Alternative fuels 'risk disaster'
A DRIVE to get oil from unconventional fossil fuel sources in the face of soaring prices could have catastrophic effects on the Earth's climate, a report warned yesterday.
With oil prices hitting record highs, the extraction of fuels from tar sands and oil shale is an increasingly attractive option.
But according to a study by WWF and Co-operative Financial Services, the fuels are massively energy intensive – creating as much as eight times as many carbon emissions in their production as conventional oil.
If all the estimated 1,115 billion barrels of the recoverable fuels found in Canada and the United States were to be extracted, the report estimates it would release 980 billion tonnes of .
According to the study, the emissions could push atmospheric levels of well past the point at which it is estimated global temperatures would rise more than 2C, risking mass extinction of species.
The researchers said oil giants including Shell and BP were planning to invest 125 billion Canadian dollars (62 billion) in the fuels by 2015 and intending to produce hundreds of thousands of barrels a day by 2020.
WWF and the Co-operative are calling for a global halt to the licensing of the production of the fuels, laws to prevent them being sold in the UK and more investment in renewable energy generation.
Tar or oil sands are made up of oil trapped in a mixture of water, sand and clay. Oil shale is sedimentary rock which produces petroleum-like liquids when heated.
Refining these fuels uses much energy and water, requiring use of fuels such as gas to make the petrol and creating toxic lakes, the report said.
WWF also warns that mining of the tar sands in Canada will damage huge areas of forest, which act as carbon sinks.
Production also damages unique wetlands and puts local indigenous people at risk, the environmental charity said.
The report's author, James Leaton, said: "Unconventional fuel sources may seem attractive in the short term, but ultimately the environmental and economic costs are unthinkable."
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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