Category Archives: Oil

Oil, Tar and the Irony of Life


The question oil haunts us like a cancer cell. We try to avoid it but it keeps coming back. It seeps throughout the bowels of the earth. We know its just dead things. A reflection or the past, or maybe our future?

We know something must be done to combat global warming and our over consumption; but we are unable to escape it. We have grown accustomed to our large homes, cars and the devices I am using as I type. So what are we to do? Movies Avatar or the shows Firefly talked briefly about our consumption; how we used up the Earth’s resources. Will it happen? I don’t know. I have to believe that we are better than that. Albeit, there was World War 1&2, the Korean War, Slavery, weapons of mass destruction, but I am off topic.

The question is oil, specifically the Alberta tar sands, is a good one. Yes the 1.8 trillion, or more, barrels of oil waiting to be used. The bitumen, or tar for a better description, is waiting to be “plundered”. Don’t kid yourself. We, as a species, are not ready to change. I am not here to tell you oil is all bad or even good. Think about it for a minute, or longer. How do you tell someone that they should ignore the mounds of money waiting to be extracted? Still thinking? Exactly, you don’t. You see we all have to face the fact that we are unable to change. President George W. Bush was correct when he said “we are addicted to oil“. We can talk about the environment but do we realize how ubiquitous and how far oil has come into our life? It’s everywhere! From the car you drive to the container you use. The chair you sit on or the stuff in your food. Can we change? Or do we really want to make the hard choices? What will our children say about us? Or will we leave anything to say?

Our addiction is massive, but life must go on. Humanity is an interesting species. We will adapt. We will continue to extract the “black gold” until its no more. Don’t kid yourselves, there is no quick fix. We just need to be better stewards and live in balance with the planet. When all is said and done I am sure we will find something else to consume or we will learn to live. Let’s hope there is something left, hence the irony. We run, we consume, we waste the dead things of life. What is oil, tar sands or bitumen? Maybe its just a reflection or what we are and what we will become when balance runs amuck. What do you think?

By: @iammannyj

Heaven and Earth may pass away but will we care?


No I am not trying to be overbearing on the environmental front, but more and more I see a trend towards the self in our world. Western society has enjoyed a life that it is unwilling to give up. We know that fossil fuels and our consumption based lifestyle are damaging the planet. We should do more to be better stewards of the planet; however the additive nature of consumption is something we cannot seem to break. Now the world wants what we have, so what will we do? It reminds me of the movie ‘Avatar’ or even ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’. In a sense we are like a virus that destroys and consumes. Maybe humanity will come up with a solution? I think we will, however the question is what will that solution be? In the movie Avatar humanity had consumed to a point beyond measure. Yes, we had all of the technical know-how, but to what extent? On the opposite end, in the latest incarnation of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, it was determined that in order for the earth to survive we had to be removed. We were like a Cancer that needed invasive surgery. Now, I do not want to sound so negative. I think humanity is better than that; however it is up to us to determine what we will do. Some feel that we will innovate to solve our problems. Maybe that is part of our evolution? Who really knows? Have we passed the point of no return, or will be return to the point of our past?

 

No Pipeline to the West Coast?


A slim majority of British Columbians support a proposed $5.5-billion oilsands pipeline to the B.C. coast, but opposition to the megaproject is growing, according to a new poll.

The poll also found that an overwhelming majority of B.C. Conservative party supporters, and two-thirds of B.C. Liberal supporters, favour the controversial plan by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who commissioned the poll, said the results suggest it will become increasingly difficult for Christy Clark, B.C.’s Liberal premier, to continue to straddle the fence on the issue.

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Opposition+oilsands+pipeline+growing+poll+finds/6374553/story.html

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The worst environmental disaster in a century? Gulf Coast oil spill…


As we watch the effects of the inevitable oil spill transpire in the Gulf Coast we have to ask ourselves yet again, is it worth it?

Any ocean oil extraction process using a drilling rig has a risk factor attached to it. This risk factor is not a question of “if” but “when” will the disaster occur.

Just imagine the devastation that is occurring right now in the Mexican Gulf and ponder what such a catastrophe would mean if it happened here. A 5,000-square-kilometre oil slick sits just 80 kilometres off the shores of America and Mexico. How many innocent creatures has it killed? How long will the after-effects of such a huge contamination be felt?
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Jack Layton is the ideal opposition leader


You can’t do your job as Leader of the Opposition. I don’t know what you’re doing running for Prime Minister. It’s a very unusual political situation when every voter knows even before the federal election that Canada’s next prime minister will be Stephen Harper. Like or loathe it, the Conservatives will be returned to power on October 14.

But two other important questions are far from decided – who will be Opposition leader and whether it will be a minority or majority government.

