Via GCC, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has announced that by 2020, Canada will be producing almost 5 million barrels of oil, almost all of that being from tar sands.

This explains, in large part, why Canada has opted for empty symbolism: We’ve hitched our wagon to the tar sands, come hell and high water. I’m actually pretty sympathetic to our new Conservative government, who at least made their disdain for Kyoto honestly known. The previous Liberals were happily pursuing the same policies while pretending to care about Kyoto.

What is always left unexplained in the stories about our incredible oil-sands windfall is this: How are we going to keep making oil sands when natural gas runs out in North America? Theoretically, we could pipe liquid natural gas in from the Pacific coast, but that’s gonna cost.

All donations matched! Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.

CAPP’s prediction sounds kind of fantastical. The press release says that Canada’s oil output will double, but that’s not the whole story. Because Alberta’s conventional crude deposits have been in decline for decades, all of the new production will be coming from tar-sands oil. Meaning that the current tar production of roughly 1 million barrels per day is going to quadruple by 2020. That’s right: in 14 years, the oil-sands infrastructure (trucks, refineries, pipelines, not to mention waste streams) is going to be four times as massive.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

This is an ecological and climatalogical disaster waiting to happen. And, just in case we’re unclear, the Government of Canada has created this monster with decades of subsidies, on the order of tens of billions of dollars — a princely sum for Canada’s smaller economy.

Meanwhile, Syncrude’s plant has made a town smell like urine.

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Syncrude’s brand new, $8.4-billion oilsands expansion in northern Alberta is being temporarily shut down because of foul, urine-smelling emissions.

Four times the oil, four times the pee-stink, I’d imagine.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

I don’t think I’ll be moving to Alberta any time soon. Or anywhere downwind.