Tar sands are found in large amounts in many countries throughout the world. These reserves have only recently been considered to be part of the world’s oil reserves due to the ongoing demand for alternative energy sources. However, oil is not produced from tar sands on a significant commercial level in the United States yet.
I think the term “alternative energy” typically carries the connotation that it is greener, cleaner technology than what is the norm–we usually think of solar or wind. But yes, tar sands are considered an alternative energy source. The first site below ranks the process among the top 5 worst alternative energy options (a list that also includes hydrofracking, clean coal, oil shale and corn ethanol). The energy processing is so destructive because the water it uses creates huge tailing ponds (50 sq. km) that are extremely toxic and the creation of one barrel generates 3x more GHG than a regular barrel of oil.
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