Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear an appeal that sought a wider environmental assessment of the $5-billion Fort Hill oil sands project, ruling that the development could go forward on the basis of an impact assessment of one small creek, rather than the full 200 square kilometres affected by the project.
Now, with no risk of a Supreme Court precedent that would demand the proper environmental assessments of oil sands projects, Shell has announced its intention to proceed with an $11.2 billion expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands.
The volume of water diversions currently authorized from the Athabasca River are already twice that used by the City of Calgary in a single year. With no end to increased production in sight, the strain on both climate and ecosystems will continue to spiral upward unless proper checks and balances are brought into place.
In an era of soaring energy prices, the scenario above encapsulates the struggle that will frame future of the planet - the uncomprehensible short-term wealth of oil production versus the inescapable long-term need for a sustainable world. So long as control of these decisions remains in the hands of those who stand to gain the most from short-term oil profits, the outcomes will continue to be alarmingly predictable.