Last week, James Cameron made a trip to Canada for a first-hand look at the oil sand operations, which have been called the dirtiest form of energy on the planet.
Although Cameron maintains the “unobtainium” mine featured in the movie was based on an open pit copper mine, many Canadians who saw Avatar immediately compared it to the massive oil sands developments underway in northern Alberta.
Confident that he would emerge with a more positive opinion of the industry, Canadian officials invited Cameron to take a helicopter tour of the region and attend on-the-ground demonstrations hosted by oil company engineers.
Not surprisingly, Cameron’s final opinion was far from approving.
“You look down and you see just a vast area of devastation. There’s no other way to put it,” said Cameron in a radio story broadcast on PRI’s THE WORLD.“And you think, how are they ever going to reclaim this and turn it back into the beautiful arboreal forest that was there before. Because that’s the promise that’s been made. Oh, we’ll put this all back. This is only temporary. We’re just going to mine the surface and then we’re going to put in new trees and it’s all going to grow and you won’t even know the difference. Well, unfortunately that’s not what it looks like, that’s not what it feels like.”
Currently, Canada is the United States’ number one source of foreign oil, and the oil sands are responsible for nearly half of Canadian oil production. The oil extracted from the sands is extremely crude, and must be shipped hundreds of miles across the U.S. to refineries before it can even be used.
The Obama administration is considering a proposal to build the Keystone XL Pipeline (also know as the Keystone Gulf Coast Extenstion): a 1,980 mile pipeline that would transport oil sands crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta and deliver it to existing terminals in Nederland, Texas to serve the Port Arthur, Texas oil market.
The recent Michigan oil spill and gas pipeline explosion in California haven’t bolstered public confidence that this infrastructure is safe, and 50 different members of Congress have publicly urged Obama Administration to recognize the Keystone XL Pipeline as a threat to America’s clean energy future.
Cameron feels that more research is needed to fully understand if the benefits of utilizing the tar sands truly outweigh the risks.
What do you think? Is sentencing Canada and the U.S. to 30 more years of filthy oil really worth it?
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Image Credit: Flickr - sdtarsandspipeline