Tar Sands' Soiled Oil
Energy producers are spending $15 billion a year to triple oil production from the bitumen-saturated tar sands of northern Alberta, Canada, which are the largest source of oil imports to the U.S. pipeline companies. These companies are spending $31 billion to ship oil from Alberta to U.S. refiners in the Heartland, Great Lakes and Gulf coast. Refiners are spending more than $20 billion to expand refineries to process tar sands oil into transportation fuels.
Alberta's tar sands are at the leading edge of a new era of hydrocarbon development in North America and the world. Instead of drilling into "conventional" underground pools of oil and natural gas, developers are probing "unconventional" reserves. They are mining and processing tar sands and oil shales, and essentially steaming out the oil, or splintering deep geologic layers of shale to liberate natural gas.
Oil companies and the State Department assert that increasing the supply of Canada's tar sands is in America's strategic and economic interest. Oil from tar sands replaces diminishing supplies from conventional oil reserves, and provides petroleum imports from America's most important trading partner. But critics assert that developing tar sands and other unconventional reserves will require more water, produce more climate-changing emissions and ruin more land as well as natural habitat than the conventional oil reserves they're replacing. In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intervened in the permitting of a proposed $7 billion-tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf coast. It is the first time a federal agency has taken action to rigorously assess the effects of pipeline construction and tar sands development on water, the climate, water, land and communities.
Residents and lawmakers in Nebraska mull their options for protecting key groundwater sources.
Students examine communities affected by Enbridge rupture on Kalamzoo River.
Enbridge is working overtime to clean up the spill, placate the community, and get oil flowing again.
Water use and greenhouse gas emissions are major concerns with oil interests plays.
Ensuring Americans enjoy a lifestyle built on choice and mobility.
State department says oil is needed; Congress leader joins activists in raising concerns.
Water is regarded as a serious issue by Canadians, particularly water pollution and the lack of safe drinking water.
Tar Sand Stories
In the last 12 years, the most powerful oil companies have rushed to plunk down $150 billion in the oil sands.
185 gallons of water + two tons of soil + 700-1200 cubic feet of natural gas
= one barrel of crude oil.
Residents face the environmental and health consequences of a Marathon refinery expansion.
The industry is spending billions of dollars to develop more U.S. pipelines.
- Argonne National Laboratory Potential Ground Water and Surface Water Impacts from Oil Shale and Tar Sands Energy-Production Operations (2006)
- Argonne National Laboratory Water Issues Associated With Heavy Oil Production (2008)
- Congressional Research Service Congressional Research Service Oil Pipelines memo
- Representative Henry Waxman, House Energy & Commerce Chairman Letter to Secretary of State Clinton calling for thorough assessment of Keystone XL Pipeline (July 2, 2010)
- Sandia National Laboratories Overview of Energy-Water Interdependencies and the Emerging Energy Demands on Water Resources (March 2007)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fossil Energy: Oil Shale and Other Unconventional Fuels Activities
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fossil Energy: List of Resources
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Demands on Water Resources: Report to Congress on the Interdependency of Energy and Water (December 2006)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Emerging Issues for Fossil Energy and Water: Investigation of Water Issues Related to Coal Mining, Coal to Liquids, Oil Shale, and Carbon Capture and Sequestration (June 2006)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves Secure Fuels from Domestic Resources, The Continuing Evolution of America’s Oil Shale and Tar Sands Industries:Profiles of Companies Engaged in Domestic Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resource and Technology Development (2007)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Petroleum Reserves-Strategic Unconventional Fuels Fact Sheet: U. S. Tar Sands Potential
- U.S. Department of State Keystone XL Pipeline Project Home Page
- U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Argonne National Laboratory Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS
- U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management List of Oil and Tar Sands Links and Resources
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Letter to U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretaries (of Economic, Energy, & Business Affairs and Oceans & International Environmental & Scientific Affairs) critiquing weaknesses in Environmental Assessment of Keystone XL Pipeline (July 16
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Assessment of Oil and Gas Fact Sheet: Natural Bitumen Resources of the United States (2006)
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Department of the Interior Geology and Resources of some World Oil-Shale Deposits (2005)
