Monday, 26 April 2010

Dirty oil, dirty money

Dirty Oil has come to Edinburgh and Glasgow. This is a film that explores the conflict between industry, government, local communities and environmentalists over the development of the tar sands ( a grainy mixture of bitumen, sand and water) in the wilderness of Alberta, Canada. Through the eyes of scientists, big oil officials, politicians, doctors, environmentalists and aboriginal citizens, the film examines the damage caused by our ongoing search for new sources of oil and accompanying financial profits. Tar sand extraction is a very profitable business. Joroen van der Veer Shells’ chief executive, reported to Terry Macalister from The Guardian that its tar sands oil operation had seen a 74% profit growth in the second quarter of 2008. High  levels of profits for the oil sands industry continue to be reported to this date.

Most developed economies are dependent on fossil fuel, and therefore it is good news that new sources of fuel have been found and are exploited until we can make the transition to cleaner sources of energy. The problem is that the extraction of oil from tar sands developments is extremely costly both on carbon footprint and of health and environmental terms. James Hansen from The Guardian reported that “the tar sands of Canada constitute one of our planet's greatest threats. They are a double-barrelled threat. First, producing oil from tar sands emits two-to-three times the global warming pollution of conventional oil. But the process also diminishes one of the best carbon-reduction tools on the planet: Canada's Boreal Forest which is being destroyed as collateral damage in this open air mining operation.

The oil sands development and its environmental effects has been documented in the case of bird-life by academics of the University of Saskatoon; increased incidence of different types of cancer amongst communities living in the vicinity of the development and gradual pollution of nearby fresh-water sources primarily through leakage from the Tailings Pond Dikes. Tar sands are found in 70 countries around the world, some of which are repositories of the world’s last remaining rain forests like the Orinoco River in Venezuela, and The Congo.

These developments leave me baffled. It seems that in spite of our growing awareness of the need to reduce our carbon footprint, corporations irresponsibly exploit our need for fossil fuel. It is particularly shocking that Scottish and British corporations are both involved in the financing (Royal Bank of Scotland), selling of financial instruments and development (BP) of this form of oil.

Irrespective of faith beliefs, is it acceptable for us in Scotland, that a bank which we bailed out pockets the profits and awards pay-rises and bonuses stemming from developments built on the callus disregard for the health of human beings and the rape of our planet?

Why go to see Avatar in glorious 3D? It is happening right now, in real life and we might have helped finance it.

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