tar sands

Thu, 2011-01-06 16:27Emma Pullman
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Breaking News: Fire Breaks Out At Tar Sands Site in Alberta

Thursday afternoon, fire broke out at the Horizon oilsands site near Fort McKay in northern Alberta.  Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., which owns the site, confirmed that the fire was set off by an explosion around 5:30 PM Eastern Time Thursday.

The fire itself started in an upgrader across from the plant where bitumen is converted into crude oil.  The 480-foot coker structure, which uses heat to convert bitumen into crude oil caught fire.  Individuals at the site claimed that the explosion caused flames and smoke to shoot hundreds of feet into the air. 

Wed, 2010-12-15 16:27Emma Pullman
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Groups Question Clinton Ties to Oil Lobby & Impact on State Department Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline Decision

A coalition of organizations composed of Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a Freedom of Information Act request [PDF] this week asking for all communications between the agency and a former presidential campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.

Paul Elliot, the lobbyist in question, served as national deputy director and chief of staff for delegate selection for Clinton’s Presidential campaign committee.  He’s now a lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the controversial 2,151 mile-long Keystone XL Pipeline.  

The above organizations are concerned about how the relationship between Secretary of State Clinton and Elliot may impact the approval process for the controversial tar sands pipeline.  For the coalition of watchdog organizations, this is just the latest in a series of developments that cast doubt on whether the State Department is fulfilling its obligations to conduct an exhaustive and transparent review of the environmental and public health dangers of the proposed pipeline.

Fri, 2010-12-10 11:10Bill Hewitt
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PART TWO: The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

(Cont’d from Part 1) As far as the credibility of the U.S. and Canada in international climate negotiations, the Sierra Club’s Kate Colarulli thinks that continued tar sands oil production and consumption hurts both countries badly.  Canada’s reputation is particularly poor in this context.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program, feels the same way.  Canada, in her view, has been completely discredited at the table as a direct consequence of the tar sands.

In Cancún, Canada has been an extremely visible target because of the tar sands.  Protesters there have made the salient point that Canada is dragging its feet on robust greenhouse gas reduction targets because of their desire to continue and radically expand the tar sands extraction.

Canada was also being tarred in Cancún – pun intended – by being the recipient of three “Fossil of the Day” awards, as voted by over 400 international organizations.  Canada was similarly dishonored at the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties for “…years of delay, obstruction and total inaction.”

Thu, 2010-12-09 11:24Bill Hewitt
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The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

America is addicted to oil,” said the arch-environmentalist and fervent renewable energy advocate George W. Bush in his State of the Union address in 2006.  Good thought.  His successor, Barack Obama, has actually acted on that perception, though, and worked to reduce America’s reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.  He and his administration have negotiated a long-term agreement to significantly increase gas mileage; issued a directive to radically improve the environmental performance of federal buildings and vehicles; and designated a large portion of the economic stimulus package for green initiatives.  Obama said in March that “…for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.”

Looming over the border in Canada, however, is the specter of the tar sands.  Production of crude oil from the tar sands is tracking at 1.5 million barrels a day for 2010.  Of this, over a million barrels is exported to the U.S.  The environmental and public health impacts of the extraction, processing and transportation of tar sands have been well documented and reported.  These are concerns that have been expressed by environmental groups in North America and Europe, but now the economic and security implications of increasing tar sands development are being addressed by key members of the U.S. Congress as well as analysts working on the critical interface between energy, environment and security.

Barring Tar Sands Oil 

Congressman Henry Waxman, the outgoing chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the driving force behind Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [PDF].  Section 526 prohibits federal agencies from procuring alternative fuel unless its life cycle GHG emissions are less than those for conventional petroleum sources.  This provision set off alarm bells in Canada.  The Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Wilson, wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates [PDF] within a couple of months of EISA becoming law to say that “Canada would not want to see an expansive interpretation of Section 526, which would then include commercially-available fuel made in part from oil derived from Canadian oil sands.” 

Tue, 2010-12-07 17:26Emma Pullman
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Canada Votes to Ban Tar Sands Oil Tankers off BC Coast; Enbridge Front Group Exposed

Today, Canada’s House of Commons approved a motion calling for a permanent ban on oil tankers off British Columbia’s coast.  The passed NDP motion introduced by MP Nathan Cullen urges the government to immediately propose legislation to “ban bulk oil tanker traffic” through the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, off the north coast of B.C. The bill received Parliamentary support in a tight a vote of 143-138, with all opposition parties supporting it and Conservatives opposed.

British Columbia is now one step closer to having a full legislated ban on supertankers off its north and central coasts. The opposition is sending a clear message to the Conservatives to legislate a formal moratorium. 