After last week’s debate and two years of Harper government one thing is very clear – the only real federal opposition in the House of Commons is the New Democratic Party. And the only real choice for Opposition leader is Jack Layton.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion is a smart, decent man. But Dion and the Liberals don’t stand up to Stephen Harper – they prop him up.

On 43 separate occasions in Parliament, Dion’s Liberals voted to keep Harper in power and accept his very conservative legislation.

By continually abstaining, the “Official Opposition” has abdicated its important role of serving the majority of Canadians who reject Conservative ideology.

But it wasn’t just fear of losing an election that led to the Liberals becoming Conservative Lite – they actually agree with Harper’s wrong-headed positions on many key political issues.

Dion and the Liberals support Harper’s massive $50 billion corporate tax cuts that reward companies which have eliminated more than 400,000 manufacturing and forest industry jobs since 2000.

And the Liberals and Conservatives want huge tax cuts despite the fact that Canada’s tax rates are already lower than many industrialized nations, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan.
And Canada also has a much lower Goods and Services Tax than most countries.

Dion and the Liberals joined with Conservatives to vote to extend till 2011 the deadly mission that sent brave Canadian troops into a hopeless situation in Afghanistan.

Dion and the Liberals say they want a “Green Shift” and carbon tax to protect the environment but oppose a proposed NDP moratorium on new Alberta tar sands oil projects – Canada’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Alberta oilsands refineries could cause irreversible damage


 

Alberta Oil Sands

Alberta Oil Sands

The development of a pipeline network and refineries around the Great Lakes to process Alberta bitumen “could cause irreversible” environmental damage to the region, says a new report that traces the tendrils of Alberta’s oilsands developments across the continent.

 

There are currently 17 refinery projects either being “considered, planned, applied for, approved or developed” around the Great Lakes, according to the report, How the Oil Sands Got to the Great Lakes, released Wednesday.

The report, commissioned by the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre program on water issues, warns that little is known about the environmental impact on the Great Lakes given the level of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption that comes with the refining process.
There are currently 17 refinery projects either being ‘considered, planned, applied for, approved or developed’ around the Great Lakes, according to the report, How the Oil Sands Got to the Great Lakes, released Wednesday.
There are currently 17 refinery projects either being ‘considered, planned, applied for, approved or developed’ around the Great Lakes, according to the report, How the Oil Sands Got to the Great Lakes, released Wednesday.

“We are paying more attention at the oilsands end, but not where the oil gets to and what happens there,” said David Israelson, the report’s author. “The other big issue is climate change and this means exponential increase in greenhouse gas emissions before you put a drop in your car.”

Dubbing it a “pollution delivery system,” the report said the thousands-kilometres-long pipeline complex used to ferry Athabasca bitumen from source to refinery could bring “2.3 million tonnes” of greenhouse gas emissions to the centre of North America every year.

“It will also bring new, large-scale sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions – the building blocks of acid rain – as well as fine particulate matter, which is responsible for premature deaths,” said the report. “Pipeline and refinery expansion applications are being made and approved right now with little general awareness of the potential long-term damage to the Great Lakes environment.”

Bitumen is a tar-like heavy hydrocarbon that is removed from Alberta’s oilsands and upgraded into synthetic crude oil.

Environmental groups were quick to back the report’s findings. Justin Duncan, a lawyer with Ecojustice, said the federal government needs to revise its entire approach to oilsands

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Will Canada’s oil boom be an environmental bust? The new global wasteland?


Alberta the new oil wasteland

Alberta the new oil wasteland

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta (AP) — The largest dump truck in the world is parked under a massive mechanical shovel waiting to transport 400 tons of oily sand at an open pit mine in the northern reaches of Alberta. Each Caterpillar 797B heavy hauler — three-stories high, with tires twice as tall as the average man — carries the equivalent of 200 barrels.

Shell, which has 35 of the massive loaders working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has ordered 16 more — at $5 million each — as it expands its open pit mines. And it is not alone among major oil companies rushing to exploit Alberta’s oil sands, which make Canada one of the few countries that can significantly ramp up oil production amid the decline in conventional reserves.

Shell, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Canada’s Imperial and other companies plan to strip an area here the size of New York state that could yield as much as 175 billion barrels of oil. Daily production of 1.2 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to nearly triple to 3.5 million barrels in 2020. Overall, Alberta has more oil than Venezuela, Russia or Iran. Only Saudi Arabia has more.

High prices — a barrel reached almost $150 last month and is around $115 now — are fueling the province’s oil boom. Since it’s costly to extract oil from the sands, using the process on a widespread basis began to make sense only when crude prices started skyrocketing earlier this century.

But the enormous amount of energy and water needed in the extraction process has raised fears among scientists, environmentalists and officials in an aboriginal town 170 miles downstream from Fort McMurray. The critics say the growing operations by major oil companies will increase greenhouse gas emissions and threaten Alberta’s rivers and forests.

