Today while returning back from my work with a reputed Canadian oil and gas company, I chanced to hear on the radio, the news segment about the Keystone pipeline and the vitriolic opposition to the project. I felt that the rising and unwanted opposition to this pipeline deserves no merit and vociferous stand taken by the environmentalists and vested interests is nothing but a sideshow.
This article of mine is straight speak and I don’t wish to write another set piece with research links thrown in. Even though I did write my Master’s thesis using the same techniques, I believe that the time has come where there needs to be addressing of the issues using simple, plain language.
First of all, 80% of oil sands lie beneath the ground and is recovered using energy propagated through drilling. Here it is the same like any conventional oil drilling setup. The images of tailing ponds adhere to the 20% of the oil sands reserve. The former involves huge capital, but least visible environmental impact. The latter involves a visible environmental impact, but the issues are being addressed with the development of technology. At present, an alternate industry exists within the purview of oil sands industry where the issues of tailings ponds are being tackled fervently. Across North America and Europe, state and private universities are being involved in some really world class research just to address the issues of tailings ponds. The progress has been slow, but the issues are being addressed diligently. The culmination of this research would help mining operations not just in oil sands facilities but other mining operations (gold, potash etc.)
Why do we need oil sands? I say we need it because we need other unconventional forms of energy to supplement a burgeoning world population. The more sources of energy the better. There is definitely an environmental impact, but we cannot do anything about it. World population is increasing due to some excellent progress in the field of medicine and the way of life. If the environmentalists are so worried about losing the wonderful gifts of nature, first work with United Nations or other NGOs to tackle the main issue of increasing world population.
Oil sands development was accelerated in the last decade due to increasing demand. It is easy to say or shout that lets kill that demand by stopping the development of non renewable resources. Ok, we stop it, what do we do next? How will the world run? Do we need to go back to medieval ages ? How will the world feed its population? These answers needs to be provided by the so called environmentalists.
Renewable energy sources are a nice to have feature that would help the developed nations mitigate some of the high demand on non renewables. But that technology is at a very nascent stage. The so called environmentalists instead of wasting and fooling the time of the public, should retire to their schools and classrooms and work their way in optimizing the benefits of renewable energy.
The past decade when the oil prices peaked saw couple of wars being fought just to secure these sources of energy. When it became evident that no one was winning these wars, the development of shale gas and oil sands happened. These developments totally destroyed the myth of Peak Oil and gave an assurance that human progress is here to stay. The impetus now should be on unlocking and optimizing the maximum potential from these non renewable fuels and thereby steer the human race forward and not to go backwards.
If President Obama decides not to go ahead with Keystone pipeline and also deny opportunities for shale gas development, please be assured that the decline of United States that commenced a while ago will be complete. Asian giants like China and India will happily receive the oil from oilsands for the growth and prosperity of their economies. The so called advocates of renewable energy please understand that all the raw materials for this form of energy (like solar panels etc.) come from China will be scrambling to address the energy issues that tackle the very progress of their nation.
Heard the following from an oil sands veteran recently: “Oilsands was written off three times in my lifetime and it is still going strong”. Oilsands is an idea whose time has come and no force on this earth can stop its progress.