[Marxism] Re: Peak oil

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 14 16:23:36 MDT 2005

Bob M:
>I haven't followed this thread but from the above I assume there are
>some on the list who buy into the "oil is running out" variant of the
>peak oil thesis. The NYTs  Canadian correspondent, Clifford Krauss, no
>friend of the oil industry, wrote Sunday on the rush by Anglo-American
>oil giants, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Texaco to plow
>major investments into the Athabaska oil sands region in northern
>( www.nytimes.com/2005/10/09/international/americas/09canada.html)

Actually, a peak oil theorist has explained the interest in oil sands as a 
reaction to the growing unavailability of *cheap* oil in politically stable 

Oil sands are likewise reputed to be potential substitutes for conventional 
oil. The Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta contain an estimated 870 
billion to 1.3 trillion barrels of oil -- an amount equal to or greater 
than all of the conventional oil extracted to date. Currently, Syncrude (a 
consortium of companies) and Suncor (a division of Sun Oil Company) operate 
oil sands plants in Alberta. Syncrude now produces over 200,000 barrels of 
oil a day. The extraction process involves using hot-water flotation to 
remove a thin coating of oil from grains of sand, then adding naphtha to 
the resulting tar-like material to thin it so that it can be pumped. 
Currently, two tons of sand must be mined in order to yield one barrel of 
oil. As with oil shale, the net-energy figures for oil sands are 
discouraging. Geologist Walter Youngquist notes "it takes the equivalent of 
two out of each three barrels of oil recovered to pay for all the energy 
and other costs involved in getting the oil from the oil sands.

The primary method used to process oil sands yields an oily wastewater. For 
each barrel of oil recovered, 2.5 barrels of liquid waste are pumped into 
huge ponds. In the Syncrude pond, 14 miles in circumference, 20 feet of 
murky water floats on a 130-foot-thick slurry of sand, silt, clay, and 
unrecovered oil. Residents of northern Alberta have engaged in activist 
campaigns to close down the oil sands plants because of devastating 
environmental problems, including displacement of native people, 
destruction of boreal forests, livestock deaths, and an increase in 

Replacing conventional crude with oil sands to meet the world's energy 
appetite would require about 700 additional plants the size of the existing 
Syncrude plant. Together, they would generate a waste pond the size of Lake 
Ontario. While oil sands represent a potential energy asset for Canada, 
they cannot make up for the inevitable decline in the global production of 
conventional oil.


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