October 6, 2010
Oilsands expansion ‘fool’s gold,’ scientist warns
By Sheila Pratt
EDMONTON — Expansion of Alberta’s oilsands must be avoided if the world is going to avoid disastrous effects of climate change, says one of the world’s leading climate scientists. James Hansen, of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, travelled from New York to appear Tuesday at the Energy Resources Conservation Board hearing into the proposed Total Joslyn North mine near Fort McMurray. The open-pit mine is slated to produce 100,000 barrels a day. The Joslyn project is the first new oilsands megaproject to seek approval in several years. An upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan to serve the mine was approved last month.
Hansen said he chose to come to the hearing because stopping expansion of the oilsands is critical in the battle against global warming. “To achieve a safe level of carbon emissions, we cannot have more coal-fired plants, no more oilsands or shale oil,” he told the hearing. “Of course we need energy, and this looks like a gold mine. But it’s fool’s gold.” That’s because future generations will have to pay to have the carbon removed from the atmosphere, and that’s much costlier, he said. “If that cost were added to the mining, they’d never do it,” Hansen said. If the world moves away from coal and leaves remaining unconventional oil reserves in the ground, it has a chance to see carbon emissions decline rapidly over the next few decades – “up to 80 per cent by mid-century.”