“Tar Sands” or “Oil Sands” – Public Access to New On-Line Resources

Is it ‘tar’ sands or ‘oil’ sands? What does the science say? Search thousands of historic and scientific tar sands/oil sands documents and decide for yourself.
A recent study linked on the OSRIN website entitled “The Alberta Oil Sands, Journalists, and Their Sources” indicates that many journalists get their “tar” sands or oil sands information from the Internet. Good news — now everyone can access a listing of more than 1,500 oil sands papers, and in many cases find a link to a digital copy of the paper or its abstract, presented in a user-friendly, searchable bibliographic format, with more entries to come.

The Oil Sands Research and Information Network, operated through the University of Alberta, has provided funding for the online library project at CEMA, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, drawn from an existing and growing repository of scientific papers and reference material.

One respondent in the journalist’s study stated: “…basically, the way I was able to become an expert on the oil sands was by using Google search. I went from having zero knowledge to a lot of knowledge in a couple of months.”

Why not use OSRIN?

Few people realize that from the 1970’s through AOSTRA (Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority), the oil sands constituted the second largest scientific research project in North America, second only to NASA. Few people would claim to be able scope out NASA’s 40 year heritage in a couple of months of online research. The oil sands represent an equally complex technological issue.

OSRIN’s executive director Chris Powter says that OSRIN is also generating new research-based information in five core areas: tailings reclamation, regional landscape reclamation, monitoring ecosystem impacts, increasing awareness and public access to scientific work by housing it on their site, and capturing social economic and regulatory factors relative to oil sands development. OSRIN is also rapidly becoming a repository of some 40 years of oil sands grey literature and historic documentation.

Journalists, government agencies, industry and members of the public alike can explore the actual history and science of the oil sands through the OSRIN and CEMA websites.

For air monitoring, look at the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association’s (WBEA) site (whose academic team have over 3,000 peer reviewed papers).

Authors of “The Alberta Oil Sands, Journalists, and Their Sources” study, Janice Paskey and Gillian Steward, both of Calgary, Alberta’s Mount Royal University note that 14 of the 20 journalists they interviewed “reported that the tension between economic/energy security and environmental impact is the driving issue for them when it comes to coverage of the oil sands”.

Indeed, the authors note that if development continues as planned, “it is expected that oil sands-related jobs in Canada will jump from the current 75,000 to 905,000 over the next 25 years. And for every two jobs created in Canada, one will be created in the U.S. Canadian Energy Research Institute“.(2011)

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil sands bitumen slurry to the southern U.S. for refining. Yet, this project, and the oil sands/tar sands often arouse fierce opposition. Much of it is amplified by consumer level campaigns like those conducted by eco-groups or companies like LUSH Cosmetics. These tend to simplistically vilify the oil sands — and downplay the science behind the work.

Authors of the Paskey/Steward paper note that “when asked how much of their research is done online, 11/19 respondents said 70% to 100%”.

Web-based eco-groups like the Pembina Institute are often a popular source of information for journalists. Yet according to testimony of Pembina’s Simon Dyer to Canada’s Standing Committee on the Environment on May 13, 2009, the “Pembina Institute has four staff to work on oil sands issues.”

By contrast, literally thousands of expert scientists, engineers and geologists participate in every oil sands development and dozens of experts review the applications, implementation and monitoring. It’s crucial that media, government and the public have access to the history and science.

As one journalist said “…there’s no other project like this in the world, and its history in the making, and you are watching this all come about …”

Chris Powter of OSRIN says, “There’s a lot of information out there and peer-reviewed papers are not the only valuable documents. I encourage people to develop a more informed opinion.”

And here’s his ebook: http://osemb.cemaonline.ca/rrdcSearch.aspx

These are my opinions. Originally published on Yahoo Contributor.


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