NPR: Canadian tar sands 'last place to go' for oil

by Joshua J. McElwee

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This morning American Public Media's Marketplace ran a feature about companies trying to extract oil from tar sands north of the border in Canada.

NCR reported on the ecologically damaging process in an article by Sharon Abercrombie in May.

Here's a priceless excerpt with an exchange between Marketplace reporter Sean Cole and David Yager, a columnist for Oil Week magazine:

Almost every major international and Canadian oil company is somehow involved in the oil sands. After all, there are 170 billion barrels of proven reserves under northern Alberta, the largest petroleum reserve outside Saudi Arabia. The process of turning it into fuel would take the entire show to explain. It's a pain. Even the most loyal defender of the oil sands I spoke to had to level with me.

DAVID YAGER: Let's be honest about the oil sands -- this is the last place you wanna go.

His name's David Yager and he writes a column for Oil Week magazine.

YAGER: I mean, why would you bother going to the middle of nowhere, and digging up sand and spending all this energy processing it.

And then he pretty much answered his own question.

YAGER: You know, if we can go into Iraq without getting shot at, if you could go into Venezuela without getting nationalized.

COLE: Nigeria.

YAGER: Yeah, if you could go to Nigeria, if you could go to these places, I suspect gasoline would be 50 cents a liter and oil would be 20 bucks a barrel.

Weirdly, it's the price of oil that governs these projects though, not the other way around. Oil has to cost a certain amount in the first place to make digging in the oil sands worthwhile. And that's just the economics. There is, of course, another kind of cost.

YAGER: That developing the oil sands is environmentally hazardous?

COLE: Yeah.

YAGER: Well, yeah. The Gulf of Mexico's not lookin' too s***-hot these days either. I mean, there's no such thing as clean oil. This is the absurdity of the debate.

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