration.

    The horror. The horror.

    How much more pleasant the world would be without humanity, eh? [/sarc]

  • jtuf||

    Great article, Bailey.

  • EJH||

    I appreciate a photo-op as much as the next guy, but couldn't he have moved over a few feet. Wearing a hard hat and high visibilty coveralls right next to a sign saying you don't have just looks ridiculous

  • Mean Girl||

    Reading is hard. Best to focus on the pictures.

  • some guy||

    It can still be a good idea, even if it isn't required.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Captain* Buzzy||

    *Not a real Captain
    I am familiar with red lines drawn on pavement. On one side the safety man writes you up and your supervisor is required to lecture you about safety, and on the other side you can take off your hat, glasses and boots. From the picture it looks like Bailey is on the PPE* required side of the line.
    *PPE = Personal Protective Equipment.

  • Gojira||

    What amount of total world (or even US for that matter) usage can these oil sands support, and how long can they produce at that level? The tech sounds great, but their extent seems limited to providing just a drop in the bucket over the long-haul.

  • Happy Pessimist||

    The long haul consists of several short hauls.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Jersey Patriot||

    The tar sands produce 1.25-1.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (bpd). No one is sure how high production will go. I've seen 5m bpd in 2035, and that seems as sensible a guess as any, although that would be a very fast ramp-up.

    The US averages about 8.9m bpd of imports. The US produces about 5.6m bpd. All told, the US uses about 14.5m bpd of crude oil. The world overall uses 70m-75m bpd (it's tough to get an exact figure).

  • sevo||

    "...their extent seems limited to providing just a drop in the bucket over the long-haul."

    In the '50s, I read an article that there was only 20 years' oil remaining. Dear ol' Dad told me not to worry; he read the same thing in the '30s.
    It finally dawned on me in the '90s, that *of course* there's only 20 years' reserve; who in their right mind spends money prospecting for stuff more than 20 years out?
    I dunno how long the oil-sand will produce, but it seems humans find ways to work around things.

  • Ed Minchau||

    There is as much oil in Alberta as there is in Saudi Arabia - about 175 billion barrels total in remaining established reserves. That link is the second one listed by Google under the search terms "Alberta oil supply". Gut feelings are no match for google-fu.

  • ||

    Where's White Indian? I figured he'd be all over such an article. Maybe he pranced across the plain to far and fell into one of these pits!

  • Gojira||

    Please, please, make sure you get your terminology right.

    Maybe he gamboled across the plain to far and fell into one of these pits!

  • Happy Pessimist||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • IceTrey||

    Four words, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Near limitless electricity for the entire planet for the next thousand years. Energy so cheap you can take hydrogen from water and carbon from atmospheric CO2 and manufacture liquid fuels.

    http://energyfromthorium.com/

  • anon||

    Your idea is so great absolutely nobody has ever considered it!

    Oh wait. Power companies would be all over that shit were it viable.

  • IceTrey||

    Obviously people have considered it or I wouldn't have been able to include a link to a site dedicated to promoting the concept. As for it's viability that was proven 45 years ago at a little place called Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. So basically you're an idiot who doesn't know shit.

  • anon||

    And you aren't marketing this fabulous energy scheme. .. I mean, plan, now why?

    You're a fucking moron. One of those idiots that frequents conspiracy sites a bit too often.

    Make a company out of this bullshit and then show me how viable it is, since you believe so strongly in it.

  • Cancer Free Children||

    Once again Reason fails to investigate further or look for a different viewpoint.

    http://www.reuters.com/article.....8020090206

    Oil sands cause cancer.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • Cancer Free Children||

    Are you being sarcastic? Or do you really think cancer is funny?

  • ||

    No, we think your childish Chicken Little panic-mongering is funny.

    I bet you make your kids wear helmets to ride their Big Wheels, too.

  • Cancer Free Children||

    Never mind. I see you doing this to all the comments. Grow up.

  • ||

    Cancer of the troll is hilarious. I hope you get it soon for delectation.

