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Canada’s Oil Sands – Part 1

Gail the Actuary, The Oil Drum
This is the first in a two-part series about Canada’s oil sands. In this post, I will talk about a recent American Petroleum Institute (API)-sponsored media trip I made to see Canada’s oil sands, and give a little background on material being extracted. In the second part of the series, I will talk about future oil sands production and some issues related to future imports, including environmental questions.

I should mention that while I went on the trip with API, the sources I am using in these two posts are broader than just information on the trip. I will link to some of these sources as I go along. Arguably this post is mostly from the point of view of oil companies, but it seems to me our knowledge base regarding oil sands is so poor that we need to start somewhere.

…What makes Canada’s Oil Sands different from many other deposits of heavy oil is the water layer surrounding the sand, making them “water wet,” or hydrophilic. Because Alberta’s oil sands are water wet, the “bitumen can be extracted using relatively inexpensive hot or warm water processes” according to small print on the poster above…
(25 August 2009)

Squandered Opportunity

William Greider, the Nation
After his brilliant beginning, the president suddenly looks weak and unreliable. That will be the common interpretation around Washington of the president’s abrupt retreat on substantive heathcare reform. Give Barack Obama a hard shove, they will say, rough him up a bit and he folds. A few weeks back, the president was touting a “public option” health plan as an essential element in reform. Now he says, take it or leave it. Whatever Congress does, he’s okay with that.

The White House quickly added confusion to the outrage by insisting the president didn’t really say anything new. He’s just being flexible. He still wants what most Democrats want–a government plan that gives people a real escape from the profit-driven clutches of the insurance companies. But serious power players will not be fooled by the nimble spinners. Obama choked. He raised the white flag, even before the fight got underway in Congress.

…There is a more cynical interpretation of Obama’s flexibility. He is coming out right about where he wanted to be. Forget the good talk, it is said, this president never really intended to do deep reform that truly alters the industrial power structure dominating our dysfunctional healthcare system. He just wanted minimalist reforms he could sell as “victory.” Not until years later would people figure out that nothing fundamental had been changed…
(17 August 2009)

Health Care: Why costs spiral up

The Denver Post
The irony is not lost on Dr. Brian Winn.

When his 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago, Winn realized the cost of her treatment would max out his family’s limit on his small-group insurance. With cancer on their health record, the primary-care physician knew he would never qualify to buy another policy.

So his wife went to work for the state, which offers employees insurance — with no cap.

His daughter, Allison, came through her treatment and started fourth grade last week. Winn, meanwhile, is leaving his practice to join Kaiser Permanente.

He’s doing it, he said, because, as a private-practice physician, “I think our business model is broken.”…
(25 August 2009)

Editorial: The Future of Coal

A state judge’s invalidation of a single air quality permit for the coal-fired power plant in Wise County is unlikely to convince Dominion Power to “take this ruling as a sign that it needs to leave expensive coal-fired power plants in the past and move quickly toward developing sustainable, clean energy sources for a 21st century green economy,” as Cale Jaffe, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, urged.

However, other developments suggest that society as a whole needs to make the development of sustainable and clean energy sources a more urgent priority.

First comes the news in “Peak Oil” guru Richard Heinberg’s new book, “Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis,” which lays out the case that America’s coal reserves are far shallower than thought.

…The second troubling development for coal is the growing concern that carbon capture and sequestration technology — painted as the cure-all for continuing to burn coal and still meet greenhouse gas reduction goals — will be far more costly and difficult to implement than proponents have claimed.

A recent story in The Washington Post, reprinted on the front page of Wednesday’s Roanoke Times, discussed the many issues and complications involved. Some skeptics believe the technology will never be commercially viable…
25 August 2009)
sent in by driller, who says:

Peak coal seems to be touching mainstream: This Editorial is from Pennwell, the publisher of the Oil&Gas Journal and other well-known energy journals!