[Vision2020] the energy cost of oil sands

Nick Gier ngier at uidaho.edu
Tue May 8 10:00:36 PDT 2007

Greetings from Edmonton,

The University of Alberta, where my daughter works, is receiving huge 
funding increases from Alberta's oil, so I guess I shouldn't be complaining.

Here are some items from the "The Edmonton Journal" from the last two 
days.  First, there is a huge surplus of sulphur building up from the 
oil sands extraction process.  These pools and piles pose 
environmental risks that Alberta's oil industry has not invested 
enough to prevent. In 1995 a sulphur fire killed many people and 
destroyed the cropland around the South African town of Macassar.

Second, a recent poll showed that 70 percent of Albertans want a 
absolute reduction in pollution from the oil industry.

Third, so what does the government do in response?  In their new 
strict pollution measures, the oil industry is exempted and allowed a 
5 percent increase in nitrogen oxide levels and a 60 percent in 
volatile organic compounds until 2015.

Just as in the U.S., where oil is king, the kings get their way.

P.S. A Canadian study on the effects of same sex parenting, done 
under the previous Liberal government, was finally released by the 
current Conservative government only after the authors insisted that 
it be published.  The results showed that lesbian parents might 
actually raise slightly better children, results consistent with most 
all other studies.

Nick Gier

At 01:25 AM 5/8/2007, you wrote:
>I understand some of the "benefits" of He3 are: less energy is lost 
>in the form of neutrons that escape magnetic containment and the 
>containment mechanism is less arduous for He3 reactors.  He3 is rare 
>on Earth, but abundant on our moon.  I don't know or understand much 
>of this science; a recent documentary piqued my interest and I 
>visited a few websites.  Whatever the best technology is (will be) 
>there are significant plans being developed by various nations to 
>mine the moon.
>I do not expect fusion to cure mankinds appetite for energy and 
>neglect of nature's balance.  I do think it is interesting, the 
>extent in which man will go to acquire new & better w/o fully 
>comprehending the resulting implications, and even ignoring problems 
>from past shortsightedness.  Mankind seems to frequently look away 
>from the mirror to find solutions to self-created 
>problems.  Sometimes that works well, but we are want to ignore one 
>obvious solution - namely don't do what we've been doing.
>As long as the major litmus test for progress is monetary profit for 
>private sector investors, I do not hold much hope for environmental 
>& social issues to be at the fore-front until a crisis is at our 
>door.  Even though these issues offer profit for entrepreneurial 
>investors, it's slow for markets to change direction.
>Mark et. al.
>I don't understand the big breakthrough in mining the moon for He3 
>for fusion over the already planned fusion reactors using fuel 
>already on Earth.  Sure, its a potential future energy source, but 
>from what I have read on this subject, practical affordable fusion 
>power is decades away, perhaps as far off as 2050.  There are still 
>debates in the scientific community whether practical affordable 
>fusion power will succeed.  He3 fusion reactors from moon sourced 
>He3 will in fact involve the extra costs of mining the moon and 
>shipping the fuel to Earth.  How is this an advantage over the 
>deuterium/lithium/tritium test-bed fusion reactor now being built in 
>France, called ITER?  The fuel for this reactor design is already 
>abundant on Earth.  And in fact, one of the articles you listed 
>indicated that He3 fusion is more difficult than 
>deuterium/lithium/tritium fusion.
>Info on ITER in France.
>If I have this wrong, please explain.  But I do not see how mining 
>the moon for He3 will do anything to solve the problem of human 
>induced global warming.
>Furthermore, all dominant trends indicate fossil fuel consumption 
>globally will continue to increase for decades.  We can't wait until 
>2050 for a possible breakthrough in fusion power.  Efforts to 
>sequester enough CO2 to lower output in absolute amounts, or lower 
>fossil fuel consumption in absolute amounts, face extreme obstacles, 
>for very powerful economic, political, social and lifestyle 
>reasons.  China and India are developing at a rapid rate, and cheap 
>energy fuels this development.  Huge amounts of cheap energy is an 
>essential driving variable explaining why the USA has the world's 
>largest economy (using per capita more energy than any other nation).
>For example, coal is currently the cheapest energy source for 
>electricity.  The USA has the world's largest coal reserves.  If the 
>USA is serious about reducing CO2 output, CO2 sequestration would 
>immediately be mandated for CO2 power plants, with a huge investment 
>in developing and implementing this nascent technology, assuming it 
>can be done on the large scale required.  This would increase the 
>cost of electricity from coal, which would help competing Green 
>energy sources (wind, solar etc.) increase their presence in the 
>marketplace.  This basic "no brainer" step to seriously address 
>global warming is not happening now in the USA.  And if the USA 
>cannot implement this change, what are the chances that China with 
>its huge coal reserves will also implement this approach?
>Perhaps if the recent attempts to get the EPA to regulate CO2 are 
>taken seriously, given that the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of 
>EPA regulation, the USA will start to implement CO2 sequestration 
>for coal sourced energy, along with CO2 taxes for new motor vehicles 
>(England already does this, with the CO2 tax increasing as the gas 
>economy goes down) and increased CAFE standards.
>If CO2 sequestration for large scale coal energy generation is not 
>practical, well... Either don't use coal, or risk extreme global 
>warming, given the reliance on huge coal reserves for cheap energy 
>in the USA, China, and elsewhere.
>Perhaps a practical affordable breakthrough technology, that could 
>win the 25 million dollar prize billionaire Richard Branson recently 
>offered for atmospheric processors that can remove CO2 directly from 
>the atmosphere, will be developed.  I would not count on this, 
>though, to justify the continuing increases in CO2 emissions, with 
>the potential disastrous consequences from global warming we are risking.
>Serious proposals are being discussed to inject sulfur into the 
>upper atmosphere to block sunlight to slow global warming, mimicking 
>the cooling effects of volcanic emissions.  Placing large numbers of 
>"mirrors" in space is also proposed.  These efforts would be very 
>expensive, and perhaps have serious side effects or unexpected long 
>term consequences, but if global warming becomes the disaster 
>predicted, desperate measures may be adopted.
>Ted Moffett
>On 5/6/07, mark seman <<mailto:fcs at moscow.com>fcs at moscow.com> wrote:
>If we can survive global warming for another decade or two by 
>changing our energy production/consumption habits, it looks like 
>we'll be mining the moon of its He3 resources for fusion energy here on earth.
>and many others.
>Mark et. al.
>The irony!
>As some promote nuclear power to substitute for CO2 emitting fossil 
>fuel energy, we read this suggestion to use nuclear power to assist 
>in fossil fuel development and use, and thus facilitate increased 
>CO2 emissions...
>We hear the skeptics about human induced global warming talk about 
>the uncertainties of climate science, questioning the necessity of 
>taking dramatic action to reduce CO2 emissions.  Of course, if the 
>Earth's climate was being considered for an insurance policy against 
>damages, and there was a 50% chance of the estimates of damage from 
>human induced global warming predicted by the IPCC coming true, no 
>insurance company would offer protection, or the price would be astronomical.
>This website below at first struck me as a extremist and 
>unscientific analysis of the threat of human induced global warming, 
>but after careful reading, it now seems like a warning from the 
>point of view of a worst case, though possible, scenario, backed 
>mostly by credible climate science.  There is a section on the 
>damage to the insurance industry from severe climate change:
>Ted Moffett
>On 5/4/07, Mark Solomon 
><<mailto:msolomon at moscow.com>msolomon at moscow.com > wrote:
>Extracting the oil from the bitumen is so energy intensive that 
>nuclear plants may be built to power the refineries.
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