Make a donation with PayPal, VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover cards - it's fast, free and secure!

Home Page

Nonprofit founded in 1988


Culture Change Letter
via email
84 83 82 81 80 79 78 77 76 75 74 73 72 71 70 69 68 67 66 65 64 63 62
61 60 59 58 57 56 55 54 53 52 51 50 49 48 47 46 45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2 1  subscribe  index  feedback

Culture Change print magazine issues: 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  9  8  index

Pedal Power solutions to petroleum dependence and polluting vehicles: Arcata Library Bikes, Pedal Power Produce, and more!

CAOE - Committee Against Oil Exploration - stop offshore oil drilling to protect sensitive habitats and cut petroleum dependence.

Culture Change through music! The Depavers eco-rock!

Take our Pledge for Climate Protection and learn about the Global Warming Crisis Council.

SEI hometown action!
Arcata city council's proclamation against war on Iraq and Kyoto Protocol proclamation.

Overpopulation has become a reality.  Overpopulation Resources and News Tidbits

Sail Transport Network

Fact Sheets
Press Releases

Long Distance

Boreal Forest, Lubicon Cree People Threatened
Oil Sands Mega-Project Hits Alberta

by Chris Genovali

One of the biggest oil development schemes in the history of North America is about to commence in northern Alberta.

An array of oil company consortia and corporate investors are planning to spend $25 billion over the next 20 years on mining the Alberta oil sands. The project is so large that Canada's largest oil company, Imperial, has abandoned conventional oil development to focus solely on the oil sands.

The shameless boosterism of the Alberta media, spurred on by a public relations onslaught by the oil industry has created a climate of near hysteria. If one is to believe the "Happy Days Are Here Again" hype coming out of Wild Rose Country, the miraculous oil sands are going to bring about everything from world peace to a cure for the common cold.

The oil industry demanded, and was given, major tax breaks and sweetheart royalties by the provincial and federal governments for oil sands development. Under a new royalty regime recently announced by the province, companies will pay a minuscule one percent on oil sands production.

The Alberta oil sands occupy a vast area in the boreal forest zone about the size of New Brunswick. Industry claims that by the year 2020, the oil sands will be producing as much as 1.2 million barrels a day, a significant amount of which will be exported to the U.S. market.

Not surprisingly, development of additional pipeline capacity to the U.S. is in the works. Alberta environmentalists have questioned the proposed "Express Pipeline," as the Alberta Energy Company plans to route it through native prairie grasslands, a highly threatened ecosystem supporting more than 100 endangered species. The Alberta Energy Company says the Express Pipeline is needed to provide an impetus for further oil sands development. After all, meeting projected export demand to the year 2000 will require the drilling of thousands more wells.

A report by conservation biologist Brian Horejsi of Western Wildlife Environments Consulting details the staggering scope of habitat fragmentation currently in Alberta from oil and gas development: over 225,000 wells have been drilled; 1.5 million kilometers of seismic road access and 500,000 kilometers of pipeline right-of-way have been cut; 750,000 kilometers of all-weather road access have been built; none of it subjected to environmental assessment.

Reserves at or near the surface are recovered through large-scale strip-mining. Huge mounds of oil sand are excavated and moved by trucks weighing 240 tons and standing three stories high. It takes two tons of sand to produce one barrel of oil.

Since opening its operation in 1978, one company, Syncrude, has excavated 1.5 billion tons of so-called overburden, the 20 meters deep layer of muskeg, gravel and shale that sit atop the actual oil sandsóliterally ripping the skin off the face of the earth. Syncrude has possibly created the largest surface mine in the world.

The deeper oil sands reserves are recovered by drilling horizontal wells and injecting massive amounts of steam deep into the groundóusing nine barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil. Alberta environmentalists report that a Shell Canada oil sands plant has dried up one lake and has lowered the level of another lake so low that it froze solid, killing all the fish.

The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg compared to what's to come. Oil sands development produces four times more upstream greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil reserves. The oil sands are already the biggest single emitter in Alberta of sulphur dioxide, a component of acid rain and greenhouse gases.

Oil operations in Alberta and nearby parts of British Columbia constitute the second largest source of sulphur emissions in North America. A draft report by the province's environmental research center, disclosing the ongoing harm to domestic livestock from prolonged sulphur dioxide exposure, is being suppressed by the Alberta government because of oil industry pressure and fear of affecting beef exports.

Oil sands development will also be disastrous for indigenous peoples in the boreal forest, overlapping upon much of the 10,000-square-kilometer unceded traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree. The Lubicon are already struggling to preserve their boreal forest homeland from industrial forestry, conventional oil and gas development and the underhanded political machinations of a racist provincial government known as the "Nigeria of the North." In the mad rush to accelerate the mass exploitation of the oil sands, the potentially devastating impacts on the Lubicon Cree people and their traditional lands aren't even an afterthought.

Chris Genovali is the North American Coordinator of Taiga Rescue Network. TRN is an international network working to preserve boreal forests worldwide. TRN North America is reachable c/o Pacific Environment & Resources Center, Bldg. 1055, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito, CA 94965; e-mail:



Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.


Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

Culture Change mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit torganization.