Friday, January 16, 2009

A sticky ending for the tar sands

From The Economist:

A boom based on extracting oil from tar sands turns bad

LOOK west from the office towers of the energy companies that dominate Calgary, and the view is spectacular: rolling prairies rise to tree-clad foothills, with the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the Rockies on the horizon. Looking down, however, is more unsettling. The city is dotted with motionless construction cranes poised over the pits of abandoned projects. A five-year energy boom here in the administrative heart of Canada’s oil patch and in the tar sands far to the north has ended. The only debate is how painful and persistent the bust will be—not just for the biggest city in Canada’s richest province, Alberta, but for the whole country.

Alberta, which produces two-thirds of Canada’s oil and gas, has been here before. The wrenching oil slump of the 1980s still looms large in the public consciousness. Companies fled the province and thousands abandoned homes they could no longer afford. “The situation is much different this time,” insists the energy minister, Mel Knight, whose Progressive Conservative Party has ruled the province since 1971. Not all of the differences, however, are positive ones....MUCH MORE