activism energy environment

Why the tar sands are bad for Madagascar

As a child growing up in Madagascar, I remember the fleet of distinctive cars driven by the American oil workers. They had their own school for the children of AMOCO families. They even had their own supermarket, which we only found out about when the company pulled out. Like the rest of the expatriate community we descended like hawks on the closing down sale, and came home with armfuls of exotic US goods – bacon bits, tubes of cheese and dried French onions.

AMOCO packed up and left Madagascar in 1987 for the same reason that Chevron and Elf left in the 70s. Madagascar’s oil just wasn’t profitable enough to extract. It was dirty and far away, in a less than stable country with little infrastructure. Oil was selling for $20 a barrel in 1987, and at that price it was uneconomic.

Fast forward 25 years and it’s a very different picture…

Read the rest of this post on the World Development Movement site


Next week, Malagasy tar sands campaigner Holly Rakotondralambo’s speaking tour reaches the UK. Join me at the London date if you like.

  • 23 May – Public talk.  Boyd Orr Building, Glasgow University, with the Glasgow Centre for International Development, 6-8pm, free. (Campus map: location D1)
  • 24 May – Public talk and Petropolis film screening.  Augustine United Church Edinburgh EH1 1EL, with Take One Action, 6-8pm, entry by donation for film.
  • 25 May – Public talk and Petropolis film screening. Malet Suite, University of London Union WC1E 7HY, 6-8:30pm, entry by donation for film.

Register your place today – here


  1. So whats the truth about Fracking? Well according to alarmist central (the US EPA’s Lisa Jackson) “But yesterday, under oath, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson admitted that there have been no (as in zero) instances of ground water contamination from fracking, despite the propaganda that has convinced many progressives that fracking is a devil’s bargain. Watch the video in which Jackson states: “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.”


    Under oath they finally had to tell the truth. The truth, not the irrational fear.

  2. Isn’t it interesting that Germany, Stefan’s home(?) has now elliminated Fracking (because of fear) and nuclear (for fear of earthquake and tsunami’s). After, of course, ‘Mercury’ Merkel had approved a 30 year extension originally for the nuke industry.

  3. Hold your horses a second – no proven instances, but investigations are ongoing. Don’t you think those investigations should be concluded before we either declare it safe, or declare it unsafe?

    1. Hi again Jeremy! How long should the investigations have go go before we call it what it is… a good ol’ fashioned “witch hunt”. Fracking has been around since 1949; “Hydraulic fracturing for stimulation of oil and natural gas wells was first used in the United States in 1947.[11][12] It was first used commercially by Halliburton in 1949,” Yes THAT Halliburton.

      Here is what that oil shill Sen. Inhofe said previously… “This 60-year-old technique has been responsible for 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas,” according to Sen. James Inhofe, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “In hydraulic fracturing’s 60-year history, there has not been a single documented case of contamination.” This article is dated: Written by Investor’s Business Daily | December 23 2009.

      Lisa Jackson: “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water…”

      Now I ask you… in accordance with alarmist ‘industry pays the message’ who is being corrupt?

      Now it’s revealed by the EPA, no less, that in 60 years not a single case. The EPA has learned what I, a stay-at-home Dad knew 2 years ago… or did they? Are they that incompetent or was the truth just that hard to fit into the storyline? Can you now understand why I resent the targeted infringement on privileges and the State funding of your religion I am forced to endure?

      In all seriousness ask yourself one question… was Saudi Arabia better off before or after the discovery of it’s oil?

      If the Madagascar government can only get 1% of revenue (and if thats unusual) they are beyond incompetent or brutally corrupt.

      All the best…. Jeff

  4. Hi again Jeremy. Do you intend to moderate all of my comments? If so just let me know and I’ll leave. I’m not interested in having a discussion with a censor. Thank you.

    Once again… All the best… Jeff

    1. Hey Jeff! It is like being heckled! You never see Tom at CCD steering conversation. Guess Tom has no agenda.

    1. Thanks! OK what do you think about Inhofe the oil funded denier being right? Especially after your slagging of the funding issue.

  5. I don’t really want to get drawn into a debate on gas fracking, as it’s not something I know a whole lot about, and this is a post about tar sands.

    There was a study out of Duke just this month linking methane contamination to fracking. I don’t know about the carcinogen pollution, and certainly not enough to judge either the EPA or Sen Inhofe.

  6. This is how Canada’s oil industry benefits Canadians…

    “The truth is our energy industry pays a lot of tax ­­– an awful lot of tax. In 2006 – the last census year we’ve got – our oil and gas producing industry paid $4 billion to governments for exploration and development rights, $15 billion in production royalties, $6 billion in federal and provincial corporate income taxes, and $1 billion in municipal property taxes.

