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Tar Sands in Alberta

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    Tarmageddon: Dirty oil is turning Canada into a corrupt petro-state In Andrew Nikiforuk’s environmental article, “Tarmageddon: Dirty oil is turning Canada into a corrupt petro-state,” Nikiforuk accurately supports his thesis of negative impacts on the environmental, economical, and political problems Canada could face due to the Alberta tar sands. Nikiforuk is a credited journalist who has won seven National Magazine awards and awards from the Association of Canadian Journalist.

    He writes passionately about the major effects that mining bitumen and long term consequences of the tar sands in Alberta. His articles has a bias and is written in a pessimistic tone against the tar sands, but is justified with concrete evidence. The tar sands in Alberta are land masses that are being mined for large deposits of bitumen and crude oil causing a colossal environmental controversy. They have “blackened the country’s environmental reputation” (P 211) Nikiforuk states, immediately gives the readers a strong emotional disposition even without further knowledge of the tar sands.

    The project is massive enough to ruin our entire country’s reputation by making “minimal investments in green energy” (P 211). The product bitumen that is being extracted from the earth has a “carbon footprint 244 percent greater” (P211) than domestic crude at the cost of “1. 4 million hectares of forest” (P212). After the land has been mined, open pits that are not sustainable for plant life are left in its place.

    The immense amount of toxic waste is buried in “unlined dykes” (P212) that leak waste into our ecosystems threatening plant and animal life even endangering species survival. Steam plants needed to melt out bitumen require “one joule of energy to make 1. 4 joules of bitumen” (P212) results in very little net gain. The tar sands started in the 1990’s, but it wasn’t until 2009 that “federal and provincial standards for reporting the volume of pollutants…and for reducing mining waste” (P212) was initialized by the government.

    In the past, Canada has been credited as being a global leader in green initiatives but now has “no effective climate change policy” (P212). Nikiforuk connects the environmental and political issues by connecting that Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, comes from a family history of Imperial Oil executives. Stating that Harper is a “climate change skeptic” (212) and has a massive influence on the nation’s environmental policy politically. Nikiforuk believes that the government is in favor of the extrusion of bitumen for financial reasons.

    The government puts a positive aspect on the tar sands that it is “Canada’s new economic engine,” (P213) but there are several negative points to be made also. Although many jobs are being created from the tar sands, “foreign temporary workers” (P213) exceed the number of Canadians working on the sites by “20 percent” (P213). Although the value of the Canadian dollar has been increased due to tar sands, the exportation of bitumen has “hammered industries” (P213) within Canada by making it hard for “manufacturers to sell goods” (P213).

    Nikiforuk has thoroughly supported all his arguments that Canada’s reputation could be discredited by the tar sands by proving environmental, political and economic downfalls from the project. Although he writes with a bias, strong pessimistic tone that could sway reader’s opinions he has accurate numbers and facts that support Canada could be in jeopardy due to the tar sands. Nikiforuk did not include any of the positive outcomes or implementations Canada has put in place regarding the tar sands but he supports his thesis very well.

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    Tar Sands in Alberta. (2016, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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