Alberta Tar Sands Are Anything but “Conflict Free”

This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program. You can follow along here.

By Philip O’Connor

There is a place far to the north where for miles in any direction not a person can be seen. The boreal forests of Alberta are a thriving and diverse ecosystem, offering a glimpse of what our planet looks like when unimpeded by our consumption. It is here that a coalition of international investors has amassed over $200 billion to invest in a very extraordinary project. Their investment depicts humans’ connection to the land and the species that share it. It is driven by a speculation, that for every two tons of earth steamed with natural gas and fresh water, a barrel of Tar will be produced (42 gallons). The result will be wild lands the size of Florida transitioned into a vast wasteland of crushed rock and chemicals.

It’s difficult to imagine this incredible transformation; it is a true feat of technology. To turn 3.8 billion years of complex evolution into apocalyptic geography is no easy deed.  This forest, which sequesters twice as much carbon as a rainforest, will become the largest CO2 producing project in our species’ history. The people of Alberta have no interest in monetizing the loss of land or species (up to 166 million North, South and Central American Migratory birds),  nor the drastic risk of climate change. This project is promoted by politicians as “conflict free oil”, for unlike oil sources elsewhere, there are no serious conflicts of interest here.

The populations of consumers don’t question the source of their oil, just the price, and as long as the price is over $65 a barrel, the project floats. Political resistance is mitigated by 2500 energy lobbyists in Washington and Ottawa, that’s four per congress person. Surprisingly this project might result in 66,400 less migratory birds per energy lobbyist; it’s quite an achievement for being conflict free. The only real road bump has come from the shipment of the machinery from Korea to Alberta. There are small protests and lawsuits emerging out of states like Idaho and Montana where the locals don’t want the mega loads, some weighting 650,000 pounds, to travel their wild and scenic highways. These groups like Fighting Goliath or All Against the Haul, see the transport of this equipment through the West’s most wondrous landscapes as a direct attack on their values and way of life. The Departments of Transportation are on board, as are the Governors despite the transportation not providing anything to the states, but the citizens are being troublesome. Once this last hurdle is overcome, the projects will be in full swing and history will be made.


Information sourced from:

Bass, Rick. Duncan, David James. (2010) The Heart of the Monster. All Against the Haul, Missoula MT.

Artwork from:

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