Unprecedented global protests challenge Canada’s oilsands

Alberta from the Plane

Image by RTPeat via Flickr

More than 50 protests in over 20 countries this weekend will dramatically escalate the growing controversy about the global and local impacts of Canadian tar sands on community health, Canada’s Boreal forest, and the global climate.

Stretching from North