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Tar Sands Action targets Obama administration on proposed pipeline

August 10, 2011

For two weeks from the end of August and the through the first days of September activists from all over the country will descend upon DC to send a message to the Obama administration that the Keystone XL pipeline project from Canada will be a disaster for the US.

Tar Sands Action is organizing a massive civil disobedience campaign to say no to what could be the worst environmental devastating project on the planet. As of this writing the Tar Sands Action group has signed up 1,500 people who will engage in a massive sit in to pressure the Obama Administration to deny the “presidential permit” necessary for construction on the proposed pipeline from Canada through the US south to Texas.

For those who are not familiar with the Alberta Tar Sands Project there are great educational resources online that will put into perspective the magnitude of this ecological monstrosity.

Last year’s Enbridge pipeline disaster in Michigan is one example of what could happen on a larger scale. The Enbridge pipeline that burst was carrying tar sands oil and Enbridge is the main company for tar sands pipeline construction. A new report in April provides new information and analysis on both the 2010 Michigan oil spill and Enbridge’s role in the tar sands project.

Tar Sands Watch has excellent resources and identifies the main points for why this project must be defeated.

Global Warming – Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional oil and gas production [currently tar sands production emits 27 megatons per annum and is expected to rise to 108-126 megatons by 2015]. Thus, the tar sands are now poised to become Canada’s largest single emitter of greenhouse gas, compounding this country’s contribution to global warming. Additionally, tar sands production is expected to multiply as much as four to five times by the year 2015 to meet growing demands in the U.S. As a consequence, conservative estimates show that greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands could well leap from 27 to 126 million tons by 2015.

Water Depletion – Oil sands plants typically use two to four barrels of water to extract a barrel of oil from the tar sands, but some extraction methods can use as much as 7 barrels of water. The amount of water needed for the tar sands is seriously lowering the water levels of the Athabasca River, the Mackenzie Valley watershed and other related water sources in the region. The amount of water which can be recycled back into the watershed is still very low, and contaminated water must be stored in tailings ponds, vast holding tanks the size of lakes, some as large as 15 square kilometers, containing hydrocarbons and other chemical by products from tar sands production. Additionally, toxic water spewing from tar sands production has infected fish and wildlife, causing sickness among Aboriginal peoples downstream.

Aboriginal Rights – Many aboriginal groups are being left out of the process and run over in the race for development of the tar sands. First Nations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories have claimed that traditional lands are being destroyed for tar sands exploration and extraction, and First Nations are not being included, or properly compensated for their lost and destroyed lands and water supplies.

Energy Insecurity – Currently, 66% of tar sands oil is being exported to the United States, while over 40% of the oil used in Canada is imported to fulfill the needs of Eastern Canada. When the Keystone pipeline is built from Alberta through to the States, the tar sands industry will become increasingly reliant on US refineries for processing and Canada will continue the tradition of providing raw resources to the United States instead of processing it (and creating more jobs) for ourselves. The tar sands industry is ensuring the energy security of the United States while ignoring the energy needs of the rest of Canada. Canada has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the number one exporter of oil to the United States. And, despite growing oil exports to the US, Canada is importing one million barrels of oil a day (over 40% from OPEC countries) to meet energy needs in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Alberta oil reserves are being shipped south instead of east to meets needs of our own nation. What’s more, Canada is obligated to maintain its oil exports to the U.S. The proportionality clause of the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] requires Canada to continue exporting oil at a level that is the same or above the average volume of exports during the previous three years.

Militarism – The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s leading consumer of petroleum, sucking up about 340,000 barrels of oil every day, more than the total national consumption of Sweden or Switzerland. The Alberta tar sands are the centerpiece of an energy corridor for exports to the U.S. which is increasingly geared to fuel America’s military machine. The U.S. military economy, which has been largely rebuilt and re-invigorated since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the ongoing war on terrorism, and the invasion of Iraq, has substantially increased U.S. demands for imported oil. The Pentagon is the single largest institutional buyer of oil in the world, consuming an estimated 85 percent of the U.S. Government’s use of oil. Canadian oil exports, which are now the U.S.’s number one source of imported oil, have become a major contributor in fuelling the U.S. war machine.

GRIID plans on writing more about this campaign and hopes to attend the action in DC later this month. If you know of anyone from Michigan that is going let us know.

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