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The Tar Island facility at the Athabaska oil sands north of Fort McMurray, Alta. (KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
The Tar Island facility at the Athabaska oil sands north of Fort McMurray, Alta. (KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Should we stop exploiting the oil sands? Fort McMoney players say ‘yes’ Add to ...

As part of the documentary game Fort McMoney, users get to help shape the future of Fort McMurray and Alberta’s oil sands. They do this by voting in surveys and weekly referendums. The results of these votes will affect a virtual version of Fort McMurray, letting users see the consequences of their decisions.

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This past week, the referendum question was: Should we stop exploiting the oil sands?

Voting has closed and the results are in: 77 per cent voted 'yes' (with 358 673 votes), and 23 per cent voted 'no' (108 625 votes).

Globe and Mail columnist Eric Reguly weighed in on the debate.

Mr. Reguly in Rome arguing on the 'no' side:

"Too bad there is no 'maybe' option on this question.

Ideally, the oil sands expansion should be put on hold until Canada develops a national greenhouse gases (GHG) policy. There isn't one.

Remember that Canada withdrew from the Kyoto accord on climate change and nothing has come in its place, other than vague talk and wishful thinking about technology taking care of the problem.

A national policy is needed because the oil sands account for 7.8 per cent of Canada's GHG. That's a huge proportion. And as the oil sands expand, that figure will go up. GHG intensity for the entire Canadian oil and gas industry is also rising, because of the oil sands' expansion. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, GHG intensity is up 21 per cent between 2008 and 2012. No wonder Canada could not meet its Kyoto targets.

To be fair to the oil sands industry, the lack of a national GHG policy and regulations is not its fault. The Alberta government has had carbon regulations in place since 2007, though the targets are rather unambitious. If the Alberta oil industry were smart, it would demand that the feds get their act together on a national policy. Then they will be able to get on with their lives. A national policy would be good global PR as well. As it is, the oil sands are synonymous with "dirty" oil and that label will stick as long as the feds avoid swinging into action on the GHG front.

So should we stop exploiting the oil sands? As long as it comes with runaway GHG emissions and damage to forests and water systems, yes. If exploitation can be done more cleanly, the answer is no. Given the size of the oil sands, Canada has to act responsibly on the GHG front."

What do you think? Leave a comment here or go play the game and get involved.

The referendum question for this week is: The post-oil era: When should it be?

To have your say go to tgam.ca/fortmcmoney on a computer, start playing the game and click on “debate”.

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