Alberta Canada 1 of 3 - Toxic - VICE

Uploaded by vice on Oct 26, 2011


EDDY MORETTI: Look at that.

Another oil refinery.

I wonder how far we could get before they send the little
surveillance vehicle to see what the fuck we're doing.
Do you mind?
Do we care?

SIMON DYER: How we our energy and how we do and how we
impact the environment in getting that energy I think is
the issue of our times.
And the Alberta oil sands represent the very worst in
terms of our desire to extract oil.
You know basically go to any length with it.
EDDY MORETTI: My heiny is freezing.

When people think of oil they think of the Middle East but
actually Canada has one of the largest petroleum
deposits in the world.
It's just that it's stuck in sand.
The oil sands is an area the size of Florida and it holds
an estimated 1.7 to 2.5 trillion barrels of oil.
However, until recently, it's been way too expensive to
extract from the sand.
LINDSAY TELFER: It's the most difficult to access oil in the
world and that's why it's never been seen as a viable
option in the global oil economy.
But because the oil prices have gone up so much, likely
because we've hit peak oil, all of a sudden the most
difficult to access oil in the world has now become
So peak oil is--
in it's very simple terms, it's exactly what it says.
You hit a peak of production of available oil reserves and
once you've hit that peak you start going down.
So it's the reserves in the world are declining.
SIMON DYER: Companies and countries are realizing
strategically they're trying to figure out where this oil
is going to come from as sources elsewhere in
the world dry up.
So Canada is considered a safe, secure source of oil.
And all the major oil companies--
all the multinationals in the world have
operations in the oil sand.
And you're seeing that stampede to try and ensure
that they get a piece of the pie.
EDDY MORETTI: We made our way for Fort McMurray, a small
town in the middle of Canada's tundra that is the epicenter
of the oil sands operation.
When we were there we realized that this little town has
global consequences.
Fort McMurray is responsible for two-thirds of Canada's
contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions which
is kind of amazing when you think that it's a town of
70,000 people.
The problem's so big, it's so massive, affects so many
different people environmentally and socially.
We basically tried to cover the story from as many angles
as we could and we realized that it was inexhaustible.
We met the chief of the Athabaskan
Region First Nation.
We met the Premier of Alberta, which is like the governor.
We also visited the work camps, saw the pipeline that's
being built all the way to Chicago.
We saw how they rip up the forest in order to discover
and explore for this oil.

We also snuck onto some of these sites.
And the snow is really fucking deep here.
Be careful.
Here we go.
This is it.
Welcome to Alberta.
Welcome to the future of oil.
It sucks.

It really fucking sucks.
And it wreaks.
It smells.

So we came all the way from New York because we heard
there's a lot of oil here.
LINDSAY TELFER: I guess the other angle is scraping at the
bottom of the barrel.
It is the dirtiest to produce oil in the world.
The oil sands industry in Canada make up the single
largest contributor to our growing greenhouse gas
emissions in Canada.
EDDY MORETTI: The first thing you need to understand is how
they extract the oil from the sand.
First they clear out the trees and mine the sand that's close
to the surface.
But some of the sand is deeper and to get to that they've
invented a new system.
It's called SAGD, or steam assisted gravity drainage.
Basically they heat the soil and suck out the sand.
SIMON DYER: The use of water for in situ operations is a
real concern.
Companies use about a fifth of a barrel of water for every
barrel of oil produced in situ operations.
Oil sands companies--
oil sands mines basically extract water directly from
the Athabasca River.
Because the process, of course, pollutes that water so
much, it's largely not actually returned to the
Athabasca River.
The vast majority of it gets dumped into
these tailings ponds.
So these are basically oily lagoons full of waste water
and suspended hydrocarbons.
If you ever get a chance to tour an oil sands mine these
landscapes are quite surreal.
EDDY MORETTI: Once they've dug up all the oil sand, they
stick it in these huge cokers, which are like large furnaces
and boil it, and steam inject it.
That's how they get the oil out of the sand.
And this is the process where all the greenhouse gas
emissions come from.
LINDSAY TELFER: Really, the only real way to get the oil
sands to eliminate their carbon dioxide emissions is to
stop producing the oil from the oil sands.
EDDY MORETTI: And is that your position?
LINDSAY TELFER: We need to slow down.
But I also recognize that it's not going to stop tomorrow.
Our communities can't keep pace.
Our environment can't keep pace.
We know we need to slow down.
I think that that in itself is very clear.
EDDY MORETTI: And who's pressuring us to ramp up?
I mean the Alberta government makes a lot of money on the
oil sands so until there is a viable alternative for them to
shift our economy I think that they're going to continue to
create the climate that's going to attract this kind of
business to the province.

