Tar Sands Solutions Network

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Tar Sands Free

One of the most promising efforts to curtail tar sands development is the commitment of cities, universities, foundations, businesses and religious institutions to stop using tar sands-based products or investing in companies that profit from tar sands production. 

In 2013, fossil fuel divestment campaigns spread like wildfire around the globe. So far, 29 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, and dozens of foundations and religious institutions worldwide have agreed to stop investing in companies involved in the production and promotion of tar sands crude.

Numerous businesses have passed resolutions to stop using tar sands-derived fuels, and more than a few municipalities have decided to prohibit the transport of tar sands crude through theri communities. 

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- Companies, municipalities, universities, and religious institutions to no tar sands in their fuel supplies and investment portfolios
Key Problems:
- Tar sands oil is significantly dirtier than alternatives
- Many companies, cities and states and the entire European Union are taking action to reduce emissions 
Current Status:
- 19 global corporations, 30 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, dozens of religious institutions, and the EU have adopted policies unfavourable to tar sands

Cities, churches, universities and businesses across North America and Europe are taking climate action seriously by refusing to purchase tar sands fuel or invest in tar sands companies. Others have adopted policies to prohibit the use or transport of tar sands-related products. 

Bellingham, Washington, adopted new guidelines to minimize fuel purchasing from refineries taking feed stock from Canada’s tar sands. Building on the Bellingham model, dozens of New England towns and municipalities have also committed to going Tar Sands Free. Twenty-nine towns and cities in Vermont, including Burlington, the state’s largest city, passed resolutions opposing the transportation of tar sands crude through “The Green Mountain State” and committing to eliminating the use of tar sands-derived fuels in the area. Three towns in Maine – Bethel, Casco and Waterford – have passed similar resolutions, and the list grows every month.

In Maine, South Portland City Council passed an ordinance that prevents the Portland Pipe Line Corporation or others from building the large, polluting smokestacks necessary to load any form of tar sands crude oil onto tankers in its beautiful coastal port.

The business community also has joined the opposition to Canada’s dirty tar sands fuels. So far nearly twenty large businesses have publicly announced actions they have taken to reduce the environmental and social impacts of fossil-fueled transportation. Popular brands including Avon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Chiquita, eBay, Trader Joes, Walgreens and Whole Foods are all committed to reducing their use of dirty fuels like tar sands in their operations.

If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Institutions and governments that purport to serve the public good should not invest in, and profit from, from the extraction, production and consumption of fossil fuels. Just 200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. 350.org’s Fossil Free campaign has inspired hundreds of campaigns all over the world to encourage universities, religious institutions, and city and municipal governments to reject tar sands oil as a responsible source of energy and jettison their investments in tar sands companies.

It’s working. So far, 30 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, 19 corporations and dozens of foundations and religious institutions worldwide have agreed to stop investing in companies involved in the production and promotion of tar sands crude.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, for instance, has directed his staff not to invest the city’s $1.4 billion operating fund in fossil fuel companies, and has asked the governing board to do likewise for the city’s pension fund. The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), an international conservation organization whose mission is to save threatened species by making conservation efforts more effective, decided to divest its investment portfolio of fossil fuel companies so it can “serve as a model and provide an invitation to the zoo and aquarium community to join us in this movement. The Sante Fe Art Institute and the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee have followed suit.

The overwhelming commitment to avoiding tar sands-related investment vehicles and products is a welcome sign that society is beginning to understand that the risks associated with tar sands development are incompatible with a clean energy economy and a sustainable future that prevents the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Tar Sands Free Updates & Resources

South Portland sets aside almost $500,000 to defend tar sands oil ban

William Hall | Bangor Daily News - June 18th 2015

Press Clipping: The South Portland City Council on Monday earmarked nearly $500,000 to defend a law it passed last year preventing the on-boarding of crude oil along the city’s waterfront. The “Clear Skies” ordinance effectively prohibits pumping tar sands oil through the Portland-Montreal Pipeline to South Portland, where the fuel could then be transported by ship. “I have heard overwhelming support for this ordinance,” saidCouncilor Claude Morgan. "There’s a great deal at stake in the long term. And by necessity, [the ordinance] must be sustainable.”

Oxford University takes a moral stand on coal and tar sands


Editors | Tar Sands Solutions - May 18th 2015

Blog Post: On May 18, the University of Oxford confirmed it is excluding companies involved in the extraction of coal and tar-sands from its direct investments on ethical grounds. University Court passed policy that states that it will also "avoid future investments" in coal and tar sands, but failed to agree to disclose its investments publicly. Students, academics and alumni are celebrating this victory after campaigning for the university and its colleges to divest from the fossil fuel industry for over a year.

Church of England ends investments in heavily polluting fossil fuels


Adam Vaughan | The Guardian - April 30th 2015

Press Clipping: The Church of England has pulled £12m out of two of the most polluting fossil fuels – tar sands oil and thermal coal – as part of what it called its moral responsibility to protect the world’s poor from the impact of global warming. The move was approved by the church’s board on Thursday, the first time it has ever imposed investment restrictions because of climate change.

Why University of Victoria students voted to divest

Mychaylo Prystupa | Vancouver Observer - March 7th 2015

Press Clipping: This week, University of Victoria students voted overwhelmingly — 77 per cent in favour — to urge their university to divest from fossil fuels. Organizers says it may be the largest margin of victory for a divest campaign of any Canadian campus. Why did the students vote for the climate change action? "To pressure companies to move to shift to renewable energy," wrote student Leat Ahrony.

Stanford stands up to KXL

Jenai Longstaff | Fossil Free Stanford - February 20th 2015

Blog Post: When President Obama came to Stanford University on February 13th, more than 50 students and community members were there to tell him to veto and reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Fossil Free Stanford has led Stanford’s campaign to divest from the fossil fuel industry. With the University’s assets successfully out of the coal industry, Fossil Free Stanford continues its work to end the University’s investment in oil and natural gas companies, which are causing enormous environmental destruction and human rights abuses.

Climate activists disrupt Toronto Stock Exchange opening, call for fossil fuel divestment

Editors | Tar Sands Solutions - February 13th 2015

Blog Post: At 9:30 this morning dozens of people descended on the opening of the Toronto Stock Exchange to highlight the climate and financial risk of fossil fuel investments. They floated banners reading “Don’t Bank on Tar Sands - Divest Fossil Fuels Now” and occupied the TSX front office. The action comes on the eve of Global Divestment Day, an international day of action calling for fossil fuel divestment. There are over 350 actions planned across the globe.

Why you should join Global Divestment Day

Bill McKibben - February 13th 2015

Press Clipping: You know why you should join an action near you on Global Divestment Day? Like the one down on Wall Street this Friday in New York City, or the one at London's City Hall on Saturday? Because we've got the bad guys on the run. Divestment is on a roll: Last week the New School, in the center of New York, and the oldest university in Australia joined the long and growing list. There are more than 400 events around the world, which means there's one near you.

Join a Fossil Fuel Divestment Day Event today!


February 11th 2015

Blog Post: If it’s wrong to wreck the planet then its wrong to profit from that wreckage. It’s time for all of us to sever our ties with the fossil fuel industry whose plans will destroy the planet as we know it. Join us to grow this movement stronger than ever in the lead up to the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris. Each act of divestment takes back power from the fossil fuel industry and helps create a mandate for our leaders to take real climate action before it’s too late.