Tu-Anh Nguyen (5992699) Tar Sands Chapter Summary Chapter 9 ± Carbon: A Wedding and A Funeral


Andrew Nikiforuk, in the ninth chapter of his bookTar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, presents another issue with tar sands exploitation: carbon dioxide emissions. In this chapter, Nikiforuk believes the tar sands industry contributes greatly to environment damages and climate changes, with its key role in carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions increase. Exposing the Canadian government¶s ineffective strategies to reduce its CO2 and GHG productions, Nikiforukdedicates half of this chapter in explaining the strategies. He evaluates, identifies, analyzes and showswhy he thinks the latest of their strategies, carbon capture and storage (CCS), is impossible to realize. For the author, this carbon dioxide emission concern alone reveals Canadian government unwillingness to help the planet¶s crisis, as Canada keeps growing as one of the world¶s most polluting nations. Since 1990, Canada¶s carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 27 per cent, which is considered the highest on the planet. It has been reported that oil and gas production destined to the U.S. constitutes about a third of Canada¶s overall increase in CO2 and GHG emissions.As Nikiforuk explains, it is partly the fault of dirty bitumen. Its extraction constitutes an energyconsuming process. Therefore, for each barrel of oil created with bitumen, there are three times more CO2 emissions than the usual process with conventional oil. The effects of this CO2 increase on climate can be dramatic: ³In 2007, the International Panel on Climate Change outlined the continental effects of rising carbon dioxide emissions from tar sands development and other fossil fuel-burning projects: more heat waves, coastal storms, and freak weather; shrinking glaciers and alpine meadows; less water in our lakes and

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rivers; fewer wetlands; more forest fires and beetle epidemics; and more human and wildlife diseases as parasites move north to escape the heat.´ (p.128)In order to solve the carbon dioxide problems, Canadian government has proposed strategies such as carbon intensity reduction and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Instead of putting a cap on carbon emissions, carbon intensity reduction is currently the most widely-used strategy. This solution to compensate high carbon emissions rises production efficiency. It also temporarily slows the emergency of a high-level ofCO2presence. Nikiforuk discusses the problem that increased efficiency provokes; ³[a]mong economists this problem is knowm as the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate.´ (p.134) The Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate works as follows: when exploitation efficiency of a resource rises, the demand will temporarily diminish before sky-rocketing. For example, in the last 35 years, airplanes have reduced their fuel consumption by 40%. But the demand in this industry has increased by 150%. Nikiforuk believes this paradox is not only present in oil and gas industries, it is present everywhere. Here is another example that he gave: ³As appliances become more efficient, households fill up with electronic gadgets that draw more electricity.´ (p.134) Therefore, all efforts to lower carbon dioxide productions will be null. Nikiforuk concludes about the carbon reduction strategy that ³[t]he Khazzoom-Brookes Postulates is a rude reminder that energy intensity, like carbon intensity, won¶t solve a single damn problem without restrictions on energy demand´ (p.134). In March 2008, the Canadian government proposed another inventive strategy to reduce their carbon emissions. This project of capturing and storingcarbon will be funded by taxpayers. The policy intends to burry compressed CO2 into the grounds of the prairie by 2018. And for the following millennium, buried carbon will be monitored.Nikiforuk doubts that the lastest federal strategy, the carbon capture and storage (CCS) scheme, will succeed. The author states that ³no

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infrastructure currently exists to bury carbon.´ (p.136) If an infrastructure was created, the cost for such an enterprise will be too expensive and energy-consuming, hence producing more carbon emissions. Asides from high costs and energy consumptions, the most dangerous default of such a strategy is gas leakage. Serious consequences of gas leakage can lead to underground and ground water contaminations, which affect humans directly. Clouds of gas can perturb the atmosphere and deteriorate health and environment. To conclude his chapter, Carbon: A Wedding and A Funeral,Nikiforukdeclares that the tar sands marked Canada ³as a carbon debtor nation´(p.144). Indeed, if rational long-term strategies aren¶t made, Canada will keep growing as one of the world¶s most polluting nations. Carbon released in our atmosphere will generate pollution; carbon buried in our earth will generate pollution. Despite the consequences, the Canadian government encourages the growth of oil industries. ³We must realize that growth is but an adolescent phase of life which stops when physical maturity is reached. If growth continues in the period of maturity it is called obesity or cancer. Prescribing growth as the cure for the energy crisis has all the logic of prescribing increasing quantities of food as a remedy for obesity.´ (p.144. Quoted by Nikiforum from U.S. physicist Albert Bartlett in Forgotten Fundamentals of the Energy Crisis.)

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