The Canadian tar sands are recognized as the second largest oil reserve in the world (behind Saudi Arabia). The bitumen extracted from the tar sands would be piped along the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to be refined and sold on the world market.
But it is a sticky tar and must be upgraded to flow through the pipe. Upgrading requires burning other fossil fuels, adding 200 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere for every barrel upgraded. Compared to refining conventional oil, it produces two to three times the sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter. Even now, 400 millions gallons of toxic waste water is produced every day at the tar sands.
Avery warns about the carbon dump. The tar sands contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global use in our entire history. He claims we will reach a threshold and we will not be able to rein it in.
Avery's book contains many facts but he also includes lots of personal stories. He shares the mind and spirit of people like himself, people who understand the earth is in crisis and feel that they have to do something about it. He travels to various places along the proposed pipeline, sharing stories of people intimidated, threatened with lawsuits, and some willing to endure the ramifications of civil disobedience. “We will keep the earth habitable not by destroying oil companies, but by igniting the conscience of their customers.
In the midst of his personal journey is information about feedback loops, climate change, fracking (an environmental nightmare all on its own, including unknown chemicals being pumped into the ground), and the transition from a national paradigm to a global one.
In the end, he encourages us to look at fossil fuels as transitional fuels. They have brought us to where we are. Now we need to be weened off of them to the emerging new ways to obtain and use energy.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I've been more concerned with the coal train issue than I was with the pipeline. Having read this book, I now understand the global impact the tar sands and the pipeline might have on a global scale. Read this book and be awakened to what might be our children's future.
Samuel Avery is a certified solar installer, longtime social activist, trainer in nonviolent resistance techniques, and author. He has written four other books. He and his wife live on a small homestead outside Louisville, Kentucky.
Ruka Press, 240 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.