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The Alberta tar sands, also known as the Athabasca oil sands, are some of the largest deposits of oils sands presently known in the western hemisphere. As such, these tar sands are sought out by oil companies in massive numbers in order to fulfill the needs of the oil market. However, the problem that emerges as a result of mining and refining these sands into usable oil is massive destruction of the environment and other forms of waste. Examining the mining process of the Alberta tar sands through environmental damage, water wastage, and the contribution of greenhouse gases that create climate change ultimately shows that the economic boon of oil is outweighed by the horrific damage done by the process.

Mining the Alberta tar sands is a process that is unacceptable due to the environmental damage that has occurred to the natural water reserves in the area, most notably the Athabasca River. This river is the nearest body of water to the open mining pits that punctuate Alberta’s landscape. According to a recent study of the river, there has been a definitive increase in toxic materials in the water since the beginning of the latest tar sands boom beginning in 2006 (Kelly, 16178). Several specific elements that are toxic at low concentrations such as cadmium, lead, and mercury, have all experienced increases in the waters of the Athabasca River. This is significant because it puts individuals and wildlife who come into contact with that water at risk for serious ailments. In addition to the pollution of the river, the nearby groundwater and land also suffers as a result of the pollution. According to Huseman and Short, the pollution from the open mines has seeped into groundwater and made several areas that have been inhabited by indigenous people unlivable (216). Overall, it is clear that the harm from this mining process has a massive and negative impact upon the environment.

The mining of the Alberta tar sands is also intrinsically negative due to the amount of water used in the process limiting the supply of water for others. According to recent research, the most popular source of water for oil sands in Alberta is the Athabasca River, which supplies 187 million cubic meters of fresh water (Sauchyn, St-Jacques, and Luckman 1261). This is the equivalent of the residential water use of 1.7 million Canadians. This is a vast amount of freshwater that is utilized for the purposes of a business that continues to develop a form of energy that is finite when the focus could be shifted towards renewable sources. An additional problem that emerges in this case is that all of the water that comes into contact with the processing plant for the tar sands is never released again (Water Usage). This is vast amounts of water that is wasted and then stored on site because of its contamination. Aside from the massive use and waste of water, it is always possible that the contaminated water could become an active pollutant if it were to spill into the environment. < Click Essay Writer to order your essay >

The final reason that the Alberta tar sands are unacceptable despite providing economic benefits is that the process of oil derivation results in massive amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the environment. This contributes to a growing problem of climate change that is already having a tremendous impact on the planet. It is presently known that the burning of the tar sands to derive oil has contributed to a 0.4 C increase in temperature in Alberta since 2006 when the last major boom started in the industry (Biello 5). This could have untold negative consequences for the environment in Canada as well as around the globe. Greenhouse gases are being released in massive amounts throughout the world even though scientists and policy-makers are well-aware of the difficulties that are posed by greenhouse gases. Overall, it is clear that greenhouse gases are being produced in high amounts by the Alberta tar sands derivation process and that the ecological well-being of the area and the globe as a whole should take precedence over economic wealth. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

There are opposing arguments that suggest that the amount of oil that is being captured by the Alberta tar sands makes the process worthwhile. After all, the Alberta tar sands are one of the largest confirmed areas of potential oil capturing that exists in the modern day. Canada is able to leverage their seemingly inexhaustible source of tar sands into economic wealth and the lifeblood of the modern world: oil. The supporters of using tar sands for oil would say that this would guarantee a certain degree of independence from foreign oil interests and would make Canada stronger on the world stage. However, the rebuttal to this concept is rather simple. Canada has a long history of being at the forefront of regulations for industries that are known to be harmful due to the lasting damage that they can create. This case, no matter how wealthy it makes the nation, is no different. It is more important to preserve the water, air, and wildlife for the long duration rather than have money in the short term.

The Alberta tar sands are a topic of controversy throughout the nation of Canada and will continue to be a topic that receives a great deal of attention. However, there needs to be a tonal shift in the way that Canada approaches power and resources. Rather than racing to the bottom to exhausting finite resources, new efforts need to be put into place to utilize wind, hydrogen, and other clean energies that will power the future. The argument for oil and other fossil fuels is merely a question of how much land, air, and water we are willing to harm, but clean fuels offer better possibilities now and in the future. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

Works Cited

Biello, David. “How much will tar sands oil add to global warming.” Scientific American, January 23 (2013): 1-7.

Huseman, Jennifer, and Damien Short. “‘A slow industrial genocide’: tar sands and the indigenous peoples of northern Alberta.” The International Journal of Human Rights 16.1 (2012): 216-237.

Kelly, Erin N., et al. “Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.37 (2010): 16178-16183.

Sauchyn, David J., Jeannine-Marie St-Jacques, and Brian H. Luckman. “Long-term reliability of the Athabasca River (Alberta, Canada) as the water source for oil sands     mining.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.41 (2015): 12621-12626.“Water usage | environment | technical.” Oil Sands Magazine, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 27 Aug. 2016.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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