tar sands

Thu, 2012-10-11 10:45Carol Linnitt
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Foreign Funding? So Glad You Asked: Enbridge Renews Attack Against Canadian Environmental Groups

Enbridge recently launched a renewed attack on Canadian environmental organizations, demanding the panel overseeing the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearing squeeze funding information from the project's critics.

In early 2012, a campaign - coordinated by the conservative government, the oil industry and the astroturf Ethical Oil Institute - sought to undermine the credibility of groups opposing the pipeline by suggesting they are “foreign interest groups” that “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” as Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver so forcefully put it.

Now Enbridge is renewing that egregious attack by requesting the panel investigate funding granted to Canadian environmental groups from a number of prominent American foundations renowned for their work in social and environmental equity, including poverty reduction, aboriginal issues, conservation, resource management, international development, and children and peace initiatives.

But Enbridge's ploy to redirect public attention away from tar sands, pipeline and oil spill issues toward the meddling of foreign interests in Canadian affairs is misguided, to say the least. The lion's share of foreign funding that guides the Canadian resource economy does not come in the form of conservation or environmental efforts: it comes through foreign investment in the resource sector.

And in the instance of the tar sands and related pipelines, foreign investments can be a politically, environmentally and socially dangerous affair.

Mon, 2012-10-08 10:25Ben Jervey
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Oil On the Tracks: How Rail Is Quietly Picking Up the Pipelines' Slack

We’ve talked a lot here on DeSmogBlog about oil (and tar sands crude) pipelines. You know, like the Keystone XL, which TransCanada is currently ramming through Texas, using whatever means necessary (including violence), and Enbridge's Northern Gateway, which was just declared “dead” by one of Canada's top newspapers.

And we’ve talked quite a bit about coal trains. All for very good reason. But we haven’t ever delved into the growing trend of shipping oil by train. Trains are a crucial – and growing – part of oil industry infrastructure, so it’s worthwhile to take a step back and get some perspective on this remarkable system. Understanding oil trains will help you understand, for instance, why oil markets are paying little attention to the pipeline debates.

Let’s start with the raw numbers.

Every week, over 17,000 carloads of oil are shipped in the U.S. and Canada. With roughly 600 to 700 barrels of oil in each carload, that’s between 1.4 and 1.6 million barrels of oil on the U.S. and Canadian rails every day. And these numbers are growing fast. This chart says it all.

Sat, 2012-10-06 11:56Carol Linnitt
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Oil Industry Looks to Create "Lake District" from Open-Pit Mines and Toxic Tar Sands Waste

This week, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), an industry-funded consultancy group in Alberta, released the End Pit Lakes Guidance Document to the Government of Alberta for review. The 434-page document outlines a 100-year plan to integrate open-pit mines and tar sands tailings into Northern Alberta's local ecosystem, introducing what they call a 'reclaimed lake district' as a long-term alternative to the temporary tailings ponds that currently hold the billions of gallons of water, sand, clay, hydrocarbons, naphthenic acids, salt and other byproducts of the bitumen extraction and upgrading process.

The 30 proposed end-pit lakes (EPLs) will take up more than 100 square kilometers, spread out over an area of 2,500 square kilometers. Toronto, for comparison, covers an area of 630 square kilometers. 
 
Industry envisions the artificial lake district as a future recreation site, although there is no indication yet that filling empty open-pit mines with freshwater will give way to the clean natural environments necessary to promote recreational uses of the area. In fact, The Globe and Mail reports the document “highlights the scale of the ecological gamble underway in the province” and suggests the technique is being considered as a remediation option because “it's less costly to fill a mine with water than dirt.”
 
Thu, 2012-10-04 20:13Graham Readfearn
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From Kermit to Coal, Book Reveals How World's Top Brands Greenwash The Public

“I GUESS it is easy being green,” said Kermit the Frog as he bounced around a Ford Escape Hybrid in a 2006 television ad campaign.

