You’ve probably seen the headlines announcing that by 2020 the United States will pass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer, and that by 2030 North America will be a net exporter of oil. The International Energy Agency, representing 28 of the world’s richest countries, comes to that conclusion in its annual report, World Energy Outlook 2012. Most of that expansion will come from non-traditional sources — especially shale oil and tar sands.
Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International draws our attention to another of the report’s conclusions, one that hasn’t been widely reported. The IEA notes that with every passing year it is harder to believe that average global warming can be kept below 2°C – the level at which scientists say catastrophic climate change will become avoidable. And it says:
“No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2°C goal.”
That’s not the opinion of some flaky tree-hugger. It’s the considered judgment of the world’s leading authorities on energy. If we don’t leave at least two-thirds of oil in the soil, the climate will boil.
How is the industry responding to this?
Stockman points out that the Alberta Tar Sands alone has enough projects producing, under construction and approved “to blow well past the climate limits prescribed by the IEA.” What’s more, the oil industry has still more tar sands projects waiting regulatory decisions, “leading to a possible trebling of production capacity over and above the IEA limit.”
In other words, no matter what happens elsewhere, if we don’t shut down the Alberta Tar Sands, the world is cooked.