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The Economics of Canadian Oil Sands

Anthony Heyes, Andrew Leach () and Charles Mason ()

Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 2018, vol. 12, issue 2, 242-263

Abstract: We analyze the status of Canadian oil sands and examine future prospects. Our analysis suggests sustained activity in the sector in the medium- to long-term even with challenging changes in the surrounding economic and policy circumstances (in particular low oil prices and a redoubled commitment to more aggressive climate policies by Canada’s provincial and federal governments). However, a combination of an expectation of a sustained increase in benchmark oil prices and the expected relaxation of transportation constraints will be needed to stimulate significant additional growth in production. We provide an overview of the basic production economics, as well as the economics and politics of getting product to market by pipeline and rail. A review of environmental impacts of Canadian oil sands development reveals significant concerns with respect to air quality, water quality, wildlife and other environmental impacts. However, we find that existing research on the environmental and wider social impacts is insufficient to underpin credible benefit–cost analysis of oil sands activities and development.

Date: 2018
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Review of Environmental Economics and Policy is currently edited by Robert Stavins

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