Toyota's Bill Reinert Says Auto Industry Must Break Its Oil Addiction

The twin threats of $100-a-barrel oil and global warming are convulsing an industry addicted to cheap, abundant petroleum.

Published: 24-Jan-2008

Bill Reinert, who helped design Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius hybrid, hovers in a helicopter 1,000 feet over Fort McMurray, Alberta. On this clear November morning, he's craning for a look at one of the world's largest petroleum reserves where there's not an oil well in sight.

Instead, in a 2-mile-wide pit below, trucks head to refineries with loads of sand weighing more than Boeing 747s. Yellow flames shoot skyward as 900-degree-Fahrenheit (482- degree-Celsius) heat liquefies any embedded petroleum. Floating scarecrows and propane-powered cannons do their best to chase migrating birds from lethal wastewater ponds.

Eventually, nuclear reactors may surround the crater 270 miles (435 kilometers) northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, delivering the power required to wring oil from sand.

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