Syncrude acknowledgesTar Sands "reclamation" is skin deep

Fri, 2008-03-21 14:32Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Syncrude acknowledgesTar Sands "reclamation" is skin deep

“If people aren't looking closely, it blends into the natural landscape.”

That was the triumphant description of the first piece of land “officially certified as reclaimed from any of Alberta's oil sands” - it's good enough to impress the government, but even the Syncrude spokester admits the claim won't stand up to scrutiny.

All this was reported this week in a celebratory story in the Globe and Mail:Piece of oil sands first to be certified as reclaimed.

The Globe reported that Syncrude and “government officials” thought this announcement was “a milestone in easing concerns over the megaprojects.”

Not hardly.

Comments

Just goes to show you that all good news will be spun as bad news by some environmentalists. Of course, no mention is made of the 200,000 trees planted and I’m sure no one posting here has actually seen the tar sands development.

“Not hardly.”

I have

I was at the Syncrude site a couple of times just after they started up. I even went “sailing” on their tailings pond. And that was a terrible mess even back then.

You are so stupid, does it come naturally or do you have to work at it?

Ian Forrester

It must take a special kind of fool to go “sailing” on a tailings pond. Did you go skinny dipping in it too Ian?

*If* you actually visited the tars sands, I’ll give you credit for that. Why don’t you go visit again? You might see some of the millions of trees Syncrude has planted.

Is it 200,000 trees or millions of trees?

I guess the trees are mostly just made up in the denialists’ head, so the exact numbers don’t matter.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Frank Bi, http://tinyurl.com/yp98x4
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

It’s millions Frankie! Millions and millions!!

According to Syncrude, that monster of pure capitalist evil, they have planted 4,530,354 trees as of 2006.

http://sustainability.syncrude.ca/sustainability2006/environmental/reclamation.html

I know that you too will be most disappointed by this news of millions of trees being planted.

Probably they are planting millions of twigs of which about 47 will actually survive past a year.

Thanks VJ! We can always rely on you for your dour, cynical outlook on things. Spoken like a true evironmentalist!

What’s the matter Paul S? Did you get laughed off the science blogs again?

does not recreate the complex and diverse environment that was destroyed for the tar sands, sending what wildlife that survived fleeing to find a new home. That will take ages to recover, if it ever does.

Fern Mackenzie

Unlike the piece of land you live on Fern which has been returned to pristine condition, eh?

As I’ve said, you can never, ever make some environmentalists happy.

By comparison, anyway. I live in a small farming village on a bit more than a tenth of an acre (.04 ha), of which roughly half is the footprint of the house & parking spot. I have in fact taken down two trees this year that were damaging the foundation of the house, and have planted four new ones (native varieties) at a better distance. I have also planted specific shrub varieties to provide habitat for birds, and a range of other plants that feed birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects. I use no insecticides or herbicides, nor salt on the driveway, use an electric mower for what little grass I have, compost everything (including grey water from the kitchen), and routinely dig compost into the soil for my vegetables. This summer I am installing a rain barrel to allow me to water the veggies without putting a strain on the well during dry spells. The wood used to construct my fences has not been chemically treated, and the posts were harvested from a working woodlot that is scrupulously managed. I even put out the stripped fur from grooming my dogs for the birds to use for their nests.

I practice what I preach, Paul S, to the maximum extent possible. I am doing my best to share my space with other creatures who are being driven out by human activity. Compared to the so-called reclamation on the tar sands, I think my little patch is a much more diverse and integrated eco-system than what Syncrude has slapped together. No, I haven’t re-created a pristine, untouched wilderness. But it’s a damned sight better than it was when I bought it 4 years ago.

Fern Mackenzie

Interestingly, what Syncrude has “slapped” together I’m sure is a much more integrated ecosystem then even your noble efforts Fern.

Someone destroyed an ecosystem so you could live where you live and you have improved it somewhat. That’s good and good for you. But my money is betting that Syncrude has created a much wilder (and more natural) ecosystem as compared to you.

I’ll ignore you nasty insinuations except to note that for you, nasty personal comments have become the norm when you respond to anything that is contrary to your warped sense of what is right.

