Canada's Dirty Secret

The extraction, separation and conversion process from sand to oil releases massive stores of greenhouse gases.

Some consider tar sands the end of our oil crisis; others see them as a catalyst for our imminent environmental crisis.

In the Canadian province of Alberta, land is lush with pristine Boreal forest. Beneath these relatively untouched forests are tar sands, a sand and clay mixture containing a small percentage of a type of petroleum called bitumen, which can be converted into conventional oil. Behind Saudi Arabia, Canada is considered the second nation in world oil reserves based on their supply of tar sands. It sounds like an appealing energy solution to some, but the environmental costs of extracting oil from Alberta's tar sand would exact a heavy toll. The extraction, separation and conversion process from sand to oil requires huge amounts of energy and water, is brutally destructive to Canada's forests, and releases massive stores of greenhouse gases and particle pollution into the atmosphere (three to five times that of conventional oil). As a result, major U.S. and Canadian environmental activism groups have joined forces to protect Canadian land and stop tar sand development.

Thirty North American environmental activist groups including Greenpeace and the National Audubon Society declared a joint effort to block tar sands development on June 2nd at a conference in Washington, D.C. Not only did the groups argue against the exploitation of Canadian tar sands, but they took the opportunity to promote the use of clean energy like wind and solar power. According to the groups" declaration, tar sand production is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The environmental groups also called for both Canadian and U.S. governments to incorporate climate science in their environmental policies and to protect the North American Boreal Forest as the one of the last, largest intact wilderness forests in the world.

The environmental organizations from both Canada and The U.S. hope that their joint declaration will serve as a stepping stone toward a new international environmental treaty, as the Kyoto Protocol (an international agreement on climate change) is set to expire in 2012.

Source: Tar Sands Watch