Canada's Fort McMurray wildfire is so massive, you can see it from space

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“The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline is, at its heart, a fight over
whether the U.S. should be encouraging —or, if you prefer, profiting
from—the exploitation of the tar sands.”

That’s pretty dumb. Oil is (mostly) fungible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pumped through a pipeline to buyers southeastern united states, or pumped into tankers and send across the Pacific to buyers in China: in both cases it goes onto the market, finds a buyer, and gets used. The only difference is at the margin: whether it’s more efficient (economically and/or ecologically) to power pumps to send it through a pipeline or to power big boat engines to send it across the Pacific. The US will “profit” in either case as the supply from the tar sands impacts prices for crude oil, the pipeline isn’t a battle over that at all.

Also, the headline of the BB article is damning with faint praise. Pretty much any wildfire of any significance can be seen from space; this one is gobsmackingly enormous. There has to be a better illustration of that than “can see it from space.”


Using Google Maps Satellite View I can see my house from space, and it isn’t even on fire at the moment. :earth_americas:


huh. thanks for clearing that up. must explain why the oil companies didn’t care at all about getting the pipeline built.

fwiw, i do agree with the “big enough to be seen from space” thing. i guess it’s shorthand for “visible from the iss, if you could get on up there to take a look, but still probably not visible from the surface of the moon even if you had your own global-warming getaway base and plenty of oxygen.”


Oil in general is fungible, but that varies for local reasons.

In the case of the Fort MacMisery tarsands, the producers are basically unable to get their full production to market, so they are getting a lower-than-the-global price, and have been for a long time. This has worked out nicely for some parts of the industry, but not so well for others.

The pipeline(s) would get that oil to a higher paying market.

You can also see how shitty my lawn is from space (also not on fire).


Indeed. All the preaching about the irony… at least Alberta has plans to introduce a carbon tax (, I think an economist would tell us a carbon tax or cap & trade followed by normal market responses would be the best way to determine what pipelines to build or whether to build them at all. Instead of blocking pipelines through political action, it would be better for everyone if that political will was used to implement a carbon tax or cap & trade in the US. Oh, wait…

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Let it be noted for the record that allowing the pipeline would also have been a political action.


Are you sure? Google Satellite imagery tends to be months out of date. Just because Google Maps shows it to be not on fire doesn’t mean that it isn’t on fire at this very moment.


Are you sure that’s fully the case? I mean, most of the process is technical (studies, analyses, reports in various areas such as engineering, economic, etc), isn’t it? And that process probably comes up with “technical” recommendations according to that process. How often are those recommendations ignored at the end of the process whether that’s approving an application that was recommended to be denied or denying one that was recommended to be approved?

Are you saying that every iteration of the process is political? Unless you say that every decision that involves more than one person is political, wouldn’t it be more useful to characterize some as more or less political?

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Wow. I’d look up some statistics to see how this compares to the Cedar Fire in San Diego County, but it’s probably kind of depressing. I am certain, however, that in San Diego there were not tens of thousands of people having to evacuate at the same time. Awful.


Damn…I had to look it up. It’s almost twice as big as the Cedar fire, although with fewer deaths. But according to the same Wikipedia article, the 2007 California wildfires forced 900,000 people to evacuate. I would make a joke about polite Canadians being more willing to evacuate, reducing the deaths, but after remembering what the Cedar fire was like (the fire didn’t reach me, but the smoke and ash were terrible) I don’t feel like joking…

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Well, they’ll get by transporting it to the US one way or another. It would just be cheaper for them to use pipelines, not to mention safer for the environment than the alternative.


right. exactly.

the us government, and all the various states involved, would be covering externalized costs. essentially subsidizing the pipelines ( via eminent domain land grabs, tax breaks, policing costs, future clean up costs, … ) making it cheaper to produce oil. hence: encouraging.

it would be better for the country to make the oil companies pay their own way, and at a state and national level covering those same sorts of externalized costs for renewables instead.

edited to add:

while a cap and trade would be good, this isn’t an either or proposition. economics isn’t really the point when it comes to energy production anymore – not unless you also include the very real economic costs of continuing to dig new oil out of the ground.

this is just one reference, but there are many more:

If future adaptation mimics past adaptation, unmitigated warming is expected to reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality

oil is intrinsically cheap, but that doesn’t make the externalities in human lives and livelihood worth the cost.



“…you can see it from space” is the laziest geo-journalisim trope on the books. Seriously? I can see the umbrella on my deck from space, that does not make it newsworthy.



According to the article, your shitty lawn must be massive enough to be seen in SSPPAACE.

They might say that, but they’d be wrong.

Twenty years ago, a carbon tax might have made sense.

Now, we’re at “shut them down yesterday if you want to live, and fuck the economy”.

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When someone says something is or is not political, they are saying g that for political reasons. I’ve noticed that when public transit is cut back, it’s stressed to the ridership that nothing political is going on, these are financial processes beyond anyone’s control- Yet bringing in new public transit options is aleays a terribly political process, with every NIMBY neighbor standing up to defend their property rights. It gets to be exhausting.