I don’t think that you even read the article since if you had you would have seen that the ground reclaimed consists of topsoil and over burden, hardly a very difficult task when you can see (and smell) all the oily waste and contaminated material which covers the site.

104 hectares in 30 years works out to an average rate of reclamation of 3 hectares per year. Since they have now “disturbed” 21,000 hectares they should get the site cleaned up (assuming that it is as easy to reclaim real contamination as it is to “reclaim” top soil and overburden) in about 7,000 years.

And they claim this is a major achievement, give me a break. Many years ago when I first did a project on the tailings ponds and corresponded with their “environmental” department I concluded that it should be renamed “PR department.” Obviously my views still hold.

Get a life Paul and do some real studying of the problems, you might learn something in addition to the nonsense that you seem to suck up from the denier sites with such alacrity.

Ian Forrester

It’s never a good idea to put complete faith in one newspaper article Ian.

Has Syncrude only reclaimed 104 hectares? According to Syncrude, they have reclaimed 4,500 hectares.

http://www.syncrude.ca/users/news_view.asp?FolderID=5690&NewsID=115

Which figure is true? Or is it a third figure? Oh wait. Syncrude is “lying”, right? It has to be Syncrude, they’re an oil company!

All Syncrude is putting out there is PR crap. Stuff to make themselves feel good and to “greenwash” the public. If they actually put the full and honest truth, they’d be blacklisted and their contracts would not be renewed.

Stephen, you are one of those bigoted and narrow-minded enviros I was talking about. Small-mindedness and a constant peevishness are hallmarks of your personality and mark you as one of those dour greenies that turns so many people off. Pretty accurate assessment, eh? :)

Do you work for Syncrude, Paul? Is that why you’re so stringent about this one? Or are you just one of those ideologically blind laissez-faire economic whackos?

Fair assessment? :P

Paul S/G, I don’t know where you live, but Syncrude is based in Alberta and Alberta has very stringent rules and regulations describing what “reclaimed” means. Once disturbed land has been reclaimed to the Province’s criteria it is given a “Reclamation Certificate”. So far only 104 hectares have met the Alberta Government’s criteria. Syncrude can claim any amounts they want but without identifying what criteria they are using to define “reclaimed” their numbers are meaningless. Just more of the PR smoke screen that this blog was designed to clear away.

Too bad you can’t accept government rules and regulations. Do you obey their rules and regulations in other aspects of your life or are you just as irresponsible there too?

Ian Forrester

zzzzz…..zzzz…..zzzzzzz….wha? Oh … izzayu Ian? What were you saying?

Oh yeah. “Reclamation” is a decades long project and official government certification is the final step in recognizing this milestone.

You think maybe that with approx. 5,000,000 trees/shrubs/twigs planted by the inhuman entity named Syncrude that a few more hectares will be deemed officially “reclaimed” in the next few years?

For the record, the process of reclaiming those 104 hectares began in the early 1980’s.

My understanding of it, based on a former grad student who shared the same lab space with me and worked with syncrude as part of his masters project, is that most of their reclamation efforts are not focused on long term restoration. In essence they design banks of left over coke, cover them over with a thin layer of topsoil and vegitation. The intent of this design is to leave them readily availabe for later reprocessing them when its technologically feasable to remove the remaining hydrocarbons.

“Grunt, snort, snuffle …”

Hi knuckle dragger. Glad to see that you’re out of your cave for awhile and still hale and hearty.

For your info, Ian (actually, since you probably know this already, it’s hardly “info”) both Syncrude and Suncorp have substantial inventories of reclaimed land on which “the buffalo roam” and for which they haven’t requested reclamation certificates. Issuing of certificates would result in reversion of the affected parcels to the Crown and could lead to all sorts of bureaucratic interference in the management of operations. That is, access roads, fire suppression, drainage control etc. would be out of corporate hands.

The 104 hectare parcel in question is already surrounded by public roads, and therefore Syncrude management was apparently comfortable with relinquishing control.

