2014-03-28 / Letters

Energy Citizens has different impression

To the editor:

The lobbying front group of the American Petroleum Institute, under the name Energy Citizens, has released the second version of its PR ad blitz in the Sentry and elsewhere. Its first claim is that the very term “tar sands” was invented as anti-oil activist spin.

The term tar sands first appears in any form in the geological literature in an 1891 annual report by the Geological Survey of Canada entitled, “Tar Sands on the Athabasca River” by R.G. McConnell. A somewhat synonymous term, “bituminous sands,” was first used in 1914 (by S.C. Ells) for the same western Canadian tarry bitumen. Both terms are still used within the geotechnical literature.

“Oil sands” is an older term that was first applied to Pennsylvania crude (Ashburner, 1878) and later to Oklahoma (Aurin, 1917) and California crudes (Gester, 1917). These occurrences are, by modern standards, high-grade crude oil that is hosted in porous sandstone and that can be drilled by conventional means. A dissertation (by C.F. Melcher, George Washington University) confirms that, as of 1922, the two terms, “tar sands” and “oil sands,” were not treated synonymously.

Later in the 1920s, extraction techniques for Alberta tar sands were developed that grew to industry-scale by 1966. The first commercial plant was called Great Canadian Oil Sands and now operates as Suncor. This is how Alberta’s tar sands became oil sands.

Energy Citizens, whose very business is spin, leaves other points in its ads equally assailable. Please note, in response to this spin, that:

 Maine has no refineries or oil wells; there is no direct connection between crude oil export from Casco Bay and Maine’s fuel prices.

 Canada was proudly the first nation to sign – and ignominiously the only nation to withdraw from – the Kyoto accords. Canada now ranks last for environmental protection among 27 industrialized Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations.

 Search online with the keywords “Kalamazoo” or “Mayflower” “+ oil spill.” You’ll see why the Environmental Protection Agency warned the state department to treat tar sands dilbit differently from conventional crude oil.

I believe that Sentry readers are smarter than Energy Citizens thinks we are.

Eben Rose
South Portland

Editor’s note: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (www.oecd.org) grew out of the Marshall Plan after World War II. It was officially born as Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1961 with the U.S. and Canada as founding members.

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