Canadian Oil: the sad truth comes out…

Ok, I’m shocked, appalled and once again embarrassed

A new report came out today on the environmental performance of our precious oil sands in Alberta, Canada. It was done by Pembina Research Institute and WWF-Canada and can be found here. (G&M article here, National Post here)

In Under-Mining the environment, The Oil sands Report Card, nine of Alberta’s 10 operating, approved and applied for oil sands mines get failing environmental grade. The average score among all oil sands projects, surveyed by Pembina Institute and WWF-Canada, was only 33%, demonstrating substantial room for improvement across the sector.

(Note: I’m most likely so appalled by these findings because I’m currently studying environmental management systems (ISO 14001) right now so all of this is fresh in the mind.)

I could probably make a novel of my thoughts but I’ll just jot down some points that are clouding my head on this issue:



  • only 2 out of 10 are certified to ISO 14001 – int’l standard for environmental management systems
    • these mines are part of some huge corporations – no reason that they shouldn’t be internationally certified -umm.. Shell? (Albian has it and is part of Shell… so not quite understanding the other Shell not having it
  • policies are one thing, actually having an outsider look at the performance of those policies is another story…i.e. transparency!
  • no commitment to continuous improvement?
    • That’s the backbone of quality management (the buzz word of the 70’s- where have they been?) and not to mention, the concept of striving to always be better is just good business practice.
  • no benchmarking?

    • the whole point of the report is that if the oil companies in the region just looked to each other for best practices they would achieve serious ecological benefits …It’s not rocket science. Where are the Best Available Technologies?
  • Rejection and denial?
    • I hate comments like this (from Syncrude who got an 18% on the report card- mind you, they weren’t included in a lot of the findings for reporting reasons)
      • “We obviously don’t agree with their findings,” said company spokesman Alain Moore. “In fact, we consider ourselves a leader in sustainability in the oilsands.” Moore said the company is the most efficient user of water in the industry. And the company has an emissions-reduction project worth $772-million that will bring down sulphur pollution in phases between 2009 and 2011, he said.
      • THE POINT IS – YOU’RE STILL WEAK ELSEWHERE! Take a hint from the report, don’t just dismiss it.

Oh my, I’m sure I could keep ranting but I must start other homework… (takes a lot of work to do the research on these blog articles!)

Oh, and to add to all of this, Saskatchewan is now thinking of going down the same path… oh dear…

But in any event, I’m not calling for an end to the oil sands in Alberta (that’ll come in its own time…) but I’m fed up with two things:

  1. Government money flying into non-renewable, energy/resource intense fuels
  2. those non-renewable, energy/resource intense companies being allowed to proceed with utter disregard for the people and the environment

So, Canada – there seems to be a trend here. There’s no question about the resources, we’re a very rich country indeed (re: pulp and paper). However, when it comes time to using those resources in an efficient and sustainable way, we let it all slide.

Fortune is fickle. Let’s not be blinded by the riches.

4 thoughts on “Canadian Oil: the sad truth comes out…

  1. Avery Henderson says:

    Alberta and Canada are jumping the gun on this one. It seems like there’s almost a deadline that they need to keep, although there’s none there, and they have too much that needs to be done in that amount of time. So what takes a backseat? The environment. There’s no question it will end in due time, maybe 50-60 years? It’s how they want it to end that they’re not thinking of. When it runs out, Fort McMurray will be a ghost town, and other cities such as Thunder Bay will still be on the decline because of a high dollar closing all the mills around NW Ontario.
    Canada’s so eager to become an oil superpower, that it seems no one’s thinking straight. There are days where you need to live in the now… this isn’t one of them.

    The Globe and Mail released a week-long series on the Alberta Tar Sands which is very provocative.

    I especially like the article on Norway… if only.

  2. janeporter says:

    Agreed. Thanks Avery:)

    I think I read 2 of the articles.. very interesting and i know, go Norway! (did you see our response to Norway?!) Angers the hell out of me…

    Mel Knight, Alberta’s Energy Minister, said in an interview during a recent visit to London that he does not believe his province has any lessons to take from Norway.

    “First of all, Norway is a country that is a federal jurisdiction. And if we were to turn over all of our resources in Canada back to the federal government, perhaps they would operate the thing differently.

    “But our Constitution in Canada dictates that the province of Alberta has the mandate to deal with our own natural resources. We feel that wealth generation in the province of Alberta is worth something, and that to put that money back in the hands of Albertans, and let those people do what they do best with their money, is a better opportunity for us.”

    Wow… complete disregard and greediness.

  3. Avery Henderson says:

    Crap, I just replied to the wrong thread… no big deal. That Mel Knight quote totally struck a chord with me too! I was just thinking about people like that the other day. I can’t imagine thinking and talking money all the time, and people suck it up because it’s about money, and they want it.

  4. […] the West tries to beat out the (enormous) amount of bitumen from the tar sands (profitable sure, sustainable, not at all), I like how Ontario is positioning itself.  A good question now would be what the government is […]

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