Tar sands are one of the dirtiest forms of oil out there. Canada has the largest reserves in the world of tar sands oil and the US is the key target market. THE major pipeline from Canada to the U.S. for tar sands oil has just been rubber stamped by the US State Dept. Good bye climate.
The full exploitation of the Canadian tar sands would account for 87% of ALL OECD country emissions in 2050 (Under a 450ppm stabilization pathway.) To put that into perspective, the entire developed world could reduce its emissions by 60% from today's levels and those reductions would be offset by the emissions from these projects. [Here's a background story I did on this a while back....]
Whether this decision has been thought out at the highest levels of the administration, the State Dept.'s recent approval of a pipeline into the U.S. from Canada's tar sands operations effectively will mean that any GLOBAL progress on addressing greenhouse gas emissions will be undone in the forests of Alberta. Here are the relevant details from an article on the Environmental News Service wire:
On Thursday, the State Department issued a Presidential Permit to Enbridge Energy, Ltd. for the Alberta Clipper - a 1,000-mile/1,607-kilometer crude oil pipeline that will run between Hardisty, Alberta, and Superior, Wisconsin.
With supply of crude oil from Western Canada oil sands developments expected to grow by as much as 1.8 million barrels per day by 2015, the industry has asked for more capacity out of the oil sands and into the U.S. Midwest markets.
In evaluating the Enbridge application, the State Department said in a statement, officials worked in consultation with "all relevant agencies and parties and with extensive public and stakeholder participation and outreach" and conducted an environmental review of the proposed project.
The department found that the addition of crude oil pipeline capacity between Canada and the United States will advance the strategic interests of the United States.
Syncrude Canada oil sands refinery on the Athabasca Oil Sands Deposit in northeastern Alberta (Photo courtesy Syncrude)
"These included increasing the diversity of available supplies among the United States’ worldwide crude oil sources in a time of considerable political tension in other major oil producing countries and regions; shortening the transportation pathway for crude oil supplies; and increasing crude oil supplies from a major non-Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries producer," the department said.
"Canada is a stable and reliable ally and trading partner of the United States, with which we have free trade agreements which augment the security of this energy supply," the department said.
The most important aspect to this story is the fact that syncrude - the distilled product from tar sands operations - cannot be transported in normal oil pipelines. the U.S. is the major target market for this stuff. Without a pipeline in place it severely limits the ability of the industry to expand. This decision, if it stays final, will undo not only any improvements made by the Waxman-Marky bill, but could undermine any progress at the major IPCC summit in Copenhagen. This is serious folks. If you want to address climate change the number one single action we could take is to say "No" to tar sands as an energy source. We need to do this if we are to have any credibility with the Chinese and Indians in climate negotiations. Our future quite literally rests on this decision. Contact your representatives and tell them to pressure the administration to say no the pipeline and say no to Canadian tar sands.