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • ||

    Cancer of the troll is hilarious. I hope you get it soon for delectation.

    Jason, you are a God. I can't wait for the idiot spoofer to attempt to really follow your style, the failure will be epic!

  • Wesley||

    I'm almost certain that none of the oil sands extraction plants are allowed to put water back into Athabasca River (I know the ones that I'm familiar with aren't), so I can't see a connection.

  • Juice||

    Look at this beautiful miracle!

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic......zig-text/1

  • ||

    That's funny every time! And I really mean it!

  • ||

    Looks like LA right after Bladerunner's Replicants finished it off.
    PS: Stupid Ducks.

  • Buddy Bizarre||

    Yup, the article clearly says "The overall findings show no cause for alarm," said Dr. Tony Fields.

    We better shut those field down now!

  • sevo||

    "Oil sands cause cancer."
    Shoopers! Blue-light Special! Tin-foil lids, Aisle 6!

  • El Commentariaso||

    Rectal broke.

  • Gambol||

    Gambol!

  • Realist||

    "The Miracle of Oil From Sand"
    Ron I can't believe you are standing on sand that contains the horrible, black, gooey shit!
    That stuff causes....OMG...AGW!

  • sevo||

    LSMFT, too!

  • Alan Kellogg||

    What about North Dakota oil?

  • ||

    Mining tar sands in Canada is OK, but building a pipeline in the US, using a special interest 'carveout' that pipeline companies and other utility companies have at their disposal, is not; especially if one believes in free markets and property rights. This carveout is called an easement. These companies can demand, using the threat of eminent domain, the owner sell easement rights to company. An easement is a powerful legal instrument granted to the railroad industry by the government back in the nineteenth century. It grants most all of the property 'rights' to the easement owner, while leaving the rightful property owner most all of the responsibilities. The property owner does not have much wiggle room. Unless the pipeline company agrees, the property owner cannot license, lease, or sell, the property to the pipeline company. It is one sided under the current law. Easement laws are in favor of the entrenched interest and should be done away with.

  • ||

    An easement also allows me to access my property from the public road across private property that is owned by others. It also provides me with access to electric, landline telephone and water utilities.
    Please do not "do away with" my easement.
    I can not afford a helicopter.

  • Dan||

    We need to build more modern nuke plants but the anti-nuke religion is not allowing that. To the one who will bring up Fukushima: why did the Japanese build a large Nuke Power Plant on 3 fault lines on the coast without extra special measures to protect it? Human stupidity does not mean we should not build more.

  • ||

    Easements have been part of common law for over 600 years, they were not invented by railroads.

  • pull pas cher||

    yes!

  • ||

    Where's the part about the enormous amount of energy required to extract useable oil from the sands? It's an order of magnitude greater than what it takes to get oil from an underground reservoir. Sorry Charley, energy is physics, and this is a scam. NA is blessed with an abundance of natural resources including coal and natural gas, but Oil "ain't" one of 'em, not in sand and not off the coast.

  • Dan||

    Originally it took a barrel of oil to produce 100, then 50, 10, then the department of oil stopped reporting that. So we can assume it is well under 10. We may be looking at 1-5 ratio. Is this a wake up call? Apparently no.

  • Arboles de la barranca||

    Fuck, it's easier to kill Afghans and Africans and build terrorist-prone pipelines and drilling facilities over there out of our sight.

  • Fukushima is a "miracle" too||

  • Dan||

    "synthetic oil produced from Canadian oil sands"??? AFAIK the oil sands oil is Mother Nature's fart.

  • Dan||

    Where is the part that America uses 20 Million Barrels of Oil Per Day. How much oil per day can this oil sands field produce and at what marginal cost? Yes, it is good we have new oil, but we still have a problem.

  • ||

    Though it's laughingly easy to discredit this API-funded jaunt, as the tar sands project is choking on government subsidies and is costing more energy than it produces, I urge continued work along these lines.

