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Argument: Oil sands emit only a fraction more than petroleum

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In an op-ed in the Argus Leader, John Duff Erickson, professor emeritus at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, wrote: "Environmental groups claim that oil sands produce five to seven times the carbon emissions of conventional oil, but a study by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a highly regarded consulting group, determined that oil sands emissions are only 5 percent to 15 percent higher than the average barrel of crude oil processed in the United States."[1]

Rebecca Ryall. "Producers defend oil sands emissions." National Post. December 17th, 2009: "back home, the oil industry and the government of Alberta are fighting back against suggestions that oil from northern Alberta is exponentially worse for the planet than the conventional stuff pulled from places like the U.S. gulf coast and Saudi Arabia.

Critics and environmental groups concede that the majority of carbon dioxide is created when fuel is burned in cars or factories or jets -- consumption accounts for 78% to 80% of emissions regardless of where or how the crude is produced.

Those who support the oilsands, meanwhile, acknowledge that the complicated processes used to recover bitumen make it more greenhouse-gas intensive than lighter, conventional crudes. But the Alberta Energy Research Institute and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said oilsands crude is actually only 5% to 10% worse than other oil producers in their class, if the entire 'life cycle' of the oil is considered. In the case of California’s heavy crude, the oilsands’ emissions level is actually lower.

'It’s actually around 10% worse,' said Eddy Isaacs, managing director of the AERI, said of the oilsands. 'When you look at what we’re actually exporting and what we put in the pipeline that goes to U.S. refineries, compare that to U.S. domestic crudes … Mayan crudes, crudes coming out of Venezuela and even some conventional crudes … [our emissions are] about 10% higher.'"

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