When it comes to unconventional fossil fuels, the majority of Canadian politicians, federal and provincial, fall into two categories - idiots or featherbedders.
The Tyee has this eye-opener from geologist David Hughes, a gas and oil specialist for Natural Resources Canada for 32-years.
Unconventional fossil fuels all share a host of cruel and limiting traits says Hughes. They offer dramatically fewer energy returns; they consume extreme and endless flows of capital; they provide difficult or volatile rates of supply overtime and have "large environmental impacts in their extraction."
Most important, bitumen, shale oil and shale gas, by definition, are much lower quality hydrocarbons and therefore can't fund business as usual. They simply do not provide the same energy returns or the same amount of work as conventional hydrocarbons due to the energy needed to extract or upgrade them, says Hughes.
At the turn of the century it took just one barrel of oil to find and produce 100 more. Now the returns are down to 20. The mining portion of the tar sands offers returns of five to one while the steam plant operations barely manage returns of three to one, says Hughes. "And that's an extremely conservative estimate."
"Moving to progressively lower quality energy resources diverts more and more resources to the act of acquisition as opposed to doing useful work."
A society that progressively spends more and more capital on acquiring energy that does less and less work will either exhaust the global economy or cannibalize national ones as consumers redirect larger portions of their household budgets to energy costs, says Hughes.