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Earth Action Week: Alberta's oil sands controversy

Staff writers
March 22, 2013 — Alberta's oil sands are Canada's most valuable and controversial natural resource, igniting massive economic growth while provoking environmental protests around the world.

Fort McMurray is home to one of the largest deposits of oil in the world
Fort McMurray is home to one of the largest deposits of oil in the world

In a society that depends so heavily on oil, the controversy continues.

Fort McMurray, Alta., is home to one of the largest deposits of oil in the world and the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that oil sands will generate $444 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years.

“It’s somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the entire GDP of the country. It provides enormous high tech jobs and it should be something we’re very proud of,” says Ken Champman, Executive Director of the Oil Sands Developers Group. 

That sentiment however, is not accepted by everyone. 

Greenpeace and local First Nations argue that development in the oil sands is causing unprecedented ecological harm.

“They have huge greenhouse gas emissions," says Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. "We’re talking about the emissions currently from tar sands production today being greater than all the cars in Canada combined.” 

Large quantities of water are also needed to separate the oil from the sand, which can be taxing on water resources.

"We monitor air, land, water, tailings, a number of elements," assures Chapman. "So we are highly monitored, highly regulated. So there is concern and nothing is being ignored here."

As debate from both sides continues, so does the talk of oil sands expansion, which is already underway. 

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for Earth action-related discussions, and let us know your thoughts using #TWNEarthWeek.

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