Environmental Impact of Oil Sands – Essay Example

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The paper 'Environmental Impact of Oil Sands' is a worthy example of an essay on environmental studies.   Oil sands provide a perfect opportunity of keeping up with the increasing demand for energy in the world. Energy production that is not efficient comes with the challenge of environmental degradation. The environmental impacts of oil sands are huge and adverse and have an important bearing on the economy of the nation. Both positive and negative impacts have been explored while discussing the debate surrounding the development of oil sands in Alberta. The need to develop oil sands The energy in the form of oil, coal, natural gas, and other alternatives is needed to meet the growing energy demands of the world.

The development of oil sands in Canada which is the world’ s largest oil resource after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia is a very important part of the equation. Oil sands industry has made important investments in new technologies to enhance energy efficiency and contribute to a reduction of carbon emissions. Canada is home to the third-largest hydrocarbon basin in the world-the oil sands. This long term, abundant, and secure resource offers important energy potential for the world markets and Canadians in particular (Davis, Caldeira & Matthews 1332).

  Close to 1.7 trillion barrels of oil are estimated to be contained in the oil sands. 169 billion barrels can be obtained using modern technology. Oil sands industry has led to cutting energy use by 33% and there is visible evidence to reduce the need for chemical additives, underground combustion, and electricity. Oil sands crude is the same as other oil sources when it comes to fuel combustion.

The oil sands are huge and an essential energy source for growing consumer demand and economy. The development of oil sands presently generates close to 112,000 jobs in Canada. This is expected to move to over 500,000 in the next 25 years. Advances in technological innovation and research enable the generation of oil in an efficient manner. There is acceleration in pace to improve the environmental performance of the old sands industry (Chastko 108). There are community investments in education, business, and provision of employment opportunities that have been contributed by sands oil development.                                                                                             How Alberta oil sands changed everything Canadians and Albertans are increasingly concerned when they observe the way Alberta’ s oil sands are being developed.

Amidst increasing urgency on the need to fight global warming, the oil sands have become Canada’ s fastest-growing source of pollution of greenhouse gas. Other challenges from drawing down levels of water in the Athabasca River; to hundreds of square kilometers of the strip, to the creation of toxic tailings, dumps; drilling and mining in the boreal forest-are growing just as rapidly. Many of the social, economic, and environmental impacts being felt across Alberta can be traced to the decision to construct the oil sands as fast as possible as opposed to manageable pace (Mathews et al 830).

Whereas oil sands projects have grown rapidly, government planning and policies have fallen far behind, leaving a serious deficit in environmental management. Tar sands have been categorized as the second-fastest cause of deforestation on the planet following the Amazon Rainforest Basin. Traditional homelands and forests are being depleted at an amazing pace (Niobe & Radford 2011).     Oil sand mining has got a huge impact on the environment.

Forests have to be cleared for both in situ and open-pit mining. Pit mines are capable of growing to above 80 meters deep as huge trucks remove up to seven hundred and twenty thousand tons of sand each day. By September 2011 close to six hundred and sixty-three square kilometers of land had been interfered with for oil sands mining. Persistent emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further changes and warming to all other components of the system of the climate.

Preventing climate change will need essential and sustained reductions in emissions of greenhouse gas.   The epidemiological health data from Albert tar sands for brain tumors and cancer Tar sands are a low-quality form of oil that comprises of bitumen that is mixed with clay, sand, and water. Large quantities of the substance are found in Alberta, Canada. Tar sands are extreme oil in every aspect. Its extraction is specifically water and energy-intensive, polluting, and destructive. Human health in various communities has importantly taken a turn for the worse with many causes being attributed to tar sands production (Chastko 67).

  The production of tar sands production has contributed to series of social issues throughout Alberta, from housing crises to the vast Both air and water pollution could present a health hazard despite the assurance of an independent panel that established no definite connection between the mines and specific illnesses as by 2010 December. Health may be impacted over the coming decades. Processing tar sands oil produces pollutants that have been directly linked to asthma, birth defects, and emphysema into American communities. Refining of tar sands crude produces more air pollution in communities in America that are already affected by cancer and poor quality of air owing to oil industry activities.

The rate of cancer in the town is 30% above the national average. Fish stocks have been horribly mutilated and depleted. The natives of Fort Chipewyan have received from Canadian politicians (Niobe & Radford 2011).   Tar sands oil has more toxic metals, more nickel, and sulfur, nitrogen, and lead as compared to conventional crude oil. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals released in the refining of tar oil sands have been associated with prenatal brain damage (Davis, Caldeira & Matthews 1332).

Exposure to nitrogen oxides is a cause of emphysema, asthma and lung diseases. The lead, mercury, and arsenic in tar sands waste is a threat to human life even in small quantities.   The community of Fort Chipewyan water contamination The extraction of oil sands from Canada is causing devastating effects on the indigenous people. Water contamination has been rampant. The largest tar sands pipeline operator in Canada releases its toxic products south through Leech Lake lands.

Oil spills from pipelines have spilled toxic crude from tar oil sands in Albert threatening the community’ s water. This is affecting agriculture and dependency on traditional foods (Chastko 72). Traditional areas gathering sage with regard to the reservation have been destroyed by pipelines. Water sources and community’ s farms have been contaminated by toxic materials from seeping pipelines. Ranches and organic farming has been adversely affected. Farming livelihoods have been threatened following contamination of water. Pipeline by TransCanada threatens directly wetlands and wells with contamination from tar oil sands crude. For each barrel of bitumen obtained, one and a half barrel of waste is created that goes into tailing ponds.

Most of them are leaking (Niobe & Radford 2011). In conclusion, Oil sands in Canada in Alberta provide a potential opportunity for increasing energy production for the country. This is the second-largest oil reserve in the world. Despite the many benefits that are associated with the development of oil sands, there are glaring challenges that may pose a big problem in the future. Some of the challenges like pollution have affected the local community with increased cases of cancer and brain tumor.

Oil spillage from pipelines threatens the lives of people since toxic products like mercury and lead are normally released and contaminate water and soil.                


Chastko Anthony Paul, Developing Alberta's Oil Sands: From Karl Clark to Kyoto, University of Calgary Press, 2004.

Davis, S.J., Caldeira, K. & Matthews, H.D. Future CO2 Emissions and Climate Change from Existing Energy Infrastructure, Science 10 (2010): 1330-1333.

Mathews, H.D., Gillet, N.P., Stott, P.A. & Zickfeld, K., The proportionality of global warming to cumulative carbon emissions, Nature 459(2009), 829-832.

Niobe Thompson & Tom Radford, “Tipping point: The End of Oil” Journeyman Pictures, 2011, retrieved from http://www.journeyman.tv/62790/documentaries/

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