Canadians not proud enough of tar sands: Coutu

Alisha Morrissey
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Oil/Environment

The president and CEO of Canada's biggest oil development says people in this country don't take enough pride in the tar sands of Alberta.

Marcel Coutu, also chair of the board of directors of Canadian oil giant Syncrude, says Canadians have been taking a harsh - possibly exaggerated - view of the environmental impacts of the Alberta Tar sands.

The president and CEO of Canada's biggest oil development says people in this country don't take enough pride in the tar sands of Alberta.

Marcel Coutu, also chair of the board of directors of Canadian oil giant Syncrude, says Canadians have been taking a harsh - possibly exaggerated - view of the environmental impacts of the Alberta Tar sands.

That's why he's travelling the country speaking about the effects of the development and the actual amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced there.

"I think what Canadians don't do as well as other countries is recognize their good fortune and exhibit the pride that they should for having this natural resource," Coutu said.

"I think people don't appreciate the role of fossil fuels play in the world. In total today coal, gas and oil make up 88 per cent of the energy supply in the world, so all of the renewables ... that only makes up about 10 per cent of energy in the world today."

Coutu spoke to the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (NOIA) Thursday about the steps taken to make the tar sands more environmentally friendly in recent years.

He said doing things like reducing the amount of heat used to get the oil out of the sands, using less water and recycling it and reclaiming land when the development is done are all ways the company has learned to reduce its environmental footprint.

Many people hear about the tar sands and think about the environmental damage they've done, or the ducks killed in the tailings pond there.

"I think that was a very unfortunate situation, and we feel very bad about that, but we've upped the game on mitigation and I don't expect to see that again," Coutu said.

Overall, the negative effects of the environmental impact of the tar sands has been "largely exaggerated," Coutu said.

"The oil sands are actually only five per cent of the CO2 foot print in Canada. And Canada is only two per cent of global emissions so ... the oil sands are only one thousandth of the emissions globally."

If the Alberta tar sands shut down tomorrow, he said, it would really have no effect on CO2 emissions.

The Government of Alberta has always imposed stringent rules on the oil industry and its effect on the province's environment, Coutu said, adding the province has steadily rolled back the amount of CO2 output allowed from the tar sands.

And since 1990, the emissions produced per barrel of oil from the tar sands has been reduced by 30 per cent, Coutu said.

Coutu said Alberta is the only province with a working carbon tax that kicks in should progress not be made on emissions.

"We're an energy-intensive business, OK. We can't produce this product without consuming a whole lot of energy in the process. It's not possible."

amorrissey@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Alberta Tar, Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association, NOIA

Geographic location: Alberta, Canada

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Recent comments

  • nicole
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    The remarks and defense of this project are rediculous. Although your arguments may be valid for your individual carbon footprint, they are misleading. You have efficiently changed the subject matter of the message that the Global Warming community is trying to get across to the world.
    We as Canadians and all First World Countries are educated and have the ability to be leaders in our Global community to change the effects of Global Warming on our Planet. It is our responsibility to change our destructive ways. So you as one company cannot change the emissions of CO2 in the world...but as one company can show leadership within an industry that has altogether ignored the damage caused by over use of fossil fuels. Your greed, along with the greed of all the educated leaders of my country (Canada) is nothing to be proud of. I am disgusted by your chairs educated arguments and just hope that in the next decade their are leaders that have the courage to do what is right for the world and not line their own pockets.

  • nicole
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    The remarks and defense of this project are rediculous. Although your arguments may be valid for your individual carbon footprint, they are misleading. You have efficiently changed the subject matter of the message that the Global Warming community is trying to get across to the world.
    We as Canadians and all First World Countries are educated and have the ability to be leaders in our Global community to change the effects of Global Warming on our Planet. It is our responsibility to change our destructive ways. So you as one company cannot change the emissions of CO2 in the world...but as one company can show leadership within an industry that has altogether ignored the damage caused by over use of fossil fuels. Your greed, along with the greed of all the educated leaders of my country (Canada) is nothing to be proud of. I am disgusted by your chairs educated arguments and just hope that in the next decade their are leaders that have the courage to do what is right for the world and not line their own pockets.