During the ad, Kermit displayed his innate talent for not blinking which, it has to be said, is due essentially to his congenital lack of eyelids.

But had Kermit blinked, he would have missed the small print at the bottom of the ad which showed that at the time, this “green” vehicle had a fuel consumption slightly worse than the US average.

But that seems to be the rule when it comes to claims of climate-friendliness made by some of the world's biggest brands.

Check the small print, and the responsible green hue soon fades to something resembling bullsh*t-brown (or whatever color denotes hypocrisy). At least that's the conclusion after reading Australian author and researcher Guy Pearse's latest book. Pearse spent close to four years immersing himself in some 3000 TV commercials and viewing about 4000 print and web adverts, all of which make claims of climate friendliness (I disclose here that I had a small paid role as a fact-checker on the book).

After checking the brand's actual contribution to climate change (or their lack of transparency) in more than 700 company reports, Pearse finds in Greenwash: Big Brands and Carbon Scams that the green revolution is being either grossly overblown or faked.

Tue, 2012-10-02 17:43Carol Linnitt
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First Nation Challenges Shell Canada's Jackpine Mine Expansion, Citing Constitutional Treaty Rights

Yesterday the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) announced their plans to constitutionally challenge Shell Oil Canada's expansion of the Jackpine Mine tar sands project. The project expansion would threaten the resources needed to sustain rights protected under Treaty 8, which the ACFN signed in 1899 at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca. A joint federal-provincial review panel will hear the challenge - the first of its kind to appear before such a group - on October 23rd, 6 days before the Jackpine Mine expansion application will make its own appearance before the panel on October 29.

The Jackpine Mine expansion would disturb 12,719 hectares of land and destroy 21 kilometers of the culturally significant Muskeg River, according to ACFN's press release issued yesterday
 
In addition, greenhouse gas emissions from the project would total 2.36 megatons of CO2 equivalent each year - an increase of 5.2 per cent in tar sands emissions from 2009, or roughly 281,000 cars on the road. Since Shell proposed the expansion in 2007, 11 additional projects have been proposed in the tar sands region.
Sat, 2012-09-29 15:15Carol Linnitt
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Death in the Woods: Canadian Federal Government Delays Release of Caribou Recovery Strategy - Again

This post is a part of DeSmog's investigative series: Cry Wolf.

Yesterday, the Canadian government told the nation's federal court that it will not release its long-awaited Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy. The Recovery Strategy, already 5 years overdue, represents conservationists' strongest measure of defense for dwindling caribou populations in Alberta that suffer increasing habitat loss from industrial development and intensive tar sands expansion.
 
The outlook for caribou in Alberta is grim, especially as they find themselves in a stand off against industrial giants backed by a federal government in favor of increasing tar sands and other industrial activity. Habitat disruption is a crucial issue for caribou who need large buffered areas of old growth forest to survive. The majority of Alberta's 12 caribou herds currently struggle with low calf survival - an issue directly related to disturbed habitat.
 
The Canadian and Albertan governments have historically hesitated to take meaningful measures to protect Alberta's caribou herds because such measures would not only advertise the deleterious effects of tar sands development on local wildlife and their habitat, but would require setting aside protected areas made unavailable for oil and gas development.
Sun, 2012-09-23 07:00Guest
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No Price Tags on West Coast Paradise

Sockeye by Steven Russell Smith Photos

This is a guest post by Nikki Skuce, and originally appeared in the Edmonton Journal.

In Edmonton this week, experts and lawyers have gathered again at the Joint Review Panel hearings on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project. They’ll challenge and defend percentages, growth, probabilities. They’ll speak about projections and expectations. They’ll talk about cost versus benefit.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, a fragile ecosystem is very much alive. Its emerald green islands slope into the Pacific Ocean. Eagles soar over Douglas Channel, feeding off migrating salmon. The rare spirit bear forages on a beach for clams and cockles, unaware that its future is being debated in an Alberta hearing room.

