The case for exploiting tar sands


Shell warned environmentalists and ethical investors yesterday that failure to exploit tar sands and other unconventional oil products would worsen climate change because it would lead to the world burning even more carbon-heavy coal.

Jeroen van der Veer, Shell's chief executive, said the world needed every kind of energy source it could find at a time of soaring demand. He said groups that had threatened to organise a ban on alternative fossil fuels should be careful because without unconventionals "the balancing fuel will be coal".

Shell revealed that its tar sands operation had seen a 74% profit growth to $351m (£177m) in the second quarter, providing a relatively modest but important boost to total group profits of $7.9bn on a current cost of supplies basis. In the US, its rival ExxonMobil reported earnings of $11.7bn for the last quarter, the highest in US corporate history.

The Co-op and the wildlife group WWF announced this week that they were calling a meeting of ethical investment funds in September to try to put pressure on governments not to buy any oil supplies coming from tar sands.

While environmentalists have claimed that tar sands extraction uses at least three times more energy than traditional oil, Van der Veer said yesterday that the "well-to-wheels" carbon footprint was only 15% higher than conventional oil.

Last night Greenpeace questioned the carbon figures and expressed further concern at Shell's growing use of tar sands. "Oil companies are increasingly dependent on these unconventionals as they get squeezed out of countries such as Nigeria and Russia. We fear tar sands are just the entrance ramp to oil shale, gas-to-liquids and other non-conventionals, which will just press the red button for climate change disaster," said Charlie Kronick, a climate change campaigner at Greenpeace.


I question the good faith of the opponents of alternatives like tar sands. Most appear to be anti energy period while they sit around wishing for a miracle. To reduce the cost of energy we need to exploit all energy resources. The alternative to that is ever higher prices for the energy sources that the anti energy left has not been able to block.


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