EDDY MORETTI: We went to go ask for permission but there
was no one in the office.
And there are a couple of trees here.
A couple of rows of a couple of trees.
One, two, three, four, seven, nine, ten, a million.
Logs, logs, log, log, log, log, logs.
It's dangerous being a logger.
But we don't know how they cut them.
If they're chainsaws or if they're those tree snipper
things where they just snip it.
Then again, what do I know?

LINDSAY TELFER: Boreal forests are the lungs of Canada.
It's what cleans our air.
It's what gives us the air that we can breathe.
If you compare it to the Amazon forest which is often
called the lungs of the earth, the Boreal forest is largely
the lungs of North America
EDDY MORETTI: So we kind of need it?
LINDSAY TELFER: And it's the largest intact
forest left in the world.

EDDY MORETTI: Holy shit!
Look at that thing!
What are the odds of there being oil here?
MALE SPEAKER: Very good.
That's why we're doing it.

EDDY MORETTI: So they just cut, cut,
cut, cut their grids?
MALE SPEAKER: That's right.
EDDY MORETTI: And then another crew comes in.
Do you consider yourself an environmentalist of sorts?
MALE SPEAKER: Definitely.
MALE SPEAKER: Oh yeah, you betcha.
EDDY MORETTI: So you have no major concerns with the way
this business is operating?
MALE SPEAKER: Well before we can even cut down a tree, we
have to get government approval.
One of the major focuses in this industry is on the
environment because that's a key asset to
what we do out here.
EDDY MORETTI: Do you think then these lines that have
been mulched will get replanted or what will happen?
MALE SPEAKER: Someday, I'm sure.
There's always tree planting that's going on
throughout the province.
EDDY MORETTI: They just have to catch up to the other guys.

EDDY MORETTI: What happens when there's no more oil?
EDDY MORETTI: Are you going to work in this business until
you retire?
FRANK ROUTHIER: And at my age, my age--
I'm not that old, guys!

EDDY MORETTI: Can you tell us how much you make?
FRANK ROUTHIER: How much I make?

This thing is oil.

Then the oil is these things are oil.
Everything's got oil.
Even your camera inside got oil.
EDDY MORETTI: It's like the economic engine of
Canada, this town.
EDDY MORETTI: We're going to leave the truck there.
We're going to go straight.
FRANK ROUTHIER: But I give you a clipboard so you can write
your comments and stuff.
EDDY MORETTI: Good, good.

We're going there.
[INAUDIBLE] men working here on the pipeline down there but
[INAUDIBLE] sector 32.
We want to go down to sector G9.

MALE SPEAKER: So I'm sorry I forgot your first name.
MALE SPEAKER: Eddie, this is Jason.
JASON: How's it going?
How's it going buddy?
JASON: Not bad.
Not bad.
They call me JC up around here.
I don't like being called after a toilet because it's
what they call a toilet, a john.
JC: I had a chainsaw kickback and kind of buggered me up a
little bit back a few years ago.
EDDY MORETTI: Yeah, well you're lucky it didn't do
anything worse.
JC: I keep the sunglasses down now.
I hide that stuff because the ladies don't
like to see that stuff.
EDDY MORETTI: So you like your job?
JC: Oh I love it.
EDDY MORETTI: You like trees?
JC: I'm over here in fresh air, nice blue skies.
Life's great.
Lots of wildlife.
Well, I hadn't seen anything yet but--
MALE SPEAKER: You don't have to touch anything.
EDDY MORETTI: They're nice trees.
JC: Yeah exactly.
I hate to cut them down if they don't have to go.
That's our oxygen, man.
You know?

I hate to cut them out because it's not that I'm a tree
hugger but I'm not a tree killer either.

