Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent

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Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent

by Andrew Nikiforuk, Andrew Nikiforuk

GREYSTONE BOOKS LTD | March 15, 2010 | Trade Paperback

3.6667 out of 5 rating. 6 Reviews
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Updated with new material throughout, and winner of the prestigious Rachel Carson Environment Book Award.

Andrew Nikiforuk''s Tar Sands is a critical exposé of the world''s largest energy project-the Alberta oil sands-that has made Canada one of the worst environmental offenders on earth.

The United States imports the majority of its oil, not from Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, but from its neighbour to the north, Canada. 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 Tar Sands, journalist Andrew Nikiforuk exposes the disastrous environmental, social, and political costs of the tar sands and argues forcefully for change. Combining extensive scientific research and compelling writing, Nikiforuk takes the reader to Fort McMurray, home to some of the world''s largest open-pit mines, and explores this twenty-first-century pioneer town from the exorbitant cost of housing to its more serious social ills. He uncovers a global Deadwood, complete with rapturous engineers, cut-throat cocaine dealers, aimless bush workers, American evangelicals, and the largest population of homeless people in northern Canada. He also explains that this micro-economy supplies gasoline for 50 percent of Canadian vehicles and 16 percent of U.S. demand. Readers will learn that oil sands:

  • burn more carbon than conventional oil,
  • destroy forests and displace woodland caribou
  • poison the water supply and communities downstream
  • drain the Athabasca, the river that feeds Canada''s largest watershed
  • contribute to climate change


The book does provide hope, however, and ends with an exploration of possible solutions to the problem. And this update edition Nikiforuk adds a new afterword, a new appendix on the hidden costs of steam extraction, and a response to the criticism he received for the first edition.

Published in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 280 pages, 3.39 × 2.2 × 0.35 in

Published: March 15, 2010

Publisher: GREYSTONE BOOKS LTD

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1553655559

ISBN - 13: 9781553655558

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– More About This Product –

Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent

by Andrew Nikiforuk, Andrew Nikiforuk

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 280 pages, 3.39 × 2.2 × 0.35 in

Published: March 15, 2010

Publisher: GREYSTONE BOOKS LTD

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1553655559

ISBN - 13: 9781553655558

About the Book

Co-published by the David Suzuki Foundation.

From the Publisher

Updated with new material throughout, and winner of the prestigious Rachel Carson Environment Book Award.

Andrew Nikiforuk''s Tar Sands is a critical exposé of the world''s largest energy project-the Alberta oil sands-that has made Canada one of the worst environmental offenders on earth.

The United States imports the majority of its oil, not from Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, but from its neighbour to the north, Canada. 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 Tar Sands, journalist Andrew Nikiforuk exposes the disastrous environmental, social, and political costs of the tar sands and argues forcefully for change. Combining extensive scientific research and compelling writing, Nikiforuk takes the reader to Fort McMurray, home to some of the world''s largest open-pit mines, and explores this twenty-first-century pioneer town from the exorbitant cost of housing to its more serious social ills. He uncovers a global Deadwood, complete with rapturous engineers, cut-throat cocaine dealers, aimless bush workers, American evangelicals, and the largest population of homeless people in northern Canada. He also explains that this micro-economy supplies gasoline for 50 percent of Canadian vehicles and 16 percent of U.S. demand. Readers will learn that oil sands:

  • burn more carbon than conventional oil,
  • destroy forests and displace woodland caribou
  • poison the water supply and communities downstream
  • drain the Athabasca, the river that feeds Canada''s largest watershed
  • contribute to climate change


The book does provide hope, however, and ends with an exploration of possible solutions to the problem. And this update edition Nikiforuk adds a new afterword, a new appendix on the hidden costs of steam extraction, and a response to the criticism he received for the first edition.

Published in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation.

About the Author

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning Canadian journalist. His books include Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig's War against Big Oil, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Editorial Reviews

"The environmental problems addressed in [Tar Sands] raise the broader issue of redefining man's relationship to Earth, and underscore the connectedness of life whether tortoise, Texan, or tree."" ForeWord Magazine ""Environmentally-minded readers will find a lot to like here, and Canadian and American citizens would do well to keep themselves informed of this problem with continent-wide implications.” ForeWord Magazine “[Nikiforuk] argues convincingly in Tar Sands that neither Alberta nor Canada has come to terms with the true extent of the environmental devastation.” Alternatives Journal “Tar Sands exposes the disastrous environmental, social and political costs of the Alberta oil sands and argues forcefully for a change.” Prairie Books NOW “The Calgary author contends that Canada is starting to resemble the petro-states of South America and the Middle East -- rich in oil but short on democracy and freedom of speech--and that Alberta's tar-sands development is mismanaged, environmentally toxic, bad for Canada's autonomy and short on long-term benefits for Albertans. Nikiforuk has a point, and he has guts. He also explains the tar sands in a straightforward way, something government and industry have been slow to do, apparently with reason.” National Post “Although I am not so naive as to suggest that these companies halt their operations, the comment that ""environmental concerns are paramount"" is simply unbelievable. After considering those comments about restoration, I w
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