An oil-sand development that would strip mine 125 square miles of boreal forest and wetlands in Canada's Alberta province can't go forward without accounting for its greenhouse gas emissions, a federal court ruled in a rare victory for environmentalists.
The set-back for Imperial Oil's $7 billion Kearl oil-sands project should also set precedent for future projects of its kind, according to a Toronto Star report. It also put a chink in the armor of so-called "carbon intensity" calculations, favored by President Bush as a measure of progress. The oil-sands developer had argued that it should be green-lighted because it had reduced the amount of carbon released per barrel of oil, similar to Bush's argument that the U.S. economy releases less carbon per dollar, despite vast increases in overall emissions.
"Given the amount of greenhouse gases that will be emitted to the atmosphere and given the evidence presented that the intensity-based targets will not address the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, it was incumbent upon the panel to provide a justification for its recommendation," the court ruled, according to the Star.
That's good news, considering existing oil sands projects are so highly polluting that they can produce more carbon dioxide than entire nations. Environmentalists have labeled them "the most destructive project on earth."
BBC News video about the Alberta Oil Sands
And we're likely to see more of them, if the world continues to rely on oil. As existing reserves are used up, increasingly hard-to-get-at supplies will be tapped. Those include tar- and oil-sands, oil-shale and deep-water deposits, all of which will come to market at greater expense to consumers, and a much greater cost to the environment.
The ruling doesn't account for more localized environmental destruction, which in some senses aren't local at all.
Larger than the Amazon, the boreal forest is a ring of virtually untouched greenery around the northern latitudes of Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia's Siberia. It is the largest eco-region in the world, critical for carbon sequestration, migratory bird habitat and the health of significant biodiversity.
Planet Earth segment about the Boreal Forest
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