October 28, 2016

The Athabasca tar sands

As a result of the peak in global crude oil production and the subsequent explosion in oil prices, the world’s largest and dirtiest industrial project is racing ahead in the Canadian heartland of Alberta.

The oil industry is now heavily engaged in excavating the vast, and previously uneconomic, tar sands sitting under the Athabasca boreal forest, in order to plug the gap in faltering global oil supplies—and at any cost.

The consequences for climate change, ecological destruction, and toxic pollution are either ignored or actively covered-up in order to keep the economic boom-times rolling for Canada’s otherwise precarious economy.

The documentary Tipping Point: The End of Oil (2011) explores the issues surrounding the tar sands industry and its disturbing effects on the natural environment, society, and human health (trailer above).

Further information can be found at the documentary’s website.

The EU’s “Fuel Quality Directive” (FQD)

As the Obama administration postpones plans (on largely technical grounds) for an immense oil pipeline to pump the Athabasca crude directly to US refineries, the EU—under intense pressure from both the oil industry lobbyists and Washington’s Iranian oil embargo—has postponed its decision on whether to penalise this highly polluting form of oil in its own markets (below, from WWF).

“Fuel Quality Directive—we’re still waiting for vital carbon cuts”

If passed, the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) would have officially recognised fuels with the highest carbon footprint – like tar sands – as more polluting than fuels like conventional oil. The FQD aims to set a higher ‘carbon value’ for the most polluting fuels, which would effectively penalise them and reduce future use in the EU. This would encourage the use of lower carbon fuels, and would make our transport system less carbon-polluting. . . .

[More . . .]

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Long standing controversy

The Athabasca tar sands have been an issue of concern since the 1970s, as these pieces by Edward Goldsmith attest.


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