Last week, OpenEI focused on the issues related to fracking. We showed both the potential gains and pitfalls of continued fracking policy in the United States. Another hot issue in the United States and internationally are oil sands, or tar sands.
The epicenter of this issue resides in Alberta, Canada, in the Athabasca river basin. It contains the largest concentration of bitumen in the world. Bitumen is a think, black, viscous type of petroleum. In recent years, oil sands have become a part of global oil reserves, and as a result Canada now ranks 2nd only to Saudi Arabia in oil reserves thanks to the oil sands in Alberta.
The oil sands are buried in mixed layers of clay and sand and varying depths in and around the Athabasca river basin. The process is a rather exhaustive process that requires clearing and mining. Then, the material must be heated in order to obtain the bitumen.
The Alberta economy has shown large rises in job growth and GDP due to the rise in value of the oil sands and foreign investment in extraction of the resource. However, similar to fracking, many environmentalists stand opposed to the process due to recent reports that deforestation and water contamination are having an effect on the ecosystem. Some environmentalists also argue that the boreal forest, making up 10% of the world’s forest, is vital to keeping GHGs low and clearing it is a detrimental act to people, natural resources, and animals.
To learn more and contribute to the oil sands issue, and find out about regulations and policies, related reports, and links to more information about the topic, visit the OpenEI Tar Sands page