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Canada’s oil sands: The business with the black gold

Canada's oil sands

The USA does not get most of their oil from the new fracking process, nor does it come from the Middle East, but from Canada, exactly from Canada’s oil sands. Every day, the Canadians deliver over 3.5 million barrels to the USA.[1] It’s crude oil extracted from oil sands, with a tremendous technical effort and disastrous consequences for nature. Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in order to be able to do business with the oil sands.[2]

Canada’s oil sands

The province of Alberta lives only from and for the oil in the sand: the small town of Fort McMurray at the top of the mountain of dark brown coloured sand is full of people living in a new black gold rush: At the side of the road they put up masses of prefabricated houses to house the workers and businesses. The rising price of crude oil in recent years has made the costly extraction of oil from sand profitable. And Canada is lucky: it has an estimated 168 billion barrels. That makes it the third-largest oil reserves in the world, right behind Saudi Arabia.[3]

But the price of extraction is frighteningly high for nature, which is why resistance is growing. Extracting a barrel of crude oil from sand consumes a lot of energy. It needs ten times more power than conventional production from a conventional oil field. For 1000 litres of oil from sand you need 8000 litres of water. This water is highly toxic after the production process. Furthermore, it has to be stored in special collecting basins and elaborately detoxified. [4]

The Canadians have decided to leave the Kyoto Protocol because oil sands production has exponentially increased their emissions of greenhouse gases. Many Canadians see this as a national disgrace. In addition, the health and lives of the indigenous Indian population in the oil sands areas are at risk.[5] Cancer rates are now 20 to 30 percent higher than the national average. But Canada has made up its mind and is currently one of the world’s largest oil producers.


[1] Markets,

[2] Canada pulls out of Kyoto protocol,

[3] Crude oil facts,

[4] Oil Sands,

[5] Oil Sands Development: A Health Risk Worth Taking?,

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