Tar Sands Solutions Network

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What’s the Problem with the Tar Sands?

Canada’s tar sands is  the biggest industrial project on earth, and the pace and scale of industry's continued plans for expansion is astonishing.

In northern Alberta, mostly foreign-owned oil companies are aggressively extracting bitumen from tar sands, which they turn into one of the dirtiest and most destructive forms of energy on the planet. In the process, they are creating serious social, economic and environmental problems in Alberta, North America and all over the world. 

Climate, air and water impacts

Tar sands development releases an inordinate amount of climate-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is the leading edge of a new era of carbon intensive "extreme energy". If we extract all known tar sands oil, the Earth's temperatures will rise substantially, leading to complete climate catastrophe.

Development also pollutes the land, air, and water with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in northern Alberta and along leak-prone pipeline routes that carry this highly corrosive cargo through communities and waterways across North America.

Wildlife and human rights impacts

Tar sands development infringes on the constitutional rights of aboriginal peoples that have lived in the Northern Alberta region for millennia, destroying wildlife habitat, polluting air and water with toxins and carcinogens, and rendering traditional food sources – such as caribou and fish – extinct or inedible.

It also obliterates forests, rivers and wetlands from an area the size of Florida, destroying an internationally recognized ecosystem and reducing the amount of habitat available for a number of sensitive and endangered wildlife species. Expansion puts major populations of caribou, songbirds, and fish at risk of extirpation. 

Threats to economy and democracy

Tar sands development has hurt Canada’s economic diversity and threatens its future prosperity. It has also turned one of the world’s most respected nations into a petro-state that muzzles scientists, guts environmental legislation at the behest of oil companies, clamps down on public participation, and bullies other nations attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Preventing the expansion of the tar sands, and eventually phasing this dirty source of energy out of use, is the only way to reduce our reliance on yesterday's fossil fuel economy and build a responsible and sustainable clean energy future for our children and grandchildren.