Your McMurray Six On / Six Off
Fort McMurray is the Oil Sands, right?
1. Off: Fort McMurray is the oil sands, right? Same thing?
On: Wrong. Fort McMurray is the name of a community with a rich and varied history, much of which is connected to the development of the oil sands, but the two are not synonyms. Fort McMurray – or YMM as the airport code lists it – is a community, and the oil sands are an industry.
2. Off: Oil sands, tar sands, what’s the difference? Same slick black substance, right? What’s in a name?
On: There’s something black and slick in those sands alright, but it isn’t tar. That’s bitumen, a form of oil and for the sake of accuracy we call it oil sands, not tar sands.
3. Off: The oil sands are a huge contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions!
On: Hold up there and check your facts. China clocks in at a hefty 26% of those and the USA at 17%. Oh, and the oil sands? 0.15%, not exactly the number you would expect given the hype – and when it comes to the oil sands, there is a lot of hype.
4. Off: What is up with all those “I love Oil Sands” t-shirts? I hear that is part of some kind of industry-funded campaign to try to divert attention from the production of dirty oil.
On: There may be few genuinely grassroots movements related to the development of the Oil Sands, but Oil Sands Action – the folks behind those black t-shirts proudly emblazoned with the white slogan – is one of them. Started by a Calgary realtor named Cody Battershill and joined by several other individuals passionate about the topic, the group has given a voice to the thousands and thousands of Canadians who work in the oil sands industry or one related to (or reliant on) it.
5. Off: There is no such thing as an environmentalist in the oil sands industry. The people who work for the industry, and those who defend it, are nothing but shills for those oil tycoons looking to cash in.
On: Not only are there many skilled and talented environmentalists working directly in the oil sands industry there are also thousands more who call the oil sands region home. Recognizing that oil is a sought after resource doesn’t mean that one checks their environmental responsibility at the door to site – in fact, it might just make us more motivated to ensure a sustainable future for our region, our industry and our community.
6. Off: The boom is over and oil is dead. I mean, the economy has tanked and it’s running on fumes. Guess it’s game over for the oil sands, eh?
On: One of the most pertinent things to remember about a resource economy is that it experiences peaks and valleys. While there are many factors influencing the future of the oil sands, one key point remains true: we have not yet discovered an alternative for oil. The market may ebb and flow, and the volatility might always exist – but until a reliable, economically viable and accessible alternative is found the oil sands aren’t going anywhere. And the next time a Canadian anywhere in this country goes to turn the key in their car they should be grateful for that, because whether they know it or not they have benefitted in some way from the industry that has touched the lives of every Canadian: the oil sands.