Oh, Fern, the piece of real estate that carries your “carbon footprint” benefits you and you alone. The thousands of hectares being turned upside down by tarsands operations provide livlihoods for hundreds of thousands of people who you could say are individually responsible for the “desecration” of a few square meters. Indirectly, the operations benefit millions of Canadians, including thee and me. If you don’t acknowledge your share of the damage, please decline your share of the benefits and go live with Ian in his cave.

Enviro Luddites = blinkered hypocrites.

It was an early environmentalist that led your ancestor out of his cave, ma’am.

“The piece of real estate that carries your “carbon footprint” benefits you and you alone.”

My comments were a direct response to a crack by PaulS. I would never compare what I am doing here to the tar sands myself, but he made the challenge, and so there you are. I question whether the people whose jobs & livelihoods depend on the development of the tar sands might have been better employed in the development of alternative energy sources.

But as for me “benefiting” from the tar sands, thanks – but I’m quite comfortable here in my “cave”. I don’t heat with fossil fuels. I buy my electricity from sustainable sources. And I think the benefits of my meagre efforts goes beyond my property line. Ask the rest of the village. Influencing change by example has always been the most effective method. I talk to passers-by about the gardens, natural bug control and the benefits of composting, about re-using an old building and safe removal of toxic residues. I get questions all the time about my plants and the work I am doing on the house. And when I see hectares of good agricultural land being gobbled up by monster houses with golf-course lawns maintained by pesticides that drain off into the water courses, I figure I’m not doing too badly.

It’s very easy to throw out claims that environmentalists would send us back to the caves, etc., but what you fail to acknowledge is that environmentalism can be very progressive. What’s wrong with a vision of the future that includes clean, sustainable energy sources and a non-toxic environment where all species can flourish?

Fern Mackenzie

The “benefits” to which I referred are less specific than having fossil fuel available for personal use. Modern industrial states free people from the drudgery of survival economics and provide the wherewithal for the the unparalled ease, comfort and safety of our lives.

If you are living up to your eco-ideals, I give you full marks, but I must point out that, if you lived in a less developed society, you wouldn’t have time or energy to mess around with your compost program or worry too much about the aesthetics of encouraging songbirds.

I am an old man, born in a community that relied on genuine horsepower for winter transportation (no graded roads) and to which power lines (and the resultant capacity for running water and central heating) didn’t come until the late 1950s. Gardens, chickens, hogs etc. were necessities - not social statements.

As a geologist, I spent most of my working life under canvas in remote places, including about ten years in third world countries where life for the locals was a constant struggle for survival. The stuff that you would compost was food for their pigs and dogs, and simple latrines were marks of progress and affluence. As one old Filipino campesino told an aid worker, “What’s important is what goes into the guts, not what comes out of them.”

I’m not about to sacrifice my comforts, which I feel that I have earned, on the alter of anti-technological radicalism. I’ve never been employed in the oil industry but, I’m grateful to Big Oil for being the principal driver behind this wonderful world we live in.

The oil on which modern civilization depends is running out, and the same people who have such contempt for the oil industry are busily undermining viable replacements such as coal liquifaction, nuclear generated electrical power and development of every remaining viable hydro site. Instead, they promote the ethanol scam and, to quote the late Petr Beckmann, “a world powered by summer breezes, sunbeams and vats of fermenting chicken manure.”

If modern lifestyles are so horrible, why are we now living, on average, more than 25 years longer than our forebears a hundred years ago? Even in China, pollution problems notwithstanding, people are living a decade longer than their grandparents and almost a third of the population now enjoys a lifestyle comparable to that in Japan or Taiwan.

Development? Bring it on. Progress? Bring it on.

Waste, waste, waste? No, thanks. Leaving office computers and lights on all night because you’re too lazy to turn them off? No, thanks. Driving a few blocks to the post office because you’re too lazy to walk? No, thanks.

Cheap energy is easy to waste. Until the oil runs out.