    Like the Russian monarchy in about early 1900's, this nonsense fuels revolt. If we're lucky, all the Randroids can really be like their Social-Security-and-Medicare-recipient idol and will have to flee the country. But it won't be a total loss for y'all - North Korea's always hiring in your line of work.

  • ||

    My God, is Reason shameless enough to publish obvious API commercials like this?

  • Arboles de la barranca||

    "...lots of people viewing the same sight would be horrified by it—and outraged by my enthusiasm for it. They would, instead, see the pit as a deep wound in the earth, amounting almost to a desecration."

    If they were Americans, they would rush to the polls and vote for Obama to make sure only Africans and Asians died for the black gold and no desecration of the holy Homeland would ever occur.

  • Dan||

    "When completed, the pipeline could transport 1.3 million barrels of oil per day."

    America use 20 million barrels per day. To get energy security we need at least another 10 "Fort McMurray's".

    But no one has answered how many equivalent barrels of oil are needed to produce one barrel of oil.

    We are running out of oil and prices will stay high and get higher.

  • Britt||

    Do you know how long people have predicted an imminent end to oil? Pretty much since we started using the stuff. Herbert Hoover, before he was President or in the Cabinet, wrote editorials warning that the oil was running out.

    One of these times, the OMG NO MORE OIL crowd will be right. But it wasn't yesterday, it isn't today, and it probably won't be tomorrow. Or next year. Or the year after that.

  • The Engineer||

    Been looking at the oil prices recently? The "There is Plenty of Oil" crowd have continuously claimed that this is an anomaly and that we soon will be back to the days of 15$ a barrel oil prices. The 'anomaly' has lasted for 10+ years and not even a global recession managed to push the prices below 50$ a barrel for more than a few months, a price level unthinkable during the eighties and nineties.

    So, if it is not scarcity, then what has managed to keep oil prices high artificially high for more than a decade? There are no speculators that cunning or any cartel so skilled as to managed to pull that off. The alternative is of course that we have reached the limits for how much we can increase the oil output. No one thinks the oil will end with a bang, it ends just the way it seems now, with a drawn out whimper where demand outstrips an inelastic, and ultimately dwindeling supply.

  • Britt||

    I'm not sure who claims that oil will go back to 15$ a barrel.

    Oh, and I'd argue that the strangehold on exploration and development that the Greens put on large swathes of the world has more to do with high oil prices then anything else. You're not allowed to drill for oil anywhere in the continental US, for all intents and purposes. Huge deposits sit untouched, because of the EPA and other NIMBYISM, and who knows how much is out there undiscovered.

    I can't prove a negative, and you clearly really believe in what you're saying, but people have been saying the same thing for 100 years. One of these days, you'll be right. I'll be too busy with my fusion powered jetpack to care.

  • ||

    As the daughter and granddaughter of coal miners, I witnessed the coal boom of Gillette, WY, in the early '70s. I understand your marvel at the machines (and trucks) that bring energy and electricity that fuels (forgive the pun) our economy.

  • ||

    Is Reason not supposed to be an entity that promotes the investigation of controversial issues from multiple viewpoints? How can the slanted information and media presented by biased environmental groups be criticized when this article does absolutely nothing to dissect horrifying portrayals of the oil sands? Abstracting oil from sand is a miraculous because it doesn't spread cholera or miraculous in the sense that it's another complicated human achievement that average joes can't bend their minds around while they drive down the horseshit-free freeways? I am frustrated. I am trying to understand how to think reasonably about the pros and cons of the Alberta oil sands and this article fails to elaborate on any of the associated controversies. What of the toxic tailings that leach into the Athabasca river and the increasing rare forms of cancer that are apparently developing amongst aboriginal populations along this pristine body of water? There are a myriad of issues that this article does not even attempt to circumvent. Canada's carbon emissions continue to increase and I understand, again that what threats this pose are debatable. I acknowledge the positive outcomes of this resource within my country, but most reasonable people don't believe in miracles and it is frustrating when a media outlet that is entirely based out of scrutiny spouts extraordinary claims that are not illustrated with extraordinary evidence.

