photo: sbamueller via flickr
Contradicting previous industry- and government-backed studies about the source of pollution occurring downstream from Alberta tar sands projects, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that high levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc and other pollutants are not naturally occurring. As Cree elders have said for some time, tar sands companies are spoiling the water and the air.The research, lead by Erin Kelley and David Schindler for the University of Alberta, found higher concentrations of pollutants that exceed federal and state guidelines both upstream and downstream from tar sands projects.
Schindler, quoted by Reuters and speaking about the dependency of people in the region on local fisheries for food said, "I don't think the concentrations alone are dangerous. I worry about some of them, like mercury, because there parts per trillion translate into parts per million in fish."
It's not just the water toxicity that is huge problem for producing oil from the tar sands. Though exact estimates vary, a decent rule of thumb is that due to the high energy intensity of production, one barrel of oil from tar sands has carbon emissions up to eight times higher than one barrel of conventional petroleum. Furthermore, water intensity of tar sands production is high: One barrel of tar sands oil requires the equivalent of three barrels of water.
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More on Tar Sands:
Alberta Tar Sands to Increase Output 250% Over Next 10 Years
Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth
Alberta Tar Sands Oil Flows South As Keystone Pipeline Opened
National Geographic Slams Tar Sands - Canadian Politicians Pissed