Tar Sands

Tar Sands

Dirty Oil and the Future of A Continent

Book - 2008
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Perseus Publishing

Winner of the 2009 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award , from the Society of Environmental Journalists

Canada has one third of the world’s oil source; it comes from the bitumen in the oil sands of Alberta. Advancements in technology and frenzied development have created the world’s largest energy project in Fort McMurray where, rather than shooting up like a fountain in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, the sticky bitumen is extracted from the earth. Providing almost 20 percent of America’s fuel, much of this dirty oil is being processed in refineries in the Midwest. This out-of-control megaproject is polluting the air, poisoning the water, and destroying boreal forest at a rate almost too rapid to be imagined. In this hard-hitting book, journalist Andrew Nikiforuk exposes the disastrous environmental, social, and political costs of the tar sands and argues forcefully for change.

Publisher: Vancouver : Greystone Books, c2008
ISBN: 9781553654070
Characteristics: 214 p. ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: David Suzuki Foundation


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Sep 23, 2018

A book that is now sadly out-of-date as new technology for oil extraction comes into play, the USA has found vast amounts of new clean and light oils in their Permian Basic thanks to horizontal drilling technology.

Nikiforuk starts with some solid facts then resorts to excess scaremongering hyperbole and misinformation to take the emotionally charged readers to the next level..... a new tool in the modern days salesman's bag of dirty tricks.

Makes one wonder if Nikiforuk has a big chip on his shoulder due to previous run-ins with wealthy and more powerful Oil and Gas employers to recognize at the get go that this guy lacks fundamental science knowlege and acumen to learn as is of no use for science based jobs in any sector.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 19, 2014

As a topic that only now gains some popularity, the exploration of the Albertan oil sands should be of some concern to all of us. The author, a Calgarian award-winning journalist, gives us a lot of information about the economic, environmental and social dangers of this mega project. Because we are polluting the air, poisoning the water and destroying the boreal forest at an almost unimaginable rate, he calls for action and change.

debwalker Jan 04, 2011

Chosen as his Book of the Year by John Vaillant: "This dark and sticky Canadian story is about as unsavoury as a big blob of Alberta tar. Luckily for us, Andrew Nikiforuk makes it almost as hard to put down. All environmental implications (and damnations) aside, the history of Alberta’s tar sands is fascinating. Who knew that these “bituminous fountains” had been on the radar of commercial explorers since the 18th century? Or that Fort McMurray’s pivotal role in Canada’s future was envisioned more than a hundred years ago? And the vision: Tar is the new fur, and this award-winning book demonstrates how Canada is being colonized again.

"Nikiforuk has a nose for enviro-political disasters, but Tar Sands is no screed. Rooted in painstaking research, enlivened by frank quotes from the oilmen themselves, Nikiforuk makes no bones about the fact that Alberta has been blessed (or is it cursed?) with a Saudi Arabia’s-worth of bitumen, and that American industrialists, anticipating political upheaval and dwindling global supplies, have been eyeing “Canada’s Great Reserve” since the Second World War.

"But where Nikiforuk really shines is in his exposure of the devil in the details. This isn’t oil we’re dealing with, it’s tar-soaked sand, and it is not drilled but rendered by a process so toxic, so destructive and so energy- and water-intensive that it’s hard not to see it for what is: a colossal act of peak-oil desperation – the industrial equivalent of a nicotine addict rifling through a trash bin for cigarette butts."

Mar 17, 2009

A very informative book that opens your eyes to errors that have been made in the development of the Alberta tar sands.


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