Thursday, August 11, 2011

Steam, Baby, Steam

Here is a fascinating article (h/t Instapundit) on the scientific process involved in mining oil from sand that occurs in Alberta's oil sands.  And, here is a very salient point (from that article):
Modern capitalism and the technology it engenders has lifted a significant proportion of humanity out of our natural state of abject poverty for the first time in history. 
Indeed, Alberta's oil sands stimulated the economy and caused an economic boom there.  Alberta has, by far, the highest per capita GDP of all provinces.  Its median income, as recorded by the 2006 census, was $70,986 CAD (approx. $63,900 USD in 2006, or $71,631 USD now).  According to Canadian free market think tank the Fraser Institute, Alberta trailed only Delaware and Texas in economic freedom among US States and Canadian Provinces.  

Also, the oil sands tick off environmentalists, which is always a bonus.

subsequent article, by the same author (Ronald Bailey), describes the benefits the US would amass by importing Canadian oil:
TransCanada’s Robert Jones, who is in charge of getting the Keystone XL pipeline approved and completed, pointed out the energy security benefits to the United States of importing oil from Canada. He asked, why would the U.S. want to depend on “conflict oil” imported from countries run by unsavory regimes like those of Venezuela, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia? And whose oil is dirtier? After all, producing oil sands crude in Canada already includes the costs of reclaiming the land and a whole panoply of other environmental regulations.
 The assembled Canadian oil moguls cited studies [PDF] that project the creation of as many as 600,000 jobs and a $775 billion boost to the U.S. gross national product by 2035 as a result of importing Canadian oil. 
To environmentalists concerned about disturbing boreal forest, the percentage of Canada’s total area covered by boreal forest that is disturbed for oil development is about 0.019%.  That article also describes another method of extracting oil from sand that is used for oil 350 feet below the surface, steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and its environmental impact:
Interestingly, anti-oil sands activists who eagerly highlight photos of the vast oils sands mining pits, don’t tend to show photos of SAGD facilities. Likely this is because such pictures would not do much to scare target audiences—the footprint of SAGD operations typically occupies only 5 percent of the land from which oil is being recovered, leaving most of the forests undisturbed. 
Back to "Dirty Oil Sands," to which I linked earlier in this post, they present a number of beautiful images on their website.  Personally, I have always been awestruck by massive industrial structures and works.  

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