Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Canadian oil sand ponds in good shape. NYT says good is bad.

Six large ponds near the oil sands have low contaminants compared to urban centres in Canada and with one exception are below Canadian guidelines for "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons" which in large quantities increase risk of cancer.  The lead authour of the government-funded report, Professor Smol of Queens, calls his evidence a "smoking gun" in the New York Times article.  Here's how it sounds with spin:
The development of Alberta’s oil sand has increased levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes well beyond natural levels, Canadian researchers reported in a study released on Monday... Samples from one test site, the paper said, now show 2.5 to 23 times more PAHs in current sediment than in layers dating back to around 1960.  “We’re not saying these are poisonous ponds,” Professor Smol said. “But it’s going to get worse".

As W R Mead comments, the outlier pond right next to the mine has sample values all over the map and the other ponds are better than your typical lake in settled areas of Canada.   As he puts it, "Greens everywhere are likely choking on their own outrage, and at first glance they appear to have cause."
"While levels of dangerous chemicals increased, the waters surrounding the oil sands areas were cleaner than most urban water sources in Canada and met water quality standards. If this is a “smoking gun”, we aren’t impressed.
"Developing U.S. and Canadian shale oil sites will impose risks and costs, but failing to develop them will also impose risks and costs—including the risk that war in unstable countries will disrupt the energy supplies".
NYT used the nasty-looking picture on the right.  The picture below shows you the scale of the digging for the Athabasca Oil Sands.  This target of Green vilification is about a ten minutes drive end to end.

Athabasca Oil SandsOil Sands picture:

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