    Then there’s the equipment and service sector all across Canada that supports this development. Besides employing more than 800,000 Canadians directly and indirectly, oil and gas support industries paid $9 billion in corporate and payroll taxes.

    Then there’s taxation on consumer products. In 2006 there was $5 billion paid in federal excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, $8 billion in provincial excise fuel taxes, and $2 billion in fuel GST.

    So the total taxes and royalties paid on oil and gas from concept to consumer in 2006 from this so-called “subsidized” industry was at least $50 billion.”

    How did Madagascar get taken so badly to the cleaners? When you mention 1%… how much is that in dollars? Is it political corruption that is the problem? Do you folk just want someone, anyone, to blame for your failings?

    1. Yes, I blame corruption, for the most part. I lived there for 12 years and it’s endemic.

      What failings are you referring to here?

    2. Hi Jeremy! By failings I mean failure of society to be resposible for their choices. It would be racist of me to think that 3rd world nations are incapable of behaving responsibly, yet, as you say, it seems that it’s endemic. The paying off of entities to keep governments ‘on the throne’ is really no different than our western practice of bribery through tax redistribution (that won’t work for us either.).

      I should be less accusatory in my written words and more explanatory! I appologise and hope you understand.

      As this is a Christian derived site, I should also explain that I in no way mean to equate religious faith (which I respect) with climate faith (which I don’t).

  7. No worries, thanks for leaving more restrained comments as well as the rants, and for recognising the difference between faith and understanding of climate change!

    The problem here is that the debts we’re talking about were not taken on by the people. They were taken on by dictators, unaccountable and without democracy. The money ended up in Swiss bank accounts. Now, long after those dictators are gone, it’s the ordinary citizens that have to pick up the tab. So they’ve been robbed twice over – by the dictator who took out the loan in their name and then spent it on himself, and then by a predatory investor.

    The solution has been discussed, but never implemented. It’s this: if you or I take on too much debt and get into trouble, we can declare bankruptcy. It has consequences, and we may find it hard to raise finance in the future, but we get a clean slate. It also keeps the banks accountable, because if they lend irresponsibly, they risk having to swallow the loss if their debtor goes into administration.

    There is no provision for bankruptcy at the national level. Debts just go on and on, generation after generation. The G20 has proposed national bankruptcy mechanisms, but since London and Wall Street make billions out of collapsing countries (see Greece), it’s not in our interests to allow anyone that fresh start.

  8. Hey Look! Another Soros backed entity…

    “Soros has been in England promoting his book, The Crisis of Global Capitalism, written at the height of the financial crisis. This Sunday he was interviewed by Jonathan Dimbleby in front of an audience of business people, informed trade unionists, political lobbyists etc.
    Once again he openly talked about capital, and the Director of the World Development Movement (spin off of Oxfam) pointed out that the solutions that have been used so far have been for the benefit of capital rather than for poor and ordinary people. Soros rather agreed. Economic discourse now includes the word capital without censorship or McCarthyism.”

    Gee, that’s one wild coincidence!

  9. One of the main environmental concerns about tar sand extraction is the water use, it is an ill founded fear.

    “The industry is a leader in developing recycling techniques and reusing water. Oil sands projects continually recycle about 90 percent of the water they use. It takes an average of two to three barrels of water to produce one barrel of bitumen from a mine, and almost all the water involved in that process is reused recycled.”

    I woul banish golf courses and swimming pools first.

  10. Comparing the level of technology in the Tar Sands extraction from 1987 to present, would be much like comparing computers from then to now.

    The most modern of Oil sands production plants Generate their own electricity, the heat from the generation is recovered and used to generate the steam needed to recover the heavy oil. Gas turbines generate huge amounts of waste heat which can be put to good work. This cogeneration process is a huge gain in efficiency over conventional gas and electrical consumption. And is suitable for many remote locations where power is hard to get.

    Some of the newer processing plants are not strip mining, just using steam injection and extraction via horizontal type wells.

    The cost of recovery is rapidly going down as is the enviromental impact. Thanks to technology and inovation.

    Developed responsibly Oil Sands will be as good for Madagascar as it is for Albertans and all of North America.

    1. No it wouldn’t be as good for Madagascar as it’s been for Canada, because the deal has been negotiated by a corrupt government. You need to read the rest of the post – my objections are primarily political, not environmental.

  11. The royalty deal looks like an incentive package to offset the huge costs of setting up such an operation in such a remote location. And like you say its a risky venture in an unstable region so untill the country proves its a safe place to invest in the Royalty Rates paid will reflect that uncertainty.

    Many Governments are corrupt to varying degrees. I have worked oversas and seen it. Claiming that no one should develop this resource based on some level of government corruption is rediculous. By that metric virtually all oil producing nations should not be invested in, including our own.

