Don’t sell your gasoline powered vehicles just yet, there’s a barrel or two of oil still out there and as prices rise, more of those barrels will appear in the pipeline as new resources become profitable. I mentioned oil shale or tar sands before but if you never bothered to look into it, you really should. There are deposits, according to Syncrude, in Alberta, Canada, that are absolutely huge by any measure. Estimates go as high as 2.5 trillion barrels which, if you don’t keep track of those things, is 5 times the conventional reserves of Saudi Arabia.
Right now, over 13 percent of Canada’s oil comes from tar sands, they dig it up instead of drilling it out. If Canada kept it all, they would be good for the next 475 years at today’s rates of consumption, or if everyone else in the world suddenly stopped producing oil, there would still be about 15 years worth of deposits. Think about that when you see million dollar hydrogen fuel cell cars touted as the coming thing.
Two companies in Canada, Suncor and Syncrude, seem to be at the forefront of producing oil from tar sands. A tar sand oil field doesn’t have the appearance you expect with oil rigs all over, it has a lot of those huge dump trucks you would associate with outdoor mining, which is exactly what this is. Production from those mining operations is expanding and is expected to triple by 2020.
Not many people seem to be all that aware of tar sands, everyone thinks all of the oil is in Saudi Arabia even though we currently import more oil from Canada than anywhere else. With tar sands, the portion we import may even increase.
Environmentalists are, predictably, unhappy with all of this. They don’t like the way the oil is processed and talk about environmental damage which hasn’t been a problem at all up to this point. Many of us are beginning to look at environmental groups as being perpetual complainers about everything, sort of like that relative that enjoys telling you about their aches and pains, it so colors their perception that nothing can ever be good if it isn’t already part of their worldview. And that’s the point.
Suppose we discovered a huge new deposit of oil that would carry us for many years into the future. There are some groups that would be absolutely crestfallen to have their “End of the oil and end of the world” scenarios upset. On the other hand, many of us would be relieved and quite happy about it. Which group would you rather be a part of? Lets look at all of our resources as we move into the future with optimism and determination. Tar sands look like a huge resource that is now economically profitable and wonderfully beneficial. I guess the end of the world will have to wait and I’m rather happy about that, how about you?
Update: Someone else has noticed the gloom and doom crowd
see also: High Gas Prices Mean More Oil Reserves