"Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree? "
— Jared Diamond, EASTER’S END
Lost in the discussion of the Keystone Pipeline eventually traversing the Ogallala Aquifer is the environmental cost to Canada of mining bitumen (not oil, sensu stricto) out of oil sands. Nice article in the NY Times discussing that question, reviewing a PNAS article.
There is, after all, no free lunch. A comment made to the Times by one of the study authors (Rebecca Rooney) hits the nail on the head when she says "...the most important point is that decisions about whether to approve new mines need to be made with all the facts about the environmental, social, and economic costs on the table..."
No kidding, Dr. Rooney. We will undoubtedly make some additional mess in our continued use of fossil fuels, especially since we will need to extract more and more unconventional resource. No omelet is made without breaking a few eggs. What is needed is a bit of intellectual honesty among us all regarding costs, benefits, winners, losers, and overall effects. The alternative is that at some point, we will shit our nest called Planet Earth to the point of no return. At least for us.
Not to mention that these resources are only mined as the cost of end product justifies them. The Keystone Pipeline, therefore, is not a ticket to cheap gas. Just a ticket to continued decline.
“Claims by industry that they will ‘return the land we use — including reclaiming tailings ponds — to a sustainable landscape that is equal to or better than how we found it’ and that it ‘will be replanted with the same trees and plants and formed into habitat for the same species’ are clearly greenwashing,” researchers from the biological sciences department at the University of Alberta write.
This link courtesy of Jim Rickman's second comment.