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Ethical Oil
Cover of Ethical Oil
Ethical Oil
The Case for Canada's Oil Sands
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Canada's "no. 1 defender of freedom of speech" and the bestselling author of Shakedown makes the timely and provocative case that when it comes to oil, ethics matter just as much as the economy and the environment.

In 2009, Ezra Levant's bestselling book Shakedown revealed the corruption of Canada's human rights commissions and was declared the "most important public affairs book of the year." In Ethical Oil, Levant turns his attention to another hot-button topic: the ethical cost of our addiction to oil. While many North Americans may be aware of the financial and environmental price we pay for a gallon of gas or a barrel of oil, Levant argues that it is time we consider ethical factors as well. With his trademark candor, Levant asks hard-hitting questions: With the oil sands at our disposal, is it ethically responsible to import our oil from the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico? How should we weigh carbon emissions with human rights violations in Saudi Arabia? And assuming that we can't live without oil, can the development of energy be made more environmentally sustainable? In Ethical Oil, Levant exposes the hypocrisy of the West's dealings with the reprehensible regimes from which we purchase the oil that sustains our lifestyles, and offers solutions to this dilemma. Readers at all points on the political spectrum will want to read this timely and provocative new book, which is sure to spark debate.

From the Hardcover edition.

Canada's "no. 1 defender of freedom of speech" and the bestselling author of Shakedown makes the timely and provocative case that when it comes to oil, ethics matter just as much as the economy and the environment.

In 2009, Ezra Levant's bestselling book Shakedown revealed the corruption of Canada's human rights commissions and was declared the "most important public affairs book of the year." In Ethical Oil, Levant turns his attention to another hot-button topic: the ethical cost of our addiction to oil. While many North Americans may be aware of the financial and environmental price we pay for a gallon of gas or a barrel of oil, Levant argues that it is time we consider ethical factors as well. With his trademark candor, Levant asks hard-hitting questions: With the oil sands at our disposal, is it ethically responsible to import our oil from the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico? How should we weigh carbon emissions with human rights violations in Saudi Arabia? And assuming that we can't live without oil, can the development of energy be made more environmentally sustainable? In Ethical Oil, Levant exposes the hypocrisy of the West's dealings with the reprehensible regimes from which we purchase the oil that sustains our lifestyles, and offers solutions to this dilemma. Readers at all points on the political spectrum will want to read this timely and provocative new book, which is sure to spark debate.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • Chapter 1 Chapter 1
    WHAT ARE THE OIL SANDS AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?


    For decades, the way that oil production worked is that oil was discovered in a liquid state and was pumped out of the ground just like water. It was then refined into usable products like gasoline. That's how it still is in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran and in the conventional oil fields of Canada and the United States. But conventional oil fields have been depleted over the years; the International Energy Agency estimated that existing, conventional oil fields are losing production at a rate of 6.7 per cent a year.1 With world oil prices steadily rising because of new energy demand from the emerging industrial economies in India and China, scientists have turned their attention to unconventional sources of oil – like the oil sands.

    The oil sands are just what they sound like: oil mixed with sand and clay. Bitumen has the thickness of peanut butter, so it's not exactly ready to be pumped and piped like the Saudi stuff. The process of removing the oil from the sand in an economical way has bedevilled scientists for decades, and until recently it was considered an experimental project. Only in the past ten years have technology and higher oil prices come together to make the oil sands economically viable.

    It's so unconventional that for thirty years the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the government regulator that oversees the stock market, has had a policy that forbade oil companies from including oil sands oil as part of their "proven" reserves on their balance sheets.2 That's how new oil sands oil is – until recently, the world just didn't believe it could work.

    But if the oil sands had a slow start, they've made up for it with amazing growth in the past few years. More than one hundred oil companies are now working or planning to develop the oil sands, and Fort McMurray, once a sleepy outpost in Northern Alberta, has grown into the third-largest city in the province, a boom town of one hundred thousand people. It was because of the oil sands that the value of energy companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange finally exceeded the value of banks. That's big.

    The oil sands are the reason why Canada is now the number-one exporter of oil to the United States, pushing Saudi Arabia down to number two in 2004 – the year the U.S. Department of Energy finally included oil sands oil in its estimates for global oil reserves. In 2008, Canada shipped 715 million barrels to the United States, far more than the 550 million barrels the Saudis sold. From 2003 to 2008, the oil sands had helped cut Saudi imports by 80 million barrels a year.3 The oil sands aren't just a huge economic force. They're changing the calculus in foreign affairs and national security too.

    Oil sands have been discovered in other parts of the world, such as Venezuela's Orinoco oil belt,4 but Alberta's political and economic stability make it the most important alternative to Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil in the world. It's hard to believe, but Canada's oil sands represent more than half of all publicly accessible oil in the world – that is, oil that isn't controlled by a government monopoly. That's why companies from around the world are setting up shop in Canada. If you're an investor in oil – and anyone with a pension fund probably is – you're an investor in the oil sands.

    But while the oil sands are an enormous economic and energy opportunity, they're a great public relations opportunity for critics of oil too. For one thing, they're ugly, or at least the handful of open-pit mines dating back to...

About the Author-
  • EZRA LEVANT is a lawyer, journalist, and political activist. As the publisher of Western Standard magazine, he was charged by the Government of Alberta for publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. He is a frequent radio talk show guest known for his plain-spoken opinions, and he has written columns for media throughout North America. His most recent book, Shakedown, was a national bestseller.

Reviews-
  • Calgary Herald

    "[Levant's book] has clearly had a huge impact on the debate."

  • National Post "Ethical Oil provides some desperately needed perspective."
  • Halifax Chronicle-Herald "Compelling....Ethical Oil posits some uncomfortable answers, making it a challenging and provocative read."
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