Alberta’s tar sands is one of the world’s dirtiest and most destructive sources of energy, in large part because it has been allowed to expand too quickly and without adequate public oversight.
The solutions are clear. It's time to stop tar sands expansion, implement readily available solutions for existing problems, and develop a strategy to phase out tar sands development altogether, as part of a clean energy strategy for Canada.
Stop tar sands expansion
There are too many intractable problems that will only get worse if the oil industry's massive tar sands expansion plans are realized. Tar sands production must be capped and all projects that are not under construction must be retired. Proposals for building more tar sands pipelines should also be rejected.
Fix tar sands problems
Even if tar sands expansion were stopped today, existing development has already created serious social and environmental problems that must be addressed immediately. Technical solutions to most of these problems are readily available, but they haven’t been implemented because they have been deemed too expensive: oil companies don’t want to pay for them and the Alberta and Canadian governments want to encourage rapid tar sands expansion. Necessary interventions that could be regulated into existence today include eliminating air and water pollution, eliminating the creation of toxic liquid tailings and cleaning up the vast tailings ponds, implementing an effective woodland caribou recovery plan that will prevent the extirpation of this threatened species, drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and accelerating reclamation activities that restore the landscape to its original natural characteristics.
Phase out tar sands development
The continued expansion of tar sands development is not compatible with preventing catastrophic climate change and developing the clean energy economy Canadians and Americans are demanding. If the world is to rein-in climate change before it results in massive environmental problems and social and political unrest, tar sands development will need to be phased out well before it has completely been exploited. A long-term plan needs to be developed and implemented to phase out tar sands oil production and develop clean-energy alternatives.