The old solution?

Oil may be cleaner than coal, but it certainly isn’t clean

The tar sands got the green light they needed.

University of Victoria scientist Andrew Weaver released a report the other day showing that if we consumed all the resources that the tar sands have, it would increase the global temperature by 0.03 degrees, while burning the world’s entire supply of coal would increase our global temperature by 15 degrees.

Let’s dig deeper into these findings presented to us.

The tar sands comprise only a fraction of what the world produces in oil. Who knows what other reserves have not been tapped into? There is still a whole world of oil production out there, from Norway to Venezuela, to Saudi Arabia.

I would like to know how much the global temperature would increase by if we consumed and burned all of the world’s supply of oil.

I would imagine it would be comparable to coal burning.

Yes, if we compare the two, oil is cleaner then coal; however, this report should not be used as a green light to blow full-steam ahead with tar sand developments in an unsustainable manner.

This would be akin to former smokers believing they can eat more fast food because their lungs are healthier. This logic makes no sense, as they would still be doing damage to their bodies - just as the tar sands are still damaging Lake Athabasca and being developed in an unsustainable manner.

But the private corporations and the federal government are now using this report as a scapegoat, saying, “Well at least it’s not coal.”

That does not make it right.

Our global emissions are still escalating at untold rates and we’re seeing even more effects of climate change. I can easily reference this past Manitoba winter, with its lack of snowfall and warm temperatures.

Most scientists agree we should keep our global temperature from increasing no more than two degrees, but we are missing that target badly. We should not be seeing the tar sands as a way to solve our emissions and energy problems.

The most common clean energy debate I hear is the one proposing we invest heavily in nuclear power, since it does not produce carbon emissions.

Wrong approach again, because this is a red-herring answer.

Nuclear power is incredibly expensive to build and maintain, and uranium supplies will be in shortage by 2020, and be extinguished within 100 years.

Not to mention the risk of devastating nuclear accidents like the one seen at Fukushima.

And that accident happened in Japan - a first world country with impeccable wealth and infrastructure.

We keep hearing that solar and wind are not economical, but they said the same thing about cars, planes and the Internet.

And who are the people that are saying this?

Usually the ones that have a vested interested in the oil and coal sectors.

Oil, coal, and natural gas are not our future for energy - sustainability and clean power will come only from geothermal, wind, solar, and hydro sources, electric cars, and investments made in other types of clean power.

Andrew Podolecki is a second-year politics student.

Published in Volume 66, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 1, 2012)

Related Reads