Whatever you may think about environmentalists as a whole, I think you do some of us a disservice by supposing that helping the less developed and/or poverty stricken societies you describe rise above the grinding drudgery of their lives is not a priority. Western society has achieved amazing things – no question. What we couldn’t have known while we were doing it was the long-term impact of relying so heavily on fossil fuels. There is a chance, now that we know, to move forward and away from fossil fuels at the same time, by developing alternatives and making them available to the economies that are just starting to gear up. It isn’t a question of giving things up as much as getting creative about what things can be fuelled by which different power source. Solar for passive home heat, wind or photo-voltaic battery cells for lights, computers, etc. hydro-electric for industrial use – I’m not an engineer, but someone I know who IS makes his living developing and teaching about sustainable alternative energy, including communities off the grid in remote parts of China and in India. He has a “tri-brid” Prius that he has installed with a photo-voltaic panel. All kinds of things are possible.

Fern Mackenzie

There it is then, a culture of entitlement. The job is done, you can put your feet up. In the last 10,000 years of human history, some average-grade seniors have been putting their feet up for perhaps the last couple of generations. You might be able to do that yourself. You have squandered humanity’s supply of fuel. You have precipitated unknown climactic conditions and manifold poverty. No, you didn’t know you were doing it at the time, and that’s fine. If you don’t want to pitch in to deal with it, that’s fine too. But please, please, please, stop with your public pontifications. Go back to your La-z-Boy, Mr. Dead Weight.

Yes, earned! I contributed to human society throughout my productive life. Even after retiring from my profession, I had a cow-calf operation and, for 12 years, produced good food for people to eat. I finally threw in the sponge at the age of 72. My present “drawdown” of natural resources in quite modest. I own a late model car that I drive about 6,000 km/yr, live in 1,100 square foot condo and have a (horrors!) dishwasher in my kitchen. I’m comfortable and contented.

Hate-filled middle class hypocrites who have never been cold, dog tired or uncomfortable, never worked up a sweat except on the tennis court, never missed a meal or even experienced “genteel” poverty but who want to deprive everyone else (even the dispossesed of the third world) of the chance to even remotely approach the good lives with which nasty Western society has so abundantly provided them make me want to puke. It’s always “those others” who they expect to make sacrifices.

Smug, self righteous pricks genuflucting to their high-living parasitic prophets, Gore and Suzuki, make me want to puke.

I have practiced conservationism throughout my life because that’s the way I was brought up. Have I mentioned that I have utmost contempt for “stop the world” radical environmentalists?

I don’t doubt that your retirement is well-earned, and believe me, I and others like me have no desire to rip away your comforts. At 54, I have a few years to go yet to retirement (if indeed I can ever afford to retire!), but let me put it to you this way: suppose that if and when I do, I could get in my car & drive it 6,000km/year, but not buy gas. Instead, my fuel costs would be paid through my electrical bill, knowing that the power supply came from a combination of my own solar collectors, wind power, and a local small-scale hydro-power plant. Depending on where you live, the combination might be weighted differently or include biofuels, or geothermal or something else. Likewise, when I run my dishwasher, the water has been heated by a passive solar system. When I go grocery shopping, the meat I buy has been produced locally by a small producer, and the veggies are either local or have been shipped by rail. Things I can buy in bulk, using my own containers, eliminates the need to figure out what to do with a gazillion empty plastic tubs or styrotrays, and the levy for blue-box pickup & recycling has dropped accordingly. All of my household greywater goes into an underground filtration system that purifies it and returns it to the watertable. The carbon taxes have been used to subsidize the rapid transit system while it was redesigned to provide efficient, affordable transit that is safe and clean to most places I need to go. They have also been used to offer rebates to buyers of electric cars.

Small things, and I am sure that Rob will leap in here and claim I am dreaming of an imaginary alternate reality that can never exist. But changes are already happening (everything I describe is possible now in some places), and if we embrace them and “buy in”, it will start to accelerate and become more and more economically viable.

One of the sleaziest things that I see Tim Ball and his ilk doing is targeting the generation, such as yourself, that has reached a point in life when they want to rest and live the retirement they have worked and slaved to ensure. Dr Ball uses scare tactics to suggest that your security and comfort will be wrenched away by unfeeling, ungrateful environmentalists who value the lives of trees and endangered species over human beings. On a very broad and general scale, you could easily take some of the principles of environmentalism and twist them to make it look that way. The most extreme example I can think of is that if I suggest that the world is in a population crisis, I am accused of being a Nazi, advocating genocide or eugenics. This is nonsense, of course, as is Rob’s preposterous claim that I am a hypocrite for having a child.