  • The Engineer||

    The reason for that is proabaly that, as the author states, this was a propaganda tour in the Alberta Tar Sands Potempkin Village. Since the trip was payed for by the American Petroleum Institute and the information during it was disseminated by them it is highly unlikely that they would bring up anything about any negative side effects of tar sands oil mining, be it real or imagined dangers. For that reason, these topics are absent from the article.

    That is how modern porpaganda works, or Strategic Communication as it is sometimes called, not by telling journalists that they will be given money if they write about any subject, but through just giving them the completely uncontroversial bits. The goal is not to fight the biased claims of the environment lobbies head on, but to ignore them completely.

  • ||

    Is Reason not supposed to be an entity that promotes the investigation of controversial issues from multiple viewpoints? How can the slanted information and media presented by biased environmental groups be criticized when this article does absolutely nothing to dissect horrifying portrayals of the oil sands? Abstracting oil from sand is a miraculous because it doesn't spread cholera or miraculous in the sense that it's another complicated human achievement that average joes can't bend their minds around while they drive down the horseshit-free freeways? I am frustrated. I am trying to understand how to think reasonably about the pros and cons of the Alberta oil sands and this article fails to elaborate on any of the associated controversies. What of the toxic tailings that leach into the Athabasca river and the increasing rare forms of cancer that are apparently developing amongst aboriginal populations along this pristine body of water? There are a myriad of issues that this article does not even attempt to circumvent. Canada's carbon emissions continue to increase and I understand, again that what threats this pose are debatable. I acknowledge the positive outcomes of this resource within my country, but most reasonable people don't believe in miracles and it is frustrating when a media outlet that is entirely based out of scrutiny spouts extraordinary claims that are not illustrated with extraordinary evidence.

  • CONCERENED MODERATE||

    HI I AM A CONCERNCED MODERATE WHO IS CONCERNCED BECAUSE THIS TRIP WAS FUNDED BY AMERICAN PETROLUEOM INSTITUTE WHICH IS AN EVIL FRONT FOR OIL COMPANIES THAT ARE EVIL, BUT I HAVE AN EMAIL FROM ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WHICH ARE GOOD AND WOULD NEVER LIE OR EXAGGERATE TO PROMOTE THEIR OWN POINT OF VIEW BECAUSE THEIR THE GHOOD GUYS WHO ARE GOOD.

    ANYWAY SAY NO TO API PROGAPANDA AND SAY YES TO THE TRUTH THAT THE GREEN MOVMENT GIVES YOU.

    SINCEREELY YOURS, CONCERNED MODERATE

  • HS||

    Shovel Ready.
    This phrase is a code word for a project that can get going with government funds. Just get the feds to shovel a bit of cash and we'll have a wonderful pipeline. If its worth doing, its worth doing without government handouts. It makes me sick how people can angle for handouts to their favorite businesses and then claim to be libertarians.

  • The Miracle of Occupation of||

    Uganda, Sudan and Libya.

  • ||

    So, the enviros are using deceptive practices to push their anti-development agenda. Shocking!

  • ||

    Recent research is proving even to the AGW crowd that carbonophobia is unjustified. Seems global warming (which IS occurring) is slower than many thought and not unduly dependent upon greenhouse emissions. The Earth has not warmed any since 2000, by the way. Looks like airborne soot and cosmic rays are accounting for much of the warming (3 degrees over the past 150 years). And not to worry about rising sea levels - they are on course for a 6 inch rise over the next 100 years.

  • fghu||

    hello,welcome to www.luckygrip. com,i hope everyone will more like them because of there have more nice top goods and cheaper price in there,thanks

  • العراق||

    Thank you

  • ||

    Don't be fooling yourself, Ron, there IS NO Global-warming that's man-caused, as the years ahead will show. All the same, I LOVED your article, you are correct in most of what you say. Deniers are going to end-up on Top, to the Chagrin of the Globalist,Green,Commu-Nazis who wish to use POVERTY, to then rule Canada, and the Rest, of the Earth.

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