Tar Sands Solutions Network

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Stop the Expansion

Few Canadians are aware how fast the tar sands have grown. In its obsession with rapid expansion, the Alberta government has approved more than 100 tar sands projects covering 92,000 square kilometres of northern boreal forest, with another 100 projects covering an additional 50,000 square kilometres proposed or under review. Current industry plans will expand production more than 3X from current levels, all but guaranteeing the destruction of the earth's climate.

However, the indefinite delay of Total's Josyln North tar sands mine is a clear indication that industry’s growth forecasts are not accurate and a sign that the continued expansion of the tar sands is anything but inevitable. Tar sands are high cost, high risk, and high carbon. Josyln North’s mothballing is the latest in a developing trend that doesn't bode well for the industry's future. The economics of the tar sands are marginal today, and nd in a carbon constrained world, they become increasingly unviable.

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Overview:
- The tar sands are the largest industrial project on Earth, and it's growing fast
Key Problems:
- Industry plans to triple productionby 2030
- Dramatic negative impacts are being ignored  
- There are literally no limits on continued expansion
Current Status:
- Current planned expansion is in line with global demand scenarios for a 6 degree global temperature rise.
- Cancellation of Total's Joclyn North tar sands mine indicates expansion is not inevitable. 

Today, tar sands development produces 1.9 million barrels of tar sands oil per day (BPD), up from 300,000 BPD in 1999. But the oil industry is just getting started. The rapid approval and construction of tar sands projects will more than triple output over the next 17 years. Industry estimates indicate production capacity will explode to more than five million BPD by 2030. The tar sands industry already has announced plans to increase production to nine million barrels per day.

There is literally no limit to the amount of tar sands development the Alberta and Canadian governments are willing to allow – despite the serious social, economic and environmental problems this growth will unleash on the world.

Most of the oil produced today is from giant, open-pit mines. Bitumen is torn from the ground and upgraded in enormous factories. This process destroys immense amounts of forest and wildlife habitat, creates toxic tailings ponds the size of lakes, and pollutes the region's rivers and streams with dangerous chemicals. The future of tar sands development relies on an a different process, called in situ (Latin for "in place") extraction. Here, steam and chemicals are injected deep underground, where the bitumen melts and is pumped to the surface. In situ extraction uses tremendous amounts of water, and because it requires turning water into steam, it uses an enormous amount of energy, which means it creates an enormous amount of climate-warming greenhouse gases.

The size and scale of Alberta's tar sands experiment is gargantuan. Together, more than 100 mining and in situ operations are dewatering the Athabasca River, poisoning streams and rivers, warming the climate, and driving caribou to extinction. It is also consuming the traditional lands of the region's First Nations people and preventing them from exercising their constitutionally protected right to hunt and fish in a region that is being turned into an industrial moonscape.

For whose benefit? Oil companies, most of which are foreign owned. This means that Canadians aren’t getting their fair share of the benefits of tar sands development, and yet they bear most of the risks.

It is the oil industry that is driving the massive expansion of the tar sands, and that expansion, in turn, is driving the construction of new and repurposed pipelines all over North America – through British Columbia to its pristine West Coast, through Central Canada and New England to the Atlantic Ocean, and through the Midwest, the breadbasket of America, to the Gulf of Mexico. As devastating spills in Michigan and Arkansas have proved, these pipelines inevitably will spill their toxic cargo along the way, poisoning waterways, polluting communities, and undermining livelihoods for thousands of people.

Perhaps the worst consequence of massive investment in tar sands expansion and the web of pipelines necessary to carry its dirty oil to market is that it locks us into relying on dirty oil for another century. This can only lead to the most catastrophic impacts of a climate warmed beyond recognition. The resulting six degree Celsius increase in global temperature will wreak havoc on the environmental, social and political stability that modern civilization requires to function.

The intractable problems and extraordinary risks of a tar sands world are just too great. Tar sands expansion must be stopped and, eventually, phased out altogether. Recent announcments, and the growing opposition to tar sands pipelines, indicates we're moving in the right direction (albeit slowly).

Stop the Expansion Updates & Resources

Oil sands being left In the ground is just a matter of fact, experts say

Feature

Bob Weber | Canadian Press - August 13th 2015

Press Clipping: The furor over a New Democrat candidate's remarks about leaving Alberta's oilsands in the ground reflects how poorly the issue is understood, say energy experts. To many, Toronto Centre candidate Linda McQuaig's recent statement is just the simple fact of the matter. "The shock is that anyone would be shocked by this," said Mark Jaccard, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University. "It's kind of like we're in a dialogue in Canada that reminds me of Saudi Arabia 20 years ago."

TransCanada delays pipeline construction

August 2nd 2015

Press Clipping: TransCanada is indefinitely suspending construction on its Heartland line from Edmonton to Hardisty since the Keystone XL and Energy East systems it would supply are delayed, executives said Friday on a conference call. Full expansion of the company’s Grand Rapids line from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, now under construction with startup planned for 2016, is being slowed as production rises more slowly in the oil sands. TransCanada also has pushed back startup to 2020 for the Energy East line to Canada’s Atlantic Coast as it works to redesign the project to address opposition in Quebec.

There’s no climate leadership in a tar sands pipeline

Mike Hudema | Greenpeace Canada - July 17th 2015

Blog Post: Instead of talking with the country’s other provincial leaders about how to speed up the transition to renewable energy, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley met with Quebec’s premier to talk about how to dig us further into the problem by green lighting the $12-billion Energy East tar sands pipeline. If constructed, Energy East would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude a day and producing the crude needed to fill it would generate up 32 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas emissions each year — an impact even greater than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Environmental groups to premiers: no oilsands in Canadian Energy Strategy

Feature

Canadian Press | Globe and Mail - July 16th 2015

Press Clipping: A dozen environmental groups across Canada say there should be no role for oilsands growth in a Canadian energy strategy. The groups want a strategy that would halt oilsands development and the infrastructure that would support it, such as pipelines, oil train facilities and tankers. They also want the provinces to make clean energy infrastructure a higher priority than new oil and gas proposals.

We are unstoppable

Feature

July 13th 2015

Visual: The wall of opposition to tar sands pipelines is unstoppable. From Canada to the US, the resistance to Big Oil knows no borders.”Boxed In On All Sides” shows just home much we accomplished this year. So do yourself a favour and spend 7 mins on your lunch break and watch this people powered victories wrap up video from the past 10 months of this epic campaign.

Teck mine delay and industry’s 2015 forecast cool tar sands expansion forecasts further

Joshua Axelrod | Natural Resources Defense Council - July 13th 2015

Blog Post: Last week's momentous announcement of a five year delay for Teck Resources' Frontier Mine may signal a major turning point in the fight to end tar sands production. With persistently low oil prices, increasing political pressure to take action on climate change, and public opposition to pipelines causing delays in the construction necessary to expand tar sands production, projects like the Frontier Mine may simply never get built.