Bitumen presentations

A few days ago I mentioned The Great Tar Sands Debate.  Tonight I went to it, and I found it very interesting, but I would hesitate to call it a debate.

I thought that both speakers did a fine job of their presentations.

Andrew Nikiforuk spoke against the “tar sands” from the perspective of a concerned Alberta environmentalist.  He raised what I believe to be some very valid concerns about the environmental costs of both the open-pit mining of bitumen and “in-situ” extraction such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).

Carolyn Preston spoke about the exploration efforts of Saskatchewan’s “oil sands”, explaining that the bitumen is too deep to extract using open-pit mining.  She also explained that SAGD won’t be an option because of the nature of the overburden – I hadn’t been aware of that.  She then discussed other extraction methods that are being tested, involving solvents and electricity.

Little real debate was generated, because of the Alberta/Saskatchewan experience/future possibility perspectives.

Audience questions covered the duty to consult with the local aboriginal population, health concerns, and the effect of using natural gas for bitumen extraction on the price of natural gas for home heating.  I thought both speakers did an adequate job of answering questions.

Oil is a non-renewable resource, and our North American lifestyles are dependent upon it.  It’s easy to point a finger at the evil polluting industry, but I agreed with Carolyn Preston that it’s we the consumers who demand the product.  Reducing our consumption is important.  The sooner we can find affordable, clean, renewable energy options the better.  Forest biomass, whether for cellulosic ethanol or direct combustion, has potential to be part of the solution.  Saskatchewan has a lot of open space so wind power should be an option. It’s likely to make me some enemies, but I’m even willing to look at the nuclear option.

4 Responses to “Bitumen presentations”

  1. Gavin says:

    Aha! Another environmentally minded fellow who wants to give the potential for clean nuclear energy a fair shake! I knew they were out there….

  2. Phil L says:

    Gavin, I realize that your comment may have been tongue-in-cheek. However yes I do believe in taking a serious look at the objective evidence on both sides of this issue. I think that in a world with a population approaching 7 billlion people, all wanting a decent standard of living, we need to make some tough choices regarding our energy sources. I know that there are concerns regarding nuclear waste disposal, but I personally am more concerned about the effects of burning fossil fuels.

  3. Gavin says:

    I’m with you on giving nuclear a fair shake. When I said “another environmentally minded…” I meant “another like me.”

  4. Toni says:

    If one can deal with the waste products and safety generally then nuclear power is probably THE way to go for the next 100 years +. But only IF.