We’ve known for a long time that the Canada’s Tar Sands represent an environmental disaster, both in the present and future, but with a recent drop in North American oil prices it’s looking like they are also becoming somewhat of a financial disaster. Writing in The Ecologist, Gregory McGann posits the present price of oil and the predicted prices going forward won’t be enough to sustain the planned future development in the Tar Sands.
McGann cites a report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative that suggests investors are being misled about the future economic prospects of the Tar Sands, due to companies operating there that have failed to factor future oil prices into an equation that involves high operating costs to extract crude oil from the bitumen-soaked sand of Northern Alberta. According to CTI, 92 percent of future Tar Sands development will only be viable if oil prices are $95 per barrel, and at anything less than that results in a loss on every barrel of oil sold. At the time of the report, North American oil was sitting at $85 per barrel but has since dipped to just shy of $67 per barrel (as of Dec. 3, 2014). The report notes that the price drop has “changed the whole dynamic for regions of marginal production – most noticeably the oil sands of Alberta.”
Despite these numbers and predictions, The Ecologist notes that the industry seems to be blind to the facts around development – as 20 companies have invested a total of $246 billion into Tar Sands projects. So while the Tar Sands sits as the world’s third-largest supply of oil, one that’s creating a scene of environmental destruction so vast it can be distinctively seen from space, it seems continuing to extract oil from them doesn’t make sense on a financial or ecological basis.
Via The Ecologist