The oilseeds in Alberta are one of the world’s largest environmental dangers. Not only are the greenhouse gas emissions astronomical, the tailing ponds can be seen from space and the nearby rivers are heavy in toxic metals.
But, the same could be said of 1960s pulp and paper operations across the country. What did it take to clean up the pulp and paper industry? Leadership from government and pressure from local people. Something we are unfortunately short on.
The tar-sands have very deep pockets and they push hard for less government oversight, but at the end of the day it is government who will force the industry to reform. This article outlines some promising new technologies to cleanup the industry, but it also outlines how the costs involved are too risky for business to take, so the government must step up to the plate. So far, they have refuse.
I would like to think the tar sands can be exploited in a reasonable way, but to do that will require great political courage. However, the technology that would be developed in the process could be a revolutionary, after all, as the article above states, it is government-funded research that allowed the tar-sands to be commercially viable in the first place.