Pros & Cons of Oil Sands 
 Summarized by Walter Sorochan, Emeritus Professor San Diego State University

Posted 2009; Updated November 13, 2021.

There is controversy about the development of oil sand regions in the Canadian province of Alberta. There are major concerns about pollution of the environment, pollution of the Athabasca river, high incidence of cancer among indigent people in the area, the creation of acid rains that are wafted by winds across Saskatchewan and Manitoba into the great lakes area as acid rain and so on. On the positive side are royalty revenues to the province, bolstering of the Canadian economy and high employment.

Is the mining of oil from the sands a safe procedure? Is it all worth while? Will it provide an endless supply of oil as energy?

Providing oil from sand and shale at a profit for a sustainable time is dubious when the the selling price of a barrel of oil fluctuates periodically. Unanswered is also whether the refining technology can be cleaned up so as to minimize all pollutants. Current mining and refining processes are dependent on a continuing huge supply of water from the Athabasca river where the water level has been decreasing over the past 20 years. Future expansion of mining will require more and more water that appears to already be in short supply. Then there is the question of deferred restoration of mining excavations that created huge mountains of polluted earth and mine canyons. No environmentally viable plan exists for Tar Sands reclamation.

" Oil sands reclamation, particularly of tailings material, remains unproven. Without proof, the government is approving reclamation plans based upon good faith rather than hard fact." Article about Report: Fact fiction No reclaimation is no longer active.

Premier Stelmach and the oil companies have promised to restore the devastated landscape with greenery and trees within 10 years; but without any real contractual liquidity or certification.

All these concerns appear to be overlooked by the governments of Alberta and Canada. Contrary to the government of Alberta, most other countries in the world have stopped mining and refining oil from shale and sand. Does it make economic sense to be investing billions more good money behind a questionable investment where the technology is still much in the experimental stages?

Judge for yourself! The list of blue colored references below is not all inclusive but it is a good starting point. Please read and become informed!

Against Tar Sands list:

The waste materials are killing local birds, animals and increasing cancer rates among local people   Article about Tar sands wastes poisoning Canadians is no longer active.

Report card on current mining process:

TORONTO, October 8, 2008 – New transcontinental pipelines from Alberta’s oil sands and massive refinery expansions in the U.S. Midwest are creating a “pollution delivery system” that threatens air and water quality and human health in the Great Lakes Basin, expert panelists at the University of Toronto said today. ; Article about Alberta oil sand project polluting N America is no longer active.

Bad publicity about polluting oil sands: ;  Alberta Premier defends sand oil

The report, titled "CRUDE OIL - Uncertainty About Future Oil Supply Makes It Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production," outlines the threat to oil supply posed by global political instability and the lack of new oil field discovery: ;  world running out of oil

Alberta’s Oil Sands: Treasure Chest or Pandora’s Box?
Environmental economists concern themselves with – among other environmental issues – both market and non-market damages caused by pollution. Market damages include the reduction of crop yields for farmers and the changes in prices brought about by this reduction, as well impacts on the forestry industries and the fisheries. Non-market damages take into account the human health effects, changes to the hydrological cycle, climate change, and the ill effects of pollution. Since the latter do not involve market transactions, they are difficult to evaluate in monetary terms.

Shiell’s findings were astonishing; if Suncor had to pay for damages caused by their greenhouse gas emissions, profits would plummet by approximately 27 per cent per barrel.

Report: Fact or Fiction Oil Sands Reclamation:

Grant, Jennifer, et al., "Fact or Fiction?: Oil Sands Reclamation," Pembina Institute, 2008. " Oil sands reclamation, particularly of tailings material, remains unproven. Without proof, the government is approving reclamation plans based upon good faith rather than hard fact." ; Report reclaimation

For Tar Sands List:

There is a limited supply of oil. The world discoveries of new oil has peaked. The tar sands give all of us longer time to find alternatives sources of energy: ;  Peak oil is history

Numerous warnings for over 50 years that world is going to run out of oil; therefore need cleaner alternatives. ; ;  Numerous peak oil warnings for over 50 years

Oil boom provides employment for Canadians ; 
Alberta's premier supports oil sands project: Premier Ed Stelmach fended off an attempt by an environmental coalition's campaign to get the U.S. Congress to prohibit the use of "dirty oil" - from Alberta's oil sands - by American government agencies. ;  Premier defends oil sands

CBS video 60 minute story on Alberta oil sand project: No longer available as of 2019