Alberta sits over one of the largest recoverable oil patches in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia. It covers 149, 000 square kilometers, an area larger than Florida, and holds at least 175 billion barrels of recoverable crude bitumen. Canada has become the largest supplier of oil to the U.S., with over a million barrels per day coming from the oil sands. Currently 40% of all oil produced in Canada is derived from the oil sands.
The crude oil produced from the oil sands, the dirtiest oil in the world, could keep the global appetite for oil at bay for another 50 years.
But oil sands are a fundamentally different kind of oil. They take a lot of energy and a lot of water and leave a very large environmental footprint compared to all other forms of oil extraction. Because of this, the massive changes to the boreal forest and the watershed have prompted the United Nations to list this region as a global hot spot for environmental change.
In addition, oil sands projects are major emitters of greenhouse gases. They accounted for 4% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, making it impossible to meet obligations set out in Kyoto for emissions-reductions.