    You objections seem to be mostly enviromental judging by your links. Your claim that Oil Sands Production is ” one of the world’s most destructive industries”. Is clearly false. I live in Alberta and have personally see the Tar Sands as well as conventional oil production here and abroad.

    There is alot of alarmisim in the protrayal of the energy industry. Seldom if ever are the innovations and investments made by these “Evil Oil” companys in cleaner and more effiecient ways of production made known in these alarmist hit pieces.

    “Make Wealth History?” By making wealth history you also make freedom, health and the well being of billions history. The leftist mind loves to dream about a return to some agrarian utopia that never was. In reality life without modern industrial farming would be short, harsh and would condem millions if not billions to starvation. Also gone would be modern medicine and health care. All of our technology is inter linked and codependant, you can’t have one without the other.

    Even now some modern centrally planned agrarian nations are facing mass starvation. This is the direction you want us to go? Really? And where do they turn for aid? Thats right the cleanest, freeist most industrious nations on earth. The ones you want to return to the 1700’s.

    AGW theory has no basis in empirical evidence. It’s all models and provably false assumptions. Hydro carbons have done more to free people and stabilise birth rates than any thing in human history and will be with us for a very long time. In fact increased Co2 is having noticable benifits to crop production and tree groth.

    Striving for cleaner and greener ways of energy production is lifting people out of crushing poverty and centrally planned starvation. End poverty and collectivisim not Wealth and Health. Wealth for all i say.

  12. Nonesense.

    In 30 years time they will be collecting 30% of a huge industry worth billions. Right now they are collecting of 100% of nothing.

    As an example Alberta takes 25% after project payout on oil sands production. We can expect about 184 billion in revenue for the government in the next 25 years not counting conventional oil or other industrys.

    The Alberta Government pays healthcare premiums for all Albertans. Hows that for being robbed blind? Despite that we have sent 250 billion towards the rest of Canada through the “Redistrabutive” transfer payment scheme. Which might be why even liberals are reluctant to cut off Albertas oil industry. There would simply be no way to keep funding all the give aways that kept them in power for so long.

    Making Wealth History sounds worse all the time.

  13. You need to stop comparing this to Canada. It is a hugely different situation, with a corrupt government that will not be returning the proceeds to the people in the area. And the deal is insulting – a 1% tax deal is unprecedented in its generosity, and even 30% is stingy. Saudi Arabia can take 85% in tax, so does Norway. This has bad economics written all over it.

    You may in interested to know that I was at a meeting to oppose this tar sands project a couple of weeks ago, and among the speakers was a member of the Chipeywan First Peoples. She doesn’t share your rosy view of the tar sands, and says their rivers have been polluted, cancer rates are rising in their community, and a traditional way of life is now impossible. That’s not what I want for Madagascar.

  14. Well Norway and Saudia Arabia are the next thing to Nationalised Industries. Alberta only takes 25% after payout. We seem do be doing just fine. What you want for Madigascar might be vastly different than what they want for themselves.

    I’m all for point of origin labels for oil products. Then consumers can choose to buy oil from countries who are corrupt, fund wars, ethnic cleansing and fund terrorisim, or from Alberta’s Cleaner Greener Ethical Oil Industry. Let the consumers make informed decisions. A blood per barrel rating on oil.

    As for the River Being polluted, have you ever been to the banks of the Athabaska? The River cuts a path right through the Oil Sands. In the spring you can smell the river from 40 miles away. This oil has been leeching into the river for many centuries, and then into the “Pristine” arctic ocean. Oil is actually a natural product. Why is it you don’t hear much about all the failed alarmist predictions about the Gulf Oil spill? And how did nature do so much better a job dealing with the oil than man did?

    The industry has invested alot of money into cleaner ways to produce this resource. They will continue to do so.

    A traditional way of life is far from Impossible. Just how many people will really want the harsh, short, brutal life style that was the semi-nomadic way of life? Again the utopia that never was. Infant mortality rates and life expectancy far worse than today. Cancer was hardly an issue when your life expectancy was around 45 years.

    Money to pay for schools, roads, hospitals and education does not grow on trees, it comes from our industrial society, which for the forseeable future runs on oil.

  15. At the same meeting that the Canadian rep spoke at, the key speaker was a campaigner from Madagascar, who was on a speaking tour across Europe to stop the project. This isn’t just me making this stuff up from afar, there is opposition from within Madagascar too.

  16. So some activists think its bad?

    Just how did you travel to this meeting to oppose health, wealth and prosperity and for all? Dog sled or by horse and buggy? Really how much hydro carbon based fuel did you consume getting to the meeting? How did this activist from Madagascar get to the meeting i wonder? Maybe a plane that runs on high hopes, good intentions and hypocrisy?

