Tar Sands World for the week (December 10, 2013)

Tar Sands World for the week (December 10, 2013)


CNN ran a story, written elsewhere, detailing the long term energy from shale goals coming out of Estonia. Estonia, a country and region you might as well get used to reading me raise the alarm over so far as extreme energy plays, produces more electricity from oil shale pyrolysis that it currently consumes. Problem, of course, is that this energy development is dirtier than coal, never mind tar sands.


Estonia, gearing to be the world leader in oil from oil shale development, is Canada’s most obvious partner in trying to undermine efforts at the EU level to curb emissions. Counting on the twin facts of being the fastest growing economy in the very problematic 2011 EU financial waters, and also having the “trojan horse” effect inside the EU makes it utterly essential to heed where they are going, how, why.


Perhaps this best shows the folly in allowing environmental critiques to be determined, too often at least, by the viability of a “campaign.” How does one deal with a nation state that already pollutes far above its population size, but is a relatively small and not “big swinging” nation state from the former Soviet Union?


Well, it is important that we pay attention to the summation of Isa Soares on the question of oil shale expansion coming from Estonia: “So, for the time being, Eesti Energia is powering on. Its international arm Enefit is betting on shale selling beyond its borders, with a plant in Jordan and recently bought land in the U.S. state of Utah.


A risky strategy. But if shale does stay strong, Estonia could win big.”


That risky strategy is risky because of the work of climate activists that have put the worst fuels on the front burner of new energy agreements. Oil shale is on the list, and has been fought by Estonia, for the Quality Fuels Directive, but it is not highly noted– simultaneously, EE is working (as Enefit) to open up other regions and areas. Since a short term, artificial “boom” in the 70’s and 80’s in the US, oil shale has been kept at bay by finance more than eco-activism.


Perhaps this danger is most accentuated by the difficulty in doing what environmental, community led response does best: confront at the point of destruction. We need to plot, observe and follow the strategy being undertaken to “normalize” oil shale. It can do so by operating outside of the EU, and by getting a foothold in the US– the place where trillions of potential, recoverable barrels of kerogen-based fuels can come from– Eesti Energia is indeed punching way above its weight class. It is almost completely unheard of in North America and yet is operating on several continents and has the promise to continue to expand elsewhere.


If I were to nominate the most important, unknown stories of extreme extraction, perhaps only Genie and their plans in the Shefla Basin, Mongolia’s central regions and the mighty Green River Formation could even compete.


Canada is desperately counting on the continued support of Estonia in undoing restrictions on tar sands, but the even bigger dynamic may be what Canada is facilitating beyond Europe as well.


Good thing then, that we do not have to put Canada or Estonia in a hypothetical competition with one another. They are partners hand in glove, covered in black soot on this play. But where will they end up–and can we stop them there, too?