Today’s ban could seriously impact Enbridge, who has plans to develop a $5.5 billion 1,170-kilometre pipeline to carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.

Mon, 2010-12-06 11:40Brendan DeMelle
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New Ad Asks President Obama To Stop Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil extracted from Canada’s dirty tar sands over 2,000 miles through two provinces and six U.S. states to Gulf Coast refineries. Unless it is stopped, the U.S. and Canada are set to continue guaranteeing decades of mutual, self-inflicted oil addiction.

Tue, 2010-11-30 23:06Emma Pullman
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Canada Already on Track to be Fossil of the Year in Cancun; Cleans up on Day One of the Talks

Canada is off to an impressive start at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, if what you’re measuring is climate inaction and environmental embarrassment. 

Today, at the first set of the Fossil of the Day awards, Canada took home not one, or two, but all three of the awards.  The dubious ‘honour’ is voted on by an international coalition of than 400 leading international environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, who vote on the countries that performed the worst during the past day’s negotiations.  Turns out if you are really committed to climate inaction, fail to have any plan to meet already weak targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, defeat a climate change bill that was already passed in your House of Commons by holding a snap vote by an unelected Senate after no debate, and are complicit in trying to weaken climate policy outside of your own national borders, you can win all three of the humiliating prizes. 

The gentleman accepting the shameful awards on behalf of Canada hopped from podium step to podium step, barely able to juggle his armful of awards.  Looks like Canada can clean up humiliating awards, but can’t clean up its act.

In the next two weeks, we’ll see if Canada will take home the Fossil of the Year for the forth year in a row.  From the look of things now, we might as well preemptively cue the Jurassic Park theme music. 

Watch this hilarious video to see Canada’s flagrant lack of commitment to climate change policy given its due recognition.  We can only hope that history does not repeat itself once more.  Prove us wrong, will you Mr. Baird? 

Thu, 2010-11-25 09:46Emma Pullman
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Alberta and Canadian Governments Complicit in Killing Climate Policy in EU & U.S. to Support Toxic Tar Sands

The Alberta government’s multi-million dollar public relations campaign to spin dirty tar sands production in a positive light has received quite a bit of flack from those who see through efforts to tout the tar sands as green, or as a “national treasure”

They haven’t just been investing in $56,000 advertisements and op-ed pieces. The governments of Canada and Alberta are also engaged in something much more insidious: a concerted effort to weaken climate policies in other countries, with the aim of ensuring that no impediments exist to Canada’s filthy tar sands. 

The shocking report released by Climate Action Network Canada shows that the Alberta and Canadian governments have been complicit with industry in efforts to undermine climate legislation in the EU and U.S. The report highlights three devious efforts by industry and government to oppose or weaken energy policy abroad: California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which encourages cleaner fuels and discourages burning dirty fuels; Section 526 of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, which stops departments from buying the dirtiest kinds of fuels and the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, an effort to lower CO2 emissions and move toward cleaner-burning fuels.

Government and industry are behind “a concerted effort to weaken climate policies outside our borders, with the aim of ensuring that no doors are closed to Canada’s highly polluting tar sands,” the report’s authors write. This is the heart of corporate-government complicity, with the secret oilsands advocacy strategy being led by the Foreign Affairs Department, with officials working in both the U.S. and the European Union.  The report’s authors fear that these examples appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Wed, 2010-11-24 17:04Brendan DeMelle
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Alberta Tar Sands Have Irreversible Impact on Indigenous Culture

The Alberta tar sands are increasingly recognized as a major threat, not only moving us in the opposite direction from where we need to go to solve the climate crisis, but also with the enormous environmental and public health risks that tar sands development entails.  However, another major negative and irreversible consequence of the tar sands’ gold rush is often overlooked - the tremendous impact on the culture and legacy of northern Alberta’s indigenous peoples.

As this amazing multimedia presentation by acclaimed climate change photographer Robert van Waarden demonstrates vividly, the tar sands are leaving an indelible mark on First Nations’ communities, whose livelihoods and culture are threatened by the tar sands.  Watch this, then please share it with your family and learn more about the tar sands.  This destruction can be stopped, but not without major public pressure.

Tue, 2010-11-23 06:55Brendan DeMelle
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Had Enough Tar Sands Greenwashing? Join the CAPP Ad-Jam Contest

Are you sick and tired of the greenwashing efforts by the Alberta government and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to paint Canada’s toxic tar sands as ‘clean’?

Greenpeace Canada is launching an ad-jamming contest to combat the greenwashing campaign launched by CAPP in a series of print and video ads

“It is time to show CAPP that any attempt to greenwash the tar sands will not go unchecked,” say Greenpeace organizers, who have set up a Facebook group to “Put a CAPP on Tar Sands Greenwashing.”

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