Topic: Tar Sands by Andrew Nikiforuk

Tar Sands is a novel I began reading a few weeks ago, and I am already quite interested in what it is about.  This book is a nonfiction, as it tells about the economic and political scope of, guess what, the tar sands in Northeastern Alberta.  Bitumen and how it could replace regular oil is the topic of the first chapters.  The book describes what bitumen is made of and how it is harvested, as well as how it compares and contrasts to regular oil.  At one point in the book, it is described how the harvesting of bitumen requires significantly more barrels of oil to get out of the ground then it can produce.  To put it a more complex way, the amount of energy produced by a given amount of bitumen is significantly lower than the amount of energy produced by a given amount of oil, and that’s just to remove it from the ground.

Re: Tar Sands by Andrew Nikiforuk

At my progression thus far into the book, I've come across a great sum of knowledge unbeknownst to me beforehand.  Some things came as a surprise to me.  Like the existence of bitumen itself I didn't know beforehand,  what bitumen is, how it is extracted, as well as some similarities and differences between regular oil and bitumen.  Bitumen is a fascinating prospect in my mind; it's impact on Canada's economy, and the economy of the world amazes me.  Nikiforuk writes about how bitumen brought about bustling new business to the tar sands. 
Andrew Nikiforuk is a Canadian journalist and author.

Re: Tar Sands by Andrew Nikiforuk

In recent terms of reading the book, I've come across a description of some of the many hardships faced by workers coming to Alberta to work the tar sands.  Nikiforuk writes of how the price of land and housing in towns surrounding the tar sands skyrocketed, about the dangerous 'highway to hell' and the death toll on the work force related to accidents on that very highway. 
In less grim statistics, as according to the author, the tar sands in Northeastern Alberta have become an avid place for thousands of immigrants to come and make money.  Nikiforuk describes how these many immigrants weren't just in the jobs of getting the bitumen out of the ground, but rather worked jobs such as chefs, janitors or other sanitation workers, machinery operators, mechanics and much more. 
Nikiforuk persistently presents powerful and profound points, which may seem passable and painless to peers with passions prior to employment paths pinpointed specifically around the businesses of Northeastern Alberta and the like, but said points can truly be staggering to a resident of Alberta; myself included.

Re: Tar Sands by Andrew Nikiforuk

Price of housing skyrockets.  Population shoots up from under 50 000 to over 100 000 people in less than a decade.  Thousands of families moving for a job opportunity go from living off welfare to almost $150 000 a year jobs.  Illegal drug business flourishes with the significant increase of population and wealth among citizens.  Its believed by many business owners that if they tested their employees for drugs, half the workforce would be fired.  The infamous Hell’s Angels become a menace in part with the thriving drug business.  All of these things, beneficial or negative, were happening because of the recent boom of jobs involved with the tar sands and oil industry in and around Northeastern Alberta.  It’s hard to imagine, let alone live through the drastic changes in quality of life faced by tens of thousands of Canadians.  The most drastic demographic or economic change I can recall living through would be almost incomparable to that which thousands of Albertans lived through those years ago.  These drastic changes could be described as bittersweet.  Sweet because of the obvious increase in income and job opportunity, but bitter because of, as mentioned prior, the rise of illegal drug and gang presence, as well as the increased cost of living.  At one point Nikiforuk mentions that nobody could handle going from welfare to a $150 000 a year job without going a bit sideways.  ‘Sideways’ in this context meaning turning to illegal drugs for whatever reason.  It’s a fault in human nature; just another fault in our code highlighted by the events of history.