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Fort McMurray: We have the Energy

posted by dru Geography: West Fort McMurray Topics: oil

June 11, 2007

Fort McMurray: We have the Energy

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When you're traveling to Fort McMurray, Alberta--five hours north of Edmonton--people assume you're going there to work. The average income here is around $90,000/year. Presented with "we're going just to find out what's going on," people are baffled. The northern city is known for being an expensive, rough place with nothing to do, too much traffic and a lack of services.

So why are people coming up here by the thousands?

The Independent has an explanation:

The province of Alberta in the country's west is sitting on the world's second largest oil reserves. Its vast fields cover 149,000 square kilometres, an area larger than England, and experts estimate it holds 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. A mere sliver, 10 per cent, is recoverable at today's oil prices, but that is enough to make Canada's viable supply second only to that of Saudi Arabia.

There's a lot of enthusiasm about the economy, and a lot of money to be made.

But the tar sands aren't exactly a low-impact endeavor. To get the actual sand out, all of the trees are removed. After that, the "overburden" an industry term for the soil covering the tar sands is also removed, before the sand itself can be hauled out. After that, the oil is separated from the sands using an energy intensive process involving natural gas--and possibly nuclear or geothermal sources in the future.

What is the impact of all of this?

There have only been faint suggestions that the ecological consequences of what will be the largest industrial project in human history extend beyond the immediate lands.

In the coming months, we'll be documenting what's going on in the tar sands, and the long term effects this has on the people and other living things in the surrounding areas.


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