Monday, January 14, 2008

Oil or Tar?

I have to give HUGE credit to the Edmonton Journal's Archie McLean for a great piece in today's edition on one of my biggest pet peeves.

As someone who was born and raised in Fort McMurray, I understand that what we mine up north are oilsands. It has been that way ever since the term was introduced by Karl Clark and Sidney Blair (two great pioneers, I might add) in the early 1950's.

The debate rages as to whether they are to be called "oilsands" or "tarsands". Interestingly enough, this is a non-issue in Fort McMurray.

We KNOW they're called oilsands.

Sadly, as our great resource has been rediscovered by foreign leaders and environmental activists alike, the use of the term "tarsands" has ramped up. Individuals ranging from Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema (one of Alberta's leading economic terrorists) right on up to U.S. President George W. Bush have been using "tarsands" as opposed to "oilsands". Their feelings on the subject are markedly different, i'm sure, but their use of the term "tarsands" stems from the fact that they are underinformed about the resource.

As an aside, an oilpatch historian does an excellent job of highlighting just how underinformed Mr. Hudema really is when he explains how "oilsands" came to be used, debunking the uber-left spin from Greenpeace.

Anyway, my point to all of you is this: This is a tremendous resource that is important to securing our long-term energy and economic future. Use the right term when you talk about it.


  1. I work in the investment business, and I would agree with your comments. If we heard someone talk about "investing in the tarsands" we immediately knew that (1) they were likely a foreign investor, and (2) they just figured out how much resource was up there, and thought they were "first on the scene" ;-) So my experience would seem to be similar to your own... that is, anyone familiar with Ft. McMurray and the process of "liberating oil from sand" calls it oilsands.

    Now the term tarsands has been co-opted by others trying to frame the issue. But some(/most?) of them are just as mis-informed.

  2. The real debate is over why some Dynosaurs chose to die at ground level and some chose to die under the Ocean Floor , after all....we have heard for years now that the crude Oil is from dead animals .
    Kinda reminds me a Al Gore's crusade to show how snow in Baghdad on friday and record low temperature around the world is the first sign of Global warming.
    Just wait another decade and the wram temperature will be a reason for taxes to stop the Ice-Age were causing.

  3. I lived in McMurray for many years and I always called it either oilsands or tarsands. I don't see where it makes much difference.
    I remember walking along the river behind Area One (Abasand Heights) and finding tar oozing from the ground. That's the very stuff that Peter Pond and the natives before him used to line their canoes. That wasn't oil they were smearing on. It was tar!

  4. Non-issue.

    We could call the oil sands anything we want and the eco-nuts would be just the same and the spin that they feed the unwashed would not change.

    I don't think that even the most ill-informed person would make much of a distinction between oil and tar fouling a pristine wilderness as described by Greenpeace, Pembina INstitute, etc. which as anon notes, this place is not.

    And by the way it is two words not one or else Alberta Energy better get the white-out for the leases they issued for "oil sands".

  5. I'm also from Fort McMurray and this too is one of my pet peeves. We'd almost gotten rid of the "tarsands" term until the greenies resurrected it to cast a shadow on the industry.

    The fact of the matter is that tar is a human-made substance which obviously invalidates the term.

  6. Really, does it matter what the "term" is. The end result is still the same...increased burning of fossal fuels and increased carbon emissions. How can anyone deny that global warming is a fact? Use what ever term needed, there still needs to be global changes to reduce the use of fossil fuels

  7. cranky,
    Substitute the word "denier" for "witch" and you've got it right ;-)

  8. Anon 12:28...

    When you say "temporary disturbal of lands which are eventually reclaimed," can you give me a rough estimate of the timeline involved? I know that if I put a shovel in the ground where I live, the grass will grow back the next year, and no animals will die, nor will people lose their natural way of life.

    With the way that those I know involved with the oil industry talk, we've got decades and decades left of oil up there (so don't worry about an energy crisis or becoming more sustainable in our way of living). So when, exactly, is this land going to be reclaimed? And are we supposed to ignore the natural detriment in the mean time?

    Don't worry about the person that was beaten and raped... he or she will recover in time, right?

  9. jennifer @ 1:07,

    Take a drive on Highway 63 north of Fort McMurray. You'll drive past land that has already been reclaimed... within my lifetime to boot.

    Most people don't realize its reclaimed land until its pointed out to them.

    These are the dangers of getting one's oilsands facts solely from Greenpeace or the CBC.

  10. Hey Jennifer...The most amazing fact about wildlife is that they can walk. The dragline rarely dumps a load of sand with moose legs sticking out of it.

  11. too bad fish can't, hey?

  12. Here's the point, mofo: If they are so precious and important to our security, then why are we committed to supplying to the U.S. and the risk of being unable to supply to our own country...

  13. I've nevery heard the right complain of the left over-spinning (or "uber-spinning" as this author so cleverly put it).

    Mike Hudema is extremely educated (he's a lawyer), articulate and well-researched. He is known in the media for being clear, concise and factual.

    Our generation is the last to be able to make meaningful decisions about the environment. Those decisions are being made for us as we continue with unnecessary debate. There is no longer any dispute that the planet is warming because of human activity like that taking place in the sands.

    Ridiculous arguments about the right and the left and terminology only distract us from a problem that faces all of humanity.

  14. "Our generation is the last to be able to make meaningful decisions about the environment."

    Do you really believe this? So, after us, our children will not be able to make meaningful decisions affecting our environment. What a ridiculous statement... but it has been promulgated over the last two or three generations, so I guess I should not be surprised to hear it again.

  15. There is nothing clear and concise about a guy who ate his ballot in the 2000 federal election.

  16. Hudema ate his ballot? Seriously... the media should give the whole story on these individuals. It is a warped world when every successful politician is derided for having ulterior motives and every environmentalist is lauded/sainted for being selfless. There are good and bad people in both types of positions in society.

  17. Tar comes from trees or coal.
    Oil comes from petroleum.
    Bitumen comes from either petroleum or the ground.
    Petroleum comes from the ground.

    Those of us who inform ourselves about what words mean by conventional avenues (such as dictionaries) would call them either 'petroleum sands' or 'bitumen sands,' depending on the nature of the viscous liquid extracted.

    Both oil sands and tar sands (or oilsands and tarsands, if you prefer) are a kind of spin.

    Then again, maybe I missed the memo about Fort McMurray being a spinfree zone.