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David Lewis (Ferndale, Washington)

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Tar Sands: Dirty Oil And The Future Of A Continent
Tar Sands: Dirty Oil And The Future Of A Continent
by Andrew Nikiforuk
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

53 of 81 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars overblown, inaccurate, and disappointing., Nov. 25 2008
The tar sands is an important topic. But this book isn't the place to learn about it. You'd have to double check everything so you might as well go other sources and ignore this.

I study climate change and wanted to know more about the tar sands as it is a significant deposit of fossil fuel. But in one section of this book Nikiforuk writes on carbon capture, a topic I know something about. I realized how poorly researched this entire book might well be.

Nikiforuk, on carbon dioxide: "many tar sand projects puff out nearly a million tons of carbon dioxide a year.... ... a million tons - a megaton - is enough lethal carbon dioxide to fill one million two-storey, three-bedroom homes and suffocate every occupant".

If this type of overblowing is your cup of tea you'll love this book. If someone stacked up a megaton's worth of copies of Nikiforuk's book and toppled them on a three-bedroom home, no doubt these lethal books would suffocate or at least crush everyone inside as well.

When it comes to inaccuracy, he comes up with wild figures and contradicts himself on CO2 within a few paragraphs. He states, citing no source: "no infrastructure currently exists to bury carbon. To inject twenty megatons... will cost anywhere from $10 billion to $16 billion". This works out to $500 - $800 a ton. Then he points to a supposed source, as if to confirm this ballpark figure: "the Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage... requested $2 billion in public funds to explore how to effectively bury just five megatons" which works out to $400 a ton.

No one else in the world is publishing figures like this.

Then, a few paragraphs later, Nikiforuk brings up an authority, the I.P.C.C. and states they say capturing "just one ton of carbon ranges anywhere from $25(U.S.) to $115(U.S.). So, within a few paragraphs, Nikiforuk goes from $500, to $800, then to $25 - $115 for either "injecting" a ton, or "capturing" a ton of CO2. Nikiforuk is just throwing numbers around, and using language loosely enough its hard to decypher exactly what he is claiming. Carbon capture "defies economics" he writes, even as his writing defies understanding.

He ignores that the I.P.C.C. states carbon capture will be an important part of future carbon dioxide emitting power sources for civilization even as he claims to be familiar with their work.

Near the end of this topic, he blithely pronounces the entire concept of carbon capture to be "morally bankrupt".

I don't find it that useful to be told that a technology that removes a pollutant is somehow "morally bankrupt". As far as his pronouncement that carbon capture "defies economics" it would be far more useful to publish a meaningful figure. What would cost to remove the CO2 from the emissions of the energy source used to process a barrel of oil from tar sand? If he just stated a range of estimates for this, then anyone could understand what it might cost to put tar sand oil on a more level playing field with conventional oil. It is the carbon emissions from the processing fuel that has analysts saying that tar sand oil results in more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. Nikiforuk carefully avoids stating any figures in this most meaningful form.

I've seen a study stating less than $10 a barrel, i.e. the Rand study. But Nikiforuk has an axe to grind, this is the "dirtiest" possible oil, and he isn't interested in providing any figures anyone can use to see the issue in any way other than what he says the issue is.

An on and on.

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