“Their projected rates of expansion are so fast that we don’t have a hope in hell of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. David Schindler, an environmental scientist at the University of Alberta.

Oil sands operations, including extraction and processing, are responsible for 4 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s expected to triple to 12 percent by 2020. Oil sand mining is Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and is one reason it reneged on its Kyoto Protocol commitments. Experts say producing a barrel of oil from sands results in emissions three times greater than a conventional barrel of oil.

Worries about environmental damage have gotten enough attention that even the oil industry realizes it must tread softly on the issue. “Industry has to improve its environmental performance,” Brian Maynard, a vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said recently.

Questions about developing Alberta’s oil sands have seeped into the U.S. presidential campaign and the debate in Canada and the U.S. over keeping down the price of gasoline while still protecting the environment.

The Bush administration sees Alberta as a reliable source of energy that will help reduce reliance on Middle East oil. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins said the oil sands will define the relationship between the two countries for the next 10 years.

“We are blessed by the fact that our friend and neighbor is also our number one supplier of foreign oil,” Wilkins told The Associated Press.

However, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s top energy adviser said oil sands emissions are “unacceptably high” and may run counter to Obama’s plan to shift the U.S. away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

“The amount of energy that you have to use to get that oil out of the ground is such that it actually creates a much greater impact on climate change, as well as using much more energy than even traditional petroleum,” Obama adviser Jason Grumet said.

Mining oil sands also was criticized by American mayors in a resolution adopted at their annual conference in June urging a ban on using oil sands-derived gasoline in municipal vehicles. They alleged the oil sands mines damage Canada’s boreal forest — boreal refers to the earth’s northern zone — and slows the transition to cleaner energy sources in the U.S.

John Baird, Canada’s environment minister, warned that Washington would lose energy security if it doesn’t take Alberta’s oil.

“If American mayors want to send their money to unstable, undemocratic countries in the Middle East instead of to Canada, that will be their call. If they want to pay a premium for Iranian, Saudi, Iraqi oil that will be their call,” Baird told the AP.

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GM to cut salaried workers, production, dividend


DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it will lay off salaried workers, cut truck production, suspend its dividend and borrow $2 billion to $3 billion to weather a severe downturn in the U.S. market.

GM said the moves will raise $15 billion to help cover losses and turn around its North American operations.

“In short, our plan is not a plan to survive. It is a plan to win,” GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said in a broadcast to employees.

Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said GM wants to reduce its total salaried costs in the U.S. and Canada by 20 percent.

A large chunk of the reduction, he said, would come from cutting health care benefits for salaried retirees. Those people would get a pension increase from the company’s overfunded pension fund to help compensate for Medicare and supplemental insurance, the company said.

Several thousand jobs will be cut through normal attrition and retirements, and through early retirement and buyout offers, Henderson said. The company could resort to involuntary layoffs but does not want to, he said.

GM has 40,000 salaried employees in the U.S. and Canada.

Henderson said the company intends to reduce its truck production capacity by 300,000 units, 150,000 more than it announced at its annual meeting in June.

The company will speed up closures of its truck and sport utility vehicle factories in Janesville, Wis.; Oshawa, Ontario; Silao, Mexico; and Moraine, Ohio, and it will make thousands of job cuts at other truck assembly and parts factories, Henderson said.

He would not say if further plants will be closed, and said the company still must negotiate further cuts with the United Auto Workers.

GM said it will suspend its $1 annual dividend immediately, which will improve liquidity by $800 million through 2009. It’s the first time the company has suspended its dividend since 1922.

The company also plans to raise $2 billion to $4 billion through the sale of assets, including its Hummer brand. It also plans to borrow $2 billion to $3 billion by pledging assets including stock of foreign subsidiaries, brands, stake in its finance arm and real estate.

GM and other auto companies have been hammered by high gas prices, the weak economy and a rapid shift in consumer tastes away from trucks and SUVs. GM’s sales were down 16 percent in the first six months of this year, led by a 21 percent decline in truck sales.

GM is forecasting total U.S. sales of 14.7 million this year. That’s down from 17 million as recently as 2005.

Just six weeks ago, GM said it would close the four truck and SUV plants and boost production of the smaller, more fuel-efficient cars that customers are demanding. It also announced production of a new car that could get 45 miles to the gallon and would go on sale in 2010.

But for an impatient Wall Street, those changes weren’t enough, and the company’s shares have hit a series of 50-year lows since July 2.

Analysts had speculated GM would need to raise more cash to get it to 2010, when it will start seeing the savings from its landmark 2007 contract with the United Auto Workers that cut hourly workers’ wages and transferred billions in hourly retiree health care obligations to a union-led trust.

