While everyone is jumping up and down about the Athabasca Tar Sands, few people are making much fuss about the Orinoco Oil Sands in Venezuela. The estimates of how much oil could be recovered at today's prices and technologies is between 235 billion barrels to 513 billion barrels. This is significantly more than the Athabasca Tar Sands
At the moment there is about 600,000 barrels a day coming from this source and at a cost that is much lower than the cost of the Canadian tar sands. This about half of what is produced in Canada. I find that fact interesting because of the gap between Canadian per capita CO2 emissions and those in Venezuela. I think that the numbers for Venezuela are not correct because on a per capita basis the Canadian tar sands are only 55% larger than the Venezuelan oil sands.
The problem is that this oil source is in Venezuela and therefore under a government that is immune to local or global public opinion. Further complicating this will happen if the Chinese express an interest in getting oil from this source. Without a free press or a public that is allowed to speak out, it is very likely that we will see a huge environmental disaster happen in Venezuela as these oil sands are developed. Odds are we will not find out about this till long after it has happened.
Canada has serious first world environmental standards. Venezuela has the environmental standards of a dictatorship, which is to say there is nothing that will be enforced if they had anything on the books to start with.
Venezuela claims to have 35% protected areas, but these areas are logged and mined. Hugo Chavez should be the global poster child for environmental disaster.