Archive for June 25th, 2010

Via Mark Thoma, tar sands oil is another example of resources that should perhaps be left in the ground- especially for wealthy countries like the US and Canada, who are far along the Kuznets curve, but also for developing countries.

News reports about chemical tests are never as dramatic as the sight of oil-drenched birds and fish.  Maybe that’s why a study released in 2007 did not prompt a dramatic response from environmentalists in the lower 48.  In that year, an ecologist with Treeline Environmental Research issued a report finding high levels of carcinogens and toxic substances in fish, water, and sediment downstream from the tar sands fields.  The New York Times quoted a local health official as saying, “For years the community has believed that there’s lots of cancer.  When they drank from the water, there was an oily scum around the cup.  We now know that there is something wrong.”  At the time, an Alaskan research scientist commented, “This could actually be worse, in some respects, than the Exxon Valdez.”

I’ll probably be posting more rejoinders to my review of Collier’s book in the future. This is just another reminder (along with mountain top removal, for example) that it’s not just romantic environmentalists who want to leave depletable resources in the ground.

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