- Center For American Progress What Happens in Canada Doesn’t Stay In Canada: Tar Sands Debate Has Implications for the United States (April 12, 2010)
- Climate and Capitalism The Facts About The Alberta Tar Sands (March 7, 2009)
- CorpWatch The Enbridge Oil Sands Gamble (December 14, 2009)
- Desmog Blog Top Ten Facts About The Alberta Tar Sands
- Home Heating Oil Unconventional Oil Reserves in and Around the U.S. (August 6, 2009)
- Solve Climate Athabasca South? Activity Hints at Tar Sands Development in Utah (March 30, 2010)
- The New York Times Unconventional Oil on the March (October 15, 2008)
- The New Yorker Unconventional Crude: Canada’s Synthetic-fuels Boom (November 12, 2007)
- The Oil Drum Unconventional Oil: Tar Sands and Shale Oil (April 15, 2008)
- Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) Growth in the Canadian Oil Sands: Finding the New Balance, An IHS CERA Special Report (2009)
- Canadian Boreal Initiative Aboriginal Rights and the Alberta Oil Sands: Potential Concerns for Investors (September 2008)
- Center For Biological Diversity Advocacy Organization Against Oil Shale and Tar Sands Extraction
- Ceres Investors and Environmentalists for Sustainable Prosperity: Primer on Oil Sands
- Ceres and RiskMetrics Group Canada’s Oil Sands: Shrinking Window of Opportunity (2010)
- Corporate Ethics International, Earthworks, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club Tar Sands Invasion: How Dirty and Expensive Oil from Canada Threatens America’s New Energy Economy (2010)
- Dogwood Initiative Environmental Risks Related to the Gateway Pipeline (April 2009)
- Earthworks: No Dirty Energy How Tar Sands Oil Affects the United States
- Environmental Defence Oil Sands Overview and Context (April 2009)
- Environmental Defence Canada’s Toxic Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth (2008)
- Environmental Defence, ForestEthics, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Advertisement in Casper Star-Tribune of Wyoming: Mock Letter to Western Governor’s Association
- Ethical Funds Company Oil Sands: Investor Questions (October 2008)
- Ethical Funds Company The Role of Investors in Mitigating Risk in the Oil Sands (September 2008)
- Ethical Funds Company and Northwest Mutual Funds The Investor Perspective: Shareholder Proposals with Enbridge Inc. (April 2009)
- Gitga'at First Nation The Gitga’at Perspective (April 2009: Part 1)
- Gitga'at First Nation The Gitga’at Perspective (April 2009: Part 2)
- Heritage Foundation Oil Shale: Toward a Strategic Unconventional Fuels Supply Policy (April 2007)
- Nak'azdl and Nadleh Whut'en First Nations Environmental and Consultation Issues Related to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline (April 2009)
- National Commission On Energy Policy & RAND Corporation Unconventional Fossil-Based Fuels: Economic and Environmental Trade-Offs (Full Report, May 2009)
- National Commission On Energy Policy & RAND Corporation Unconventional Fossil-Based Fuels: Economic and Environmental Trade-Offs (Summary, May 2009)
- Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC Report: Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks
- Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) GHG Emission Factors for High Carbon Intensity Crude Oils (June 2010)
- Pembina Institute Oil Sands Watch: Canadian Non-profit Oversight Group
- Pembina Institute Opening the Door for Oil Sands Expansion: The Enbridge Oil Sands Pipeline (Fact Sheet: December 2009)
- Pembina Institute Canadian Oil Sands and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Facts Perspective (August 2010)
- Pembina Institute Oil Sands Fever: Environmental Implications of Canada’s Oil Sands Rush (Part 1: September 2008)
- Pembina Institute Oil Sands Fever: Environmental Implications of Canada’s Oil Sands Rush (Part 2: Sept 2008)
- SourceWatch Alberta’s Tar Sands Wikipedia
- Suburban Emergency Management Project Canada’s “Unconventional” Oil Fields
- Utah Mining Association White Paper on Utah Tar Sands Development
- West Coast Environmental Law Canadian Constitutional Law: Substantative and Procedural Protections for Aboriginal and Treaty Rights (Part 1: April 2009)
- West Coast Environmental Law Canadian Constitutional Law: Substantative and Procedural Protections for Aboriginal and Treaty Rights (Part 2: April 2009)
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Opportunity Costs For Tar Sands Development
- Worldwatch Institute Good Across The Landscape Primer on Tar Sands Development
- Energy Alberta Annual Water Withdrawals For Tar Sands Production (2008)
- Environmental Defense Fund and University of Texas at Austin Energy-Water Nexus in Texas (2009)
- University of Toronto: Munk Centre for International Studies How The Oil Sands Got To The Great Lakes Basin: Pipelines, Refineries and Emissions to Air and Water (October 2008)
- Western Colorado Congress, Western Resource Advocates, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Wilderness Society, Wilderness Workshop Oil Shale Development Will Threaten Water Supplies: BLM & Industry Need to Make Full Water Impacts Public (June 2007)
- Western Resource Advocates & Boston University Department of Geography and Environment An Assessment of the Energy Return on Investment of Oil Shale Final Report (June 2010)