Anyone paying attention to the panel’s hearings that resumed two weeks ago in Edmonton has probably noticed a lot of numbers being thrown around. The current hearings focus on the pipeline’s economics, which don’t always add up — price differentials, job numbers, refinery capacity, liabilities. But while Enbridge and other economic experts haggle over numbers, it seems obvious that some things can’t be assigned a dollar value. Some things are priceless.

The Great Bear Rainforest is an international treasure, home to magnificent cedar trees and the spirit (kermode) bear. Its waters are teeming with life — humpback, orca and fin whales all feed there.

Thu, 2012-09-20 06:00Carol Linnitt
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Enbridge Expands Ruptured Tar Sands Line to Move Bitumen East Along Trailbreaker Route

With the two year anniversary of the “Dilbit Disaster” fresh on our minds it seems improbable that Enbridge, the company responsible for the 1 million gallon spill of dilbit, or diluted bitumen, on a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, is currently pushing through a plan to expand that same pipeline. 

 
The first phase of the expansion, already underway, will see 75 miles of pipeline segments replaced. 
Wed, 2012-09-19 11:14Steve Horn
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Petroleum Broadcasting System's "Newshour" and the Merchants of Climate Doubt

There's an old German proverb that goes, “Whose bread I eat his song I sing.”

Enter a recent spate of reportage by the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) ”Newshour.” In a September 17 story titled, “Climate Change Skeptic Says Global Warming Crowd Oversells Its Message” (with a URL titled, “Why the Global Warming Crowd Oversells its Message”) the Newshour “provided an unchecked platform for Anthony Watts, a virulent climate change denier funded by the Heartland Institute,” as described by Forecast the Facts.

Forecast the Facts created a petition demanding that the “PBS ombudsman…immediately investigate how this segment came to be aired,” stating that, “This is the kind of reporting we expect from Fox News, not PBS.”

Very true, this is exactly the type of reporting we've come to expect out of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, a cable “news” network that provides a voice for right-wing propagandists on all policy issues, including climate change denial. But perhaps expectations are too high for PBS' “Newshour” and we should've expected exactly what we got: a friendly platform for the climate change denying merchants of doubt

What's at play here goes above and beyond a single bad story by “Newshour.” Rather, it's a small piece and the result of an aggressive campaign that's been going on for nearly two decades to destroy public television in the public interest.

Based on the shift in how the “Newshour” has funded itself over the years, it's evident that the once-esteemed ”MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” streamed on the Public Broadcasting System has transformed PBS into what investigative reporter Greg Palast calls the “Petroleum Broadcasting System.”

Tue, 2012-09-18 11:58Carol Linnitt
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Alberta Bitumen Threatens Health of Communities Living Near Refineries in U.S., ForestEthics Reports

Toxins from refineries processing tar sands bitumen are dangerously polluting the air of local communities in the United States, according to a recent report by ForestEthics. Areas surrounding tar sands refineries - where a higher proportion of society's vulnerable minority, aging and poor communities live - exhibit intense levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) as a result of the high sulfur content of bitumen feed stocks used in the process. Sulfur dioxide pollution is associated with asthma and heart disease.

“The growing use of Canada's tar sands by U.S. refineries adds another health risk to those already being faced by some of the most disadvantaged communities in the United States,” said Aaron Sanger, U.S. Campaigns Director at ForestEthics and author of the report, in a press release.
 
At current rates, the U.S. imports 99 percent of Canadian bitumen exports. That oil is refined near low-income areas, meaning the health effects fall disproportionately on communities with disadvantaged groups. African American and Latino populations suffer higher cancer risks from refinery pollutants than the general population, according to the EPA.
 
The ForestEthics report, Tar Sands Refineries: Communities at Risk, shows that refineries upping their intake of tar sands bitumen have a correlative increase in SO2 emissions.

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