Saturday, April 11, 2015

Planned Tar Sands Expansion Negates Global Carbon Reduction Efforts

There are plans underway to dramatically increase the amount of tar sands oil being shipped to international markets. If these plans proceed they would undermine efforts to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Tar sands oil is some of the most carbon intensive oil on earth. The extraction process of the tar sands alone is three times as carbon intensive as the extraction of conventional oil.

Expanding the tar sands is antithetical to the global climate agreement that is being sought at COP 21 in Paris later this year.  As former NASA scientist James Hansen has said, radical increases in the amount of tar sands oil that goes to market would mean "game over" for efforts to combat climate change.

Oil extraction and transportation not only wreaks havoc on our climate it endangers the lives of millions of people. Oil wells rupture, oil pipelines leak, oil trains explode and oil tankers spill. Whether by pipeline, tanker, train or truck, transporting fossil fuels is dangerous.

There are five proposed pipelines that would ferry up to 6 million barrels of tar sands crude each day. The five pipelines all originate in Alberta's tar sands. This carbon monstrosity would extend its tentacles in all four directions. Going south to the gulf of Mexico there is the well known Keystone XL and the South Stream, to the West there is the Northern Gateway, going East to the St. Lawrence river there is the Energy East and to the North there is the Arctic Gateway.

Even though oil prices are low and many tar sands development projects have been put on hold as a result Canada's ruling conservatives and the oil industry are working together to bring a devastating quantity of tar sands oil to market.

The Keystone XL is only one of four proposed pipelines that would ferry up to 5 million barrels of tar sands crude to markets all around the world. This is a carbon bomb game changer that would utterly undermine the world's carbon reduction efforts.

The US Senate tried to to force the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL. The President Obama then vetoed this move. The EPA subsequently released its assessment of the project saying that the expansion of the tar sands represents, "a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions."

We know that fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change and we also know that the tar sands are some of the dirtiest oil on earth. We simply cannot have a sustainable climate and allow the tar sands to expand. It is time for a science based energy policy. If we want to combat climate change we must keep most of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and this is especially true of tar sands.

The NRDC video below reviews the plan and the consequences of tar sands expansion.

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