As part of its financing plan, GM will defer $1.7 billion in payments to that trust that had been scheduled for this year and next.

Some analysts have also speculated that GM would declare bankruptcy, but Wagoner said last week that bankruptcy isn’t a consideration.
On the Net:

* General Motors Corp.: http://www.gm.com

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GM prepares for large cuts in North America. More bad news for Oshawa?


General Motors will unveil further measures on Tuesday to cope with the dramatic downturn in the north American vehicle market.

The world’s biggest carmaker said that the steps, to be outlined at a press conference, are designed “to align the business to current market conditions”. The conference will be attended by Rick Wagoner, chief executive, as well as Fritz Henderson, chief operating officer, and Ray Young, chief financial officer.

GM announced last month that it would close four north American light-truck plants in the wake of an abrupt shift in demand from big pick-up trucks and sport-utility vehicles to more fuel-efficient cars and crossover vehicles.

It is also reviewing the future of Hummer, its biggest vehicle, and accelerating the introduction of more popular vehicles.

GM’s US sales tumbled 18 per cent in June from a year earlier. By contrast, its business in many other countries is performing strongly. It said on Monday that sales volumes in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East jumped 18 per cent in the second quarter to a new record.

International operations now make up about 60 per cent of GM’s sales volumes.

Mr Wagoner last week dismissed talk that the company might seek bankruptcy protection or ditch more of its eight US brands.

However, it is widely expected within the next few months to take steps to shore up its liquidity, with analysts projecting that it will raise between $10bn-$15bn.

It currently has about $24bn in cash reserves but analysts estimate that it is burning about $1bn a month.

Himanshu Patel at JPMorgan said that GM had several options to bolster liquidity, including secured debt, delaying the transfer of its blue-collar healthcare plan to the United Auto Workers union, issuing new equity and further trimming capital outlays.

GM shares are currently at their lowest level in more than half a century. They slipped another 5.4 per cent on Monday to $9.38.

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Canada puts brakes on electric vehicles


Despite increasing local demand for zero-emissions cars and trucks and robust exports of electric vehicles, Canada will not allow them on its roads, lament manufacturers.

“It’s a daily embarrassment,” said Ian Clifford, president of Zenn Motor Company, which builds “zero emissions no noise” vehicles in Canada for export primarily to the United States.

“Even my employees can’t drive to work in a Zenn. It’s absurd,” he said of federal and provincial rules that forbid electric cars from being driven on most Canadian roads.

Clifford’s frustration is aggravated by the view that Canadians are increasingly concerned about the environment and are said to be eager to drive electric vehicles in this warming climate.

“We build the car in St. Jerome (Quebec) and ship them all south of the border,” where 44 states allow them, and some 45,000 electric cars are in use today, he said.

But Transport Canada says the vehicles made of lightweight metals and plastics are not safe to drive on Canada’s open roads, and would not stand up in a collision.

The regulatory agency has so far certified only five models as road-worthy, including the Zenn, and two others that are no longer in production, said Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette.

But most provinces, which have jurisdiction over the vast majority of roads and highways in the country, have balked at giving electric cars the green light, citing Transport Canada’s safety concerns.

“We found Transport Canada to be very hostile towards low speed electric vehicles,” echoed Danny Epp of Dynasty Electric Car in an email to AFP.

The Canadian company was recently sold to a Pakistani group which plans to move production to Karachi and continue exporting its vehicles to the United States.

According to reports, others allege political bias, noting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s base of support in oil-rich Alberta province.

To date, only westernmost British Columbia allows low speed electric vehicles on its urban roads.

This week, Quebec in eastern Canada announced a three-year pilot project that would permit starting in July the Zenn and an electric truck called Nemo on its roads with posted speed limits of 50 kilometers (31 miles) per hour.

Manufacturers are hoping Quebec’s pilot may spur its neighbors to jump on the bandwagon and eventually make it possible to drive an electric car from coast to coast across all 10 of Canada’s provinces.

“We hope it will lead to changes,” said Jacques Rancourt, head of utility truck maker Nemo, based in Montreal. But the road promises to be uphill all the way, he said.

Despite their widespread use in the United States and strong sales, there are still technical improvements to be made, say experts, such as boosting the life of batteries used in electric vehicles to allow them to go further.

Hydro Quebec subsidiary TM4, which makes electric motors for the Cleanova electric car built by a subsidiary of France’s Dassault auto group, is working on a new more powerful lithium-ion battery for use in electric vehicles.

According to Quebec’s Transport Minister Julie Boulet, TM4 is also seeking to partner on the project with a large automaker, which she refused to name.

“The battery is really at the heart of the matter to get electric cars rolling,” said Hydro Quebec spokesman Flavie Cote. “We all want exceptional performance from a battery that doesn’t take long to recharge, at a low cost.”

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