Canada's carbon calamity

Those living in a nation that frenetically exports coal shouldn't point fingers.  But one can't help but gape in dismay at Canada, which is about to launch a feeding frenzy on its massive tar-sand and oil-shale deposits.

  Don't worry... technology will save us.

Don't worry... technology will save us.

Like coal, tar sands and oil shale are among the 'dirtiest' of fossil fuels--because they require hugely energy-intensive technologies to exploit them. 

Extracting a barrel of petroleum from oil shale requires five times the energy needed to exploit a conventional petroleum deposit, and tar sands aren't much better.  

For such reasons, former NASA climatologist Jim Hansen once described tar-sands as a "carbon bomb."

Canada is seen as the global leader of tar-sands exploitation, with the country trumpeting its expertise and multinational oil corporations and nations lining up to invest and send their experts there for training. 

Globally, tar-sands deposits are massive, and they're increasingly being exploited.  A new website shows tar-sands projects springing up across the globe, from Mongolia to the Congo, and Russia to Morocco.  The U.S. alone is estimated to have up to a trillion barrels of recoverable petroleum in tar-sands deposits.

It's a frightening trend.  With China building nearly one new coal-fired generating plant each week and Canada becoming a global cheerleader for some of the dirtiest carbon fuels, one has to wonder if the IPCC's sobering 'business-as-usual' scenario for carbon emissions might actually be too optimistic.