Tuesday, November 09, 2010

If the Tar Sands are Such a Boon to Alberta, Why All the Boondoggles?

The Athabasca Tar Sands make money - for Big Oil at least.  The bitumen pits supposedly make plenty of money for the federal and Alberta governments too but just how much do they really pour into government coffers?

Like all good petro-states much of this vital information isn't readily available to the public and just as much probably isn't even known.   It's just as easy to cook the books as it is to cook the bitumen.

The sludge we process to provide SUV juice to American gas pumps is heavily subsidized.    For example, if Big Oil paid the actual value of the vast quantities of fresh water it draws from the Athabasca and Peace Rivers there probably wouldn't be a project at all.   But the oil companies get that public property for virtually nothing.   When we give public property to a private company, that's a subsidy.

What about the land, air and water contamination associated with bitumen extraction and processing?   When you let the producers off the hook for the cost of cleanup, that's a subsidy.   When our healthcare systems and society bear the cost of the human toll from that contamination, that's a subsidy.

Today there was a torrent of greenwash from the Alberta government about carbon capture and sequestration.   There'll be a fund set up for that - a shared fund - industry and the Alberta government will pick up the tab (supposedly).   The government's share is a subsidy.

But what might become the biggest subsidy of them all is the Alberta government's agreement to assume liability for whatever might happen should all those millions of tonnes of compressed CO2 leak back out to the surface - ever as in forever and ever, amen.   CO2 is lethal.  When If that pressurized and toxic gas eventually does find an opening to the surface maybe this century, maybe next, maybe a millenium from now, the liability for deaths and loss could be enormous.   That too is a subsidy or at least the present value of that indemnity sure is.

These are all subsidies but only when you recognize them for what they are.  If you're like the Alberta government or even our federal government, you can pretend to turn a blind eye.   But that doesn't change a damned thing and, when it comes to change, it'll be the people of Alberta who stand to get short-changed.


double nickel said...

Bravo. Well spoken.

LMA said...

These subsidies are like a carbon tax paid by the taxpayer to the oil companies for all the wrong reasons. Instead of going to the development of renewables, the tax goes to the development of fossil fuels. Instead of reducing GHG's and pollution, the tax increases GHG's and pollution. Like the Green Shift in reverse, designed to keep us all addicted to oil.

The Mound of Sound said...

You're right LMA. Revenue foregone by a government through these 'off the book' subsidies eventually falls to be reclaimed from the taxpayer. Yet the people of Alberta seem strangely complacent to it all.

Anonymous said...

"Yet the people of Alberta seem strangely complacent to it all." That's because they are brain washed. Anyong

Anonymous said...

A portion of your blog mentioning the terms "carbon capture and sequestration" brought another blog to mind. One that thoroughly examined the realities, lies, myths, and various gov't (CDN) connections to these (2) processes. A blog I might add that was shut down. The month of May 2010 in particular, was packed with tidbits of information - starting with the Cons. Gov't and RLP Energy...and then it went from there. Here it is:http://battlelight.blogspot.com/2010/05/more-links-between-federal-conservative.html

An annonymous/interested/like-minded reader