We are in a period of massive transition. My son’s generation will have to shoulder the task soon, and I imagine their children will deal with it in their time as the long-term impact unfolds. I hope that over time, the absurdity of Ball’s tactics will be recognized and people will just get on with it.

Fern Mackenzie

“There it is then, a culture of entitlement.”

You confuse the concept of entitlement with unearned entitlement. Or, more likely, you don’t make the distinction.

“The job is done, you can put your feet up.”

Damn straight ZOG can do that, and I’d be proud to fluff his pillow and make him a cup of tea. And anyone who tries to deprive him of that will find themselves digging my size-11 carbon footprint out of their butts. You should be thankful, if you had any appreciation for what his generation built for us, and how all of us have benefitted.

“In the last 10,000 years of human history, some average-grade seniors have been putting their feet up for perhaps the last couple of generations. You might be able to do that yourself.”

And about time, too, I’d say. Is that your gripe? Give your head a shake, boy.

“You have squandered humanity’s supply of fuel.”

Squandered? Sorry, but I’d have to disagree with you there. We’ve used it to build something magnificent, which has never existed in the history of mankind. That’s what you really resent, though, isn’t it? People like you are destroyers, and you revel in chaos – real or imaginary.

“You have precipitated unknown climactic conditions …”

Yes, so “unknown”, in fact, it’s doubtful we’ll ever know about it. Get back to us when you’ve got something real to complain about, which generally isn’t long, for your type.

“…and manifold poverty.”

Uh-huh. This, in spite of the fact that every unambiguous indicator tells us that the average wealth of even the poorest of the poor has increased, along with the rest of us – both in relative and absolute terms. Everyone is living longer and eating better, and this is your idea of increased poverty? You are completely mad.

“No, you didn’t know you were doing it at the time, and that’s fine. If you don’t want to pitch in to deal with it, that’s fine too.”

Listen, this is your imaginary psycho-drama. How about you deal with it in whatever imaginary way you like. ZOG and the rest of us don’t owe you squat.

“But please, please, please, stop with your public pontifications. Go back to your La-z-Boy, Mr. Dead Weight.”

You sound like a mouthy punk who needs an major attitude adjustment – with a stout pipe wrench, if necessary.

… pipe wrench in hand, lifting the intellectual content of the blog again.

And with the tone set by pompous, egotistical PR flacks and hateful, intolerant, anti-intellectual AGM cultists, boy does the level of content need lifting!

(Not applicable to non-hateful posters like Steve L and Fern.)

AGW cultists.

A stout femur bone would be more appropriate, don’t you think?

“Development? Bring it on. Progress? Bring it on.”

Most of us can magnificently modulate the gas pedal of a car for hours on end, day after day. Would that the world could marshall its supply of fossil fuels as effectively. No pedal required here. The system operates in “growth” mode only.

“I question whether the people whose jobs & livelihoods depend on the development of the tar sands might have been better employed in the development of alternative energy sources.”

Let them eat cake, eh? So, your solution would be to tell people to get non-existant jobs, in a largely imaginary industry. Check a job site like Workopolis, and see how many positions are available for $45/hour windmill installers.

“But as for me “benefiting” from the tar sands, thanks – but I’m quite comfortable here in my “cave”.”

Of course you are. But you are deluding yourself if you imagine your “eco-friendly” country gentleman lifestyle could exist outside a pre-existing infrastructure of a successful Western industrial economy, and possibly a regular fat alimony cheque.

Do you actually think the fact that you are using a computer connected to the Internet is a product of amiable hippies living on a commune? Or do you have one of those computers made from organic hemp? How do you think its components were manufactured and shipped to you? What about the other goods and services you consume, and the goods and services consumed by those in the network who keep you supplied with your over-priced “fair-trade” baubles?

