What are the Canadian Tar Sands?

What are the Canadian Tar Sands?

As we reach the peak of supplies of conventional oil, energy corporations are turning to more extreme methods to extract the fossil fuels that we use to power our communities. Instead of shifting gear towards renewable energy, the energy industry has set its sights on ever-more highly polluting sources of fuel.

Tar sands are a thick sticky black substance, found underneath the soil, primarily in areas covered in dense forest. The forest is strip-mined or super-heat injected in order to extract the bitumen. Once it has been mixed with fresh water and processed with a mixture of solvents it is sold as crude oil. Until recently tar sands were not profitable to extract, but rising fuel prices and decreasing conventional supplies have changed this. The Canadian government is now on a mission to become an energy superpower, and hopes to increase exports of the dirty crude to the US, China, Russia and Europe.

Why is there no room for tar sands?

Tar Sands produce 3-5 times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil extraction.

If all of the tar sands in Canada are extracted there will be no chance of stopping runaway climate change: Co2 in the atmosphere would rise 20% beyond 1990 levels.

The extraction of tar sands in Canada is resulting in the mass destruction of the boreal forest, threatening the way of life of local and indigenous communities, and will push us into climate crisis.

What has been happening to stop the tar sands?

In the past two years there has been an incredible surge of solidarity in the UK with communities resisting tar sands expansion.  The UK has stood with First Nations communities to internationalise their resistance to the giga-project.

We have challenged UK banks, such as RBS, to stop investing in tar sands projects that destroy the environment and do not respect the right of indigenous communities to be able to give Free Prior and Informed Consent over potential developments in their area.

We have challenged corporations invested in the tar sands, such as BP and Shell, making dirty crude a controversial investment.

We have worked with a coalition of environmental organisations and indigenous community members to advance European legislation which would label tar sands highly polluting and encourage the transport industry to reduce, and not increase, its emissions.

What can I do to stop tar sands being extracted?

There is a lot of vital work needed to make sure we stop the Tar Monster from entering our communities and to stand with those communities on the front lines of the world’s most destructive project.

The strongest link in the campaign to stop the tar sands is the relationships that have emerged between communities in the UK and those resisting tar sands in Canada.  We work with a network of First Nations communities in Canada, NGO’s, grassroots climate activists, student groups and transition communities to create a movement committed to stopping polluting tar sands!

You can join this international solidarity movement by becoming a Tar-Free Town.

For further information about the Tar Sands, and the UK campaign to stop their expansion, check the UK Tar Sands Network website.


Page was last updated on November 2011