He's really good.
Oh shit!
You did a good job buddy.
You were really delicate with that thing.
You slowly steered it into a direction.
JC: Oh yeah.
Yeah it's great fun.
EDDY MORETTI: You like Fort McMurray?
JC: No.
JC: There's too many people in too big of a rush up here.
JC: Too many I don't know.
Like this highway, they call it death highway.
It's scares you to drive on it.
You don't know if somebody's going to clean you or wipe you
out or what so you keep close to the ditch, right?
EDDY MORETTI: What happens to people?
They just like, do they work too hard and then party too
hard and then the combination gets them
into trouble or what?
JC: Oh, could be.
It could be.
There's a lot of people that do long shifts.
Us, we usually take our days off after 21 or less.
EDDY MORETTI: You work 21 days straight?
JC: 21 days straight, yep.
Then take five, six days off to enjoy life a little bit.
Some of these other guys, well they get going 30, 40, 50 days
straight and then--
EDDY MORETTI: That's got to be-- that's just not
JC: Yeah, they get--
JC: No.
They get burned out and they get tired.
It 's a way of life but it's interesting at times.
Wouldn't do anything else otherwise, if I had a choice.
EDDY MORETTI: What's your plan then, stay here for another
couple years?
JC: Yeah.
I float the oil patch through anyway.
EDDY MORETTI: What does that mean, float
the oil patch through?
JC: Well, as long as there's money here, a man will be here
working if he can fill his bank account up, and put the
bread and butter on the table and this is where he'll be.
If it ain't here, if it's in BC or if it's in Sweden, if
that's where the money is, that's where we'll
all have to go, right?
You have a family?
JC: Yeah.
I got a son.
EDDY MORETTI: Here in Alberta?
JC: In the Maritimes.
EDDY MORETTI: In the Maritimes.
JC: Yeah.
EDDY MORETTI: So you're not going back home.
You're here for good.
JC: If I'm here, I'm here for the-- as long
as the money's here.
EDDY MORETTI: As long as the oil's flowing you're--
JC: Yeah.
The welfare line's not for me.
SIMON DYER: George Bush's State of the Union Address a
couple of years ago--
EDDY MORETTI: Last year.
SIMON DYER: Pretty bluntly said we're addicted to foreign
oil and we need to get off foreign oil.
And he didn't consider--
I don't think he considers Canada foreign in that
MALE SPEAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for
coming this afternoon.
And first and foremost, I want to welcome back to Fort
McMurray our premier Ed Stelmach.
Premier, welcome back to Fort McMurray.
ED STELMACH: Over the past year, I've spoken to a lot of
ordinary Albertans.
They are proud of Alberta's position in Canada as an
economic powerhouse.
However, there is always a word of caution and that is
Ed, don't blow it.
EDDY MORETTI: This is the new premier, Ed Stelmach.
He took over from this guy, Ralph Klein.
And he's the guy responsible for kick-starting the oil
sands in the '90s.
While you were premier, were you pressured by
EDDY MORETTI: To increase production?
10 years ago, I took a delegation down to Houston and
I can recall holding a symposium to talk about the
oil sands, and how Canada can meet the reliable and secure
supply that the
RALPH KLEIN: US is looking for.
The stable supply.
First of all, we stationed a person in Washington, DC to
focus really on the American legislators, those in Congress
and in Senate--
EDDY MORETTI: And is working, his work is having results?
RALPH KLEIN: His work is--
well, his work has been highly successful.

LINDSAY TELFER: We've created the most accessible investment
climate for oil companies.
LINDSAY TELFER: Heck, because we wanted the investment.
We wanted people to come in.
So in the '90s we set up a royalty regime that allowed
them to virtually not pay royalties.
A majority of the oil sands, once it's upgraded and refined
and often before it's upgraded and refined, is
shipped to the States.
The Chicago area is one of the sent hubs
for the bitumen upgrading.
EDDY MORETTI: This pipe goes all the way to
Chicago, which is far.
We're good for 50 years, America, and
after that you're fucked.
You're on your own.
SIMON DYER: The tar sands is producing about a million
barrels of oil a day.
And there are discussions to increase that to 5 million
barrels a day.
America, of course, uses more than 20 million
barrels of oil a day.
So I mean the tar sands can plug that gap for only a very
short period and it's never going to be able to meet
Americans' needs so we need to look at other solutions.
LINDSAY TELFER: When you're in government, there's a lot of
pressure to be open and friendly to industrial
development and Klein was the best of the best of them.
And what we're seeing now is some of those leaders going
whoa, maybe we did this a little bit too fast.
Well obviously there's been no plan.
That's why it spiraled out of control.
Our communities have spiraled out of control.
Development has spiraled out of control.
Klein came out after he left office saying, no, we didn't
have a plan.
We just said come on in.
EDDY MORETTI: People have said that you have said that you
didn't have a plan for the development of the oil sands.
EDDY MORETTI: Is that true?
Or is that misquoting you?
We had a plan for sustainable growth.
We had a plan for $50 a barrel oil and gas at $6.50 a
gigajoule, but we didn't have a plan for
unprecedented growth.
No one has a plan.
Not even the current premier or the current cabinet has a
plan for unprecedented growth, nor does Al Gore have a plan,
by the way.
RALPH KLEIN: And you're asking for a personal opinion--
RALPH KLEIN: And I can offer a personal opinion, and I say
let the markets prevail.