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Tzeporah Berman: We Can Fix The Oil Sands—So Why Haven't We?
Environment | December 05, 2012

Tzeporah Berman: We Can Fix The Oil Sands—So Why Haven't We?

In the past year, several hundred million dollars worth of advertising has been broadcast in Canada to assure us that the oil sands have been "fixed." According to Tzeporah Berman, however, these ads have been all sleight of hand. "We all want to believe it’s possible to just 'fix it,'" she writes in The Globe and Mail. "Unfortunately, slick ads claiming a cure for the environment offer nothing but a false sense of security for Canadians. In reality, little has changed on the ground." In her article, the environmental activist explains that despite all the promises for reclaiming and re-purposing land that has been damaged by the tar sands, only 0.1 per cent actually has been. Further, no laws have been enacted to limit the amount of toxins being dumped into the water or to reduce global warming pollution. There are also no laws that limit the amount of water that can be withdrawn from the Athabasca river—even though the oil sands use seven times the annual water use of the entire city of Edmonton. Berman says that these ads may paint a rosy picture of the situation—but things are actually getting worse rather than better.

She explains that instead of making new laws to protect the wildlife and natural resources in the area, rules are actually becoming more lenient, or, in some cases, eliminated altogether. What's even worse, she says, is we actually are capable of cleaning up the oil sands. We just haven't. "Companies have technology today that would eliminate any new tailings ponds," she writes. "But as one company executive told me recently, they won’t deploy the technology until regulation forces all companies to do so, creating a level playing field." What does she suggest? "To truly fix the oil sands, we need our government to actually govern—that is, to protect the public interest by regulating polluting companies....we need to put a price on pollution and demand higher royalties from Big Oil." 

As a leading voice for the clean energy movement, Berman has designed environmental procurement policies for some of the largest companies in the world. Currently, she is a strategic advisor on climate and energy policy, oil sands and related pipeline debates. She is the author of This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge and has been named as one of the 50 Visionaries Changing the World. In her talks, she inspires audiences to protect the resources we have today and ensure that our energy use is sustainable.
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