Why is Alberta generally conservative

Oil sands in Canada : blessing or curse

The rhythmic drumming and shrill singing of the Indians hangs over the lawn in front of Parliament in Ottawa. Around 1,000 people have gathered to demonstrate against the expanding oil sands industry and the construction of a huge pipeline from Canada to the USA. “Our country will never be the same as it used to be,” says an Indian from northern Alberta. Your community suffered from a pipeline leak a few months ago. Maud Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, calls oil from tar sands "the dirtiest oil in the world".

The controversy surrounding the extraction of oil from Canadian sand is growing louder. Environmental groups in the US and Canada are working against it; the industry and the government of Canada are promoting the "ethical oil" that is supposed to make America more independent of supplies from undemocratic states. Specifically, the dispute revolves around the construction of the Keystone Pipeline for the Canadian company Trans Canada. It should lead from Alberta's oil sands fields to the refineries on the US Gulf Coast. The US government wants to decide on the seven billion dollar project by the end of the year.

With resources of 175 billion barrels of oil to be mined using today's technology, Canada is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world. A barrel is 159 liters. 170 billion barrels are in oil sands, a mixture of viscous, tar-like bitumen, sand and clay. Canada currently produces about 2.8 million barrels of crude oil per day, of which about 1.5 million are from oil sands. Oil production is expected to rise to 4.7 million barrels by 2025, 3.7 million of which will be from oil sands.

The energy-hungry US is already the main buyer of Canadian oil. The new underground pipeline will be 2600 kilometers long. Starting in 2013, up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil from northern Canada will flow down to the Gulf of Mexico every day through the pipe system with a diameter of 90 centimeters.

Advertising campaigns, calls for boycotts and demonstrations on the one hand, and an advertising initiative by the industry and the Canadian government on the other - with the expansion of the oil sands industry in northern Alberta near Fort McMurray, the bitter dispute over the energy source is growing. Critics point to the destruction of the landscape and toxic sewage sludge ponds, the high water consumption, studies on health hazards for humans and animals and the enormous CO2 emissions.

For industry and the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who like to portray their country as an energy superpower, the oil sands are an indispensable source of oil. The criticism is based on fictions, not facts. Oil from Canada, a democratic country with strict environmental rules, is more ethical than oil from Saudi Arabia, for example.

However, there are also economic objections: Analysts such as Todd Hirsch from ATB Financial in Calgary point out that an oil price of around $ 80 is necessary for the profitability of new oil sands projects. The barrel price is currently moving in this area. However, the economic outlook is anything but good. This could put pressure on the oil price in the future and delay the expansion of oil sands mining.

There are supporters and critics of oil sands mining in the USA too. Hearings were held this week in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, which the pipeline is slated to run through. The final hearing will be in Washington on October 7th. The US government's decision on whether the pipeline is in the national interest and should be built is expected in December. The approval on the Canadian side has already been granted.

There is resistance to the pipeline, especially among the US Democrats, as President Barack Obama was there to bring about a change to a clean energy. Critics complain that the pipeline will increase the US's dependence on oil sands. And there is also protest in conservative Nebraska. The pipeline touches the area where the Ogallala Aquifer is located, a huge groundwater reservoir. However, after a preliminary assessment of the environmental impacts by the US State Department's energy department in August did not contain any fundamental objections to the project, Obama's approval is approaching.

Given that TransCanada has announced 20,000 jobs that the pipeline construction would create in the USA, it is likely that the US president will agree. For Canada's Prime Minister Harper, this is out of the question. "The US has enormous energy needs and the US alternatives are not good," says Harper. Nevertheless, he sent his ambassador Gary Doer from Washington to the US province to promote the pipeline there.

Once the decision has been made, Canada's government can increasingly turn to a second area of ​​conflict: Europe. The government is vehemently opposed to the fact that oil from oil sands is rated negatively in a planned EU fuel directive because of its environmental pollution.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page