    Your going to have to come up with alot better reasons to deprive people in Madagascar a chance at a better life than that.

    As for your corruption argument most of the Nations belonging to the UN are corrupt, socialist, totalitarian and or just plain evil. Europe who just condemed Alberta Oil Sands has deforested itself so badly large portions are turning into deserts. They have the “Biodiversity” issue not us. Then they import oil from nations like Russia who have real serious enviromental issues( been there got the T-Shirt and took pictures). Or from nations who use oil money to fund terrorisim and genocide. They also think Canada’s oil is bad too yet seem to prefer dirty and bloody oil.

    The real world runs on oil for the next 50-100 years. Pushing for cleaner production and consumption is a noble cause whether here or in Madagascar. Calling for the end of any oil production with no viable alternative is condeming millions to starvation and misery. Cost of fuel increases food prices which for us is an inconvienence, for the worlds poorest it means starvation.

    |”Jean Ziegler“So it’s a crime against humanity” to devote agricultural land to biofuel production, Ziegler said a news conference. “What has to be stopped is … the growing catastrophe of the massacre (by) hunger in the world,” he said.”

    “As an example, he said, it takes 510 pounds of corn to produce 13 gallons of ethanol. That much corn could feed a child in Zambia or Mexico for a year, he said.”

    Halting bio fuel production and increasing hydro carbon fuel production would save the lives of some of the worlds poorest people. I’m starting to wonder why you hate the people who live one meal from eternity.

    1. I thought it would only be a matter of time before you started accusing me of hating humanity and condemning millions to death. Demonising people who disagree with you destroys any hope dialogue with them. I won’t tolerate it, and this is my last reply to you.

      No, I don’t advocate zero oil use, nor a reduction without an alternative. I advocate large scale reduction in consumption, better public transport, renewable energy, and the strategic use of biofuels (for example, grown for use on self-sufficient farms)

      Most of the nations belonging to the UN are socialist and totalitarian? You live on a different planet my friend.

      and for your information I walked to the meeting.

  17. It’s OK to accuse skeptics of threatening humanity and the planet as a whole, but how dare Amirlach accuse one of the Saints of wrongdoing. Remember, only skeptics can be responsible for misery.

    There was never any such saying as ‘The road to Hell is paved with good intentions’.

    It’s all sunshine and frollicking unicorns if you agree with the UN. ; )

    1. This is a post about tar sands in Madagascar Gator. If you could show me where I accused amirlach of threatening humanity and the planet, then you’d be justified in defending him. But I didn’t, so this is just your skeptic’s martydom complex raising its head again.

      1. Quoting Jeremy…

        “You may in interested to know that I was at a meeting to oppose this tar sands project a couple of weeks ago, and among the speakers was a member of the Chipeywan First Peoples. She doesn’t share your rosy view of the tar sands, and says their rivers have been polluted, cancer rates are rising in their community, and a traditional way of life is now impossible. That’s not what I want for Madagascar.”

        Is not using that example accusuing your opposition of misdeeds against the masses?

        Let’s all be allowed the same latitude.

        Jeremy, you need to count to ten and consider that others may know more about certain subjects than you. Amirlach clearly understands the science and has not only observed, but participated in these processes around the globe. Your constant and relentless objection to facts is tedious.

        Amirlach is making perfect sense. We can find a happy middle ground.

        BTW – Have you heard of undersea asphalt or tar volcanoes? Early explorers off the west coast of North America reported often seeing huge expanses of ‘tar’ covering the ocean, sometimes creating floating islands of asphalt. As Amirlach stated, petroleum is a natural product, and nature knows how to deal with spillage.

        1. no Gator, amirlach knows about Canada’s tar sands, which are not on trial here. He knows nothing about Madagascar’s tar sands, which are a very different situation.

          secondly, reporting high cancer rates and polluted rivers in one region is a million miles from the accusation amirlach makes, which is that I hate humanity and wish to see millions die.

          But you don’t think they’re the same thing. You searched for the most critical thing you could find in the comments above and quoted it because you just like a fight.

          Well, enjoy mowing your lawn, and take your pointless squabbles elsewhere next time please.

  18. I’ll allow amirlach to respond to your allegations regarding exactly what he does and does not know. I’m afraid I am not omniscient. 😉

    I had no idea there were going to be geographic constraints on misdeeds. My apologies.

    You must feel better now.

    1. No, there were too many links in it and the spam catcher picked it up. I’ve read it, and then deleted it. As I already said, you’ve blown your shot at a serious discussion, and I’m not wasting any more time responding to your increasingly irrelevant points.

      I’m sure it’s annoying to have comments deleted. On the other hand, you’ll be able to brag on Climate Change Dispatch that the warmists were unable to refute your claims and resorted to censorship.

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