*This post is a slight departure from the small series I’ve been writing on current London and Canadian politics, but I will likely return to it in future posts.

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for some time, but haven’t considered in as much depth as I could. The more I learn, the more I am sincerely convinced this is something every Canadian should be thinking and talking about.

I do have to admit that I am very biased on subjects about the environment. Please ask me about the high school semester I spent at a conservation area/natural education centre learning as well as teaching basic ecology. I kid you not.

I want to learn more about this subject. As an Ontarian I will be the first to admit I haven’t been to the prairies let alone to the oil sands – despite being to both coasts I have yet to visit much of the country in between, unfortunately. But I am deeply interested in this subject, especially as it keeps coming up in the news – from seeing our PM Stephen Harper campaigned to sell our “dirty oil” to the States and fail (or at least be set back), visited China in a good-will/trade mission as an alternative source for our oil (as discussed here), and watching the EU as it has debated the designation to place on our oil, and whether they should give it a special designation apart from other oil because of the high environmental cost associated with its manufacture (discussed here, here and here).

I’ve started to read the book “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent” by Andrew Nikiforuk. I’ve found the entire book interesting, but a passage from Chapter 5: The Water Barons has really stuck with me:

Just about every damn agency in the country has expressed alarm about water use in the tar sands. The Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada, for example, a Calgary-based nonprofit research group, declares water use and reuse to be the region’s biggest issue, because “bitumen production can be much more fresh water intensive than other oil production operations.” The National Energy Board, no radical group, has questioned the sustainability of water withdrawals for bitumen mining.

It reminded me of another book I read some time ago by Maude Barlow, former Senior Adviser on Water to the UN GA, Blue Gold: The global water crisis and the commodification of the world’s water supply”. In it Maude makes the compelling case for our dwindling water resources across the world as our populations continue to explode. In particular, she predicts world tensions will increase as water resources including ground water are tapped at alarming rates, and alliances between Canada and the U.S. will become more crucial/contentious as our shared Great Lakes gain even greater prominence in the world as other fresh water resources are depleted. As well, water sources in the prairies will be taxed as the incredibly wasteful tar sands consume water to produce refinable oil.

So what is the answer? These discoveries encourage me that we should continue green energy initiatives occurring across our province, in part because of the guidance of London-West MPP and Minister of Energy Chris Bentley. I understand some of the province’s methods of implementing wind energy projects are perceived as heavy-handed, but I believe they are key if we are going to move towards healthier methods of producing energy. But a greater problem persists – we are deeply dependent on oil to live our lives. What can we possibly do to lessen this burden when so many of the machines we rely on are powered by this dirty source of energy?

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