“I don’t heat with fossil fuels.”

Let me guess, you burn wood? If so, congratulations on choosing one of the filthiest, and most inefficient sources of fuel. Can you imagine if the entire population did that? We’d never see the sky again – well, until all the forests are consumed, that is.

“I buy my electricity from sustainable sources.”

So does everyone else in Ontario, who’s anywhere near a hydro dam or nuclear generator.

“And I think the benefits of my meagre efforts goes beyond my property line.”

I’m sure you do think that. All the time.

“Ask the rest of the village.”

Liesure classes are always the envy of the villagers.

” And when I see hectares of good agricultural land being gobbled up by monster houses with golf-course lawns maintained by pesticides that drain off into the water courses, I figure I’m not doing too badly.”

Why? Were you planning on farming that land? Apparently not.

“What’s wrong with a vision of the future that includes clean, sustainable energy sources and a non-toxic environment where all species can flourish?”

What’s wrong is that it is largely a delusion of the semi-retired upper-middle class, who don’t significantly contribute to the GDP. The rest of us mugs who have to work for a living – including those who live in Fort McMurray, employed by Syncrude – don’t have endless idle hours to spend pottling away in our organic hobby gardens, or ensuring our rustic period country homes are “free of toxins”. We’re too busy raping Gaia, so we can pay our carbon taxes, and to pay for boondoggle windmill projects.

I’m sure if this keeps up, we’ll all eventually be eating cake or pies-in-the-sky. Or not.

“Check a job site like Workopolis, and see how many positions are available for $45/hour windmill installers.”

Actually there is a windmill manufacturer not far from here, and their delivery route goes right in front of my house several times a month. You might be surprised to find how many start-ups there are in new technology. Of course it takes time, but nobody said it would happen overnight.

“possibly a regular fat alimony cheque”

Nope. Didn’t apply for support.

“Do you actually think the fact that you are using a computer connected to the Internet is a product of amiable hippies living on a commune? … How do you think its components were manufactured and shipped to you? What about the other goods and services you consume?”

My computer and the internet make it possible for me to work from home, cutting out the need for me to drive 40km each way to town 5 days/week. Likewise I produce my reports for clients in electronic form, and they are distributed to the end user in the same way, cutting my paper consumption practically to zero. I agree that the manufacture of my computer generated CO2 & conventional pollution, and that is part of a general issue we all must address. It has, however, directly prevented me from exhausting tonnes of CO2. And I shop locally whenever possible.

“Let me guess, you burn wood?”

At the moment, yes. And no, not everyone can or should do it, but it’s one alternative and in my case it makes sense – I only have to heat 864 sqft. I buy my wood from a properly managed woodlot – no clear cutting involved. When I can afford it I will be installing solar panels to supplement the woodstove.

“Liesure classes are always the envy of the villagers.”

Hardly leisure class! I work for a living, too, you know. As a matter of fact, I am replying to your post (against my better judgment) on a break, as I have to work through the long weekend to meet a deadline.

“Were you planning on farming that land? Apparently not.”

Well, SOMEbody was farming it, until it was bought up by developers who carted away all of the topsoil and cut down all the trees.

I am not of the “semi-retired upper-middle class”, nor do I “have endless idle hours to spend pottling (?) away in [my] organic hobby garden”. I do, however, produce a substantial amount of my own food. My “rustic period country home” is a recycled 100-year-old frame Masonic hall, 24’x36’, and my estate is a spacious .11 acre (wildly extravangant!).

My question still stands: What’s wrong with a vision of the future that includes clean, sustainable energy sources and a non-toxic environment where all species can flourish?

Fern Mackenzie

Rob,

Your disertation brings to mind a cartoon from the early 1970s. A beefy but sylishly dressed matron is presenting an anti-nuclear energy petition to a family in an urban ghetto slum. She is telling them, presumably in response to a question, “Oh, you’ll just put a solar collector on the roof and get your electricity FREE”.

Good one, ZOG. That image sums it up nicely.

Does ZOG = ZOGX?

Fern Mackenzie

Yes. Sorry about that. Zog

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Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the...

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