Getting the Balance Right: The Oil Sands, Exporting and Sustainability

The Conference Board of Canada, 9 pages, January 2010
Briefing by Len Coad, Glen Hodgson
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This briefing discusses whether—and how—expanded production and exports from the Canadian oil sands can be reconciled with a sustainability agenda.

Document Highlights

The oil sands in northeastern Alberta contain proven reserves of about 173 billion barrels of oil—second only to Saudi Arabia’s reserves. The actual and potential demand for oil sands production is huge, both in North America and elsewhere. The U.S. imports over 60 per cent of its oil requirements, making it a prime international energy market for Canada and other oil-producing nations. A core truth in assessing the future of the oil sands is that U.S. and Canadian oil demand will be satisfied from somewhere—and the oil sands have some key advantages as a preferred supplier.

This briefing argues that sustainable exports from the oil sands can be achieved, but it will require ongoing investment—by the producers and by governments—in improved technologies and a re-balancing of the climate change agenda.

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