The frenzied development ($100 billion and counting) of the oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta, in the last six years has made Canada the world’s fifth greatest global exporter of oil and turned the country into “an emerging energy superpower.”
Combining extensive scientific research and compelling writing, Andrew Nikiforuk takes the reader to Fort McMurray, home to some of the world’s largest open-pit mines, and explores this twenty-first-century pioneer town from the exorbitant cost of housing to its more serious social ills. He uncovers a global Deadwood, complete with rapturous engineers, cut-throat cocaine dealers, aimless bush workers, American evangelicals, and the largest population of homeless people in northern Canada. Tarsands production:
- burns more carbon than conventional oil,
- destroys forests and displaces woodland caribou,
- poisons the water supply and communities downstream,
- drains the Athabasca, the river that feeds Canada’s largest watershed, and
- contributes to climate change.
The book does provide hope, however, and ends with an exploration of possible solutions to the problem.
"The Alberta tar sands are a cesspool of pollution. Nikiforuk’s elegantly written book delivers all the gory details about toxic lakes, heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and the fiction of reclamation. Tar Sands also reveals how Canada’s new status as a petrostate has jeopardized its democracy. His 12 steps to energy sanity should be required reading for every citizen."-- Georgia Straight
"Award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk explores why, while the world is going green, Canada is going black in Tar Sands, which includes a fascinating look at Fort McMurray’s black-gold rush town, often lawless and corrupt." -- Canadian Bookseller
"Required reading for the President in preparation for his first foreign trop is the book Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, by Andrew Nikiforuk, which was published to wide acclaim in Canada in the fall… It details the impact [of]... the world’s largest energy project and one of its dirtiest and most dangerous. In anticipation of Obama’s visit, Prime Minister Harper told the press: ‘To be frank on the oil sands, we’ve got to do a better job environmentally.’ Read Nikiforuk’s book and you’ll see why Harper’s comment has already won the award for Biggest Understatement of 2009." --Huffington Post
"Investigative journalist and national treasure Andrew Nikiforuk documents the exorbitant economic, social and environmental costs of building Alberta’s Tar Sands." -- Maisonneuve"Nikiforuk believes the tar sands should be developed gradually and with far greater environmental sensitivity… Nikiforuk paints a picture of the current development as an environmental cesspool. In fact… the tar sands are Canada’s single largest growing source of carbon dioxide, and by 2020 will account for no less than 16% of the nation’s total emissions." -- Regina Leader-Post
“[Tar Sands] provides an excellent guide to all of the environmental repercussions of our oil dependency. The political analysis is also good, sounding a warning about our dangerous energy 'interdependence' with the declining American empire…” -- Quill & Quire
"It’s an important book, one that every Canadian should read to find out how the world’s largest energy project will affect us." -- David Suzuki Foundation
"If you want to be scared, you don’t need to watch a horror movie or read the latest Stephen King bestseller. Real terror can be found by simply firing up Google Earth… [where] you can see what Alberta's tar sands look like from space. It’s not a pretty sight… A recent book by celebrated journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands… explores what these grey spots on Google Earth mean to Canada’s environment and economy. It’s an important book, one that every Canadian should read to find out how the worlds largest energy project will affect us." -- Georgia Straight
"Nikiforuk …took pains to ensure his book went beyond preaching to the converted. Tar Sands begins with a bluntly worded 22-point ‘declaration of a political emergency’ and ends with a 12-step plan to regain ‘energy sanity,’ which includes action the general reader can take. In between, Nikiforuk writes not only about environmental and political concerns, but takes the reader into the frenzied boom of Fort McMurray and along the so-called ‘highway to hell’ that leads to it."-- Calgary Herald
See also the feature documentary H2Oil (2009); National Geographic March 2009 on the tarsands: Scraping Bottom and interviews with Albertans of all stripes in the video Shifting Sand; Dominionpaper.ca download special issue on tarsands (Oct 2009); Dogwood Initiative about Haida opposition to tarsands-Kitimat pipeline-tankers to China; Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands (2009) order pb or ebook; James Hoggan, Climate Cover-Up (2009) about oil industry funding -- $millions -- to climate change deniers.