1. But just because reserves of unconventional oil are large, it does not mean they will ever be produced in quantities like conventional oil. Much of the oilsand is too deep to be reached by strip mining. Other methods are being tried to recover this deeper oil, but the economics are marginal. With the strip mining and refining process now in use, it takes the energy equivalent of two barrels of oil to produce one barrel. To expand the strip mining operation to the extent which could, for example, produce the 18 million barrels of oil used each day in the United States would involve the world's biggest mining operation, on a scale which is simply not possible in the foreseeable future, if ever.
2. Oil-sands waste poses major environmental problems. Oily waste water is a byproduct of the process used to recover oil from the tarry sands. For every barrel of oil recovered, two and a half barrels of liquid waste are pumped into the huge ponds. If flood or earthquake were to knock holes in the massive sand dikes containing the lakes, the spill of toxic waste could have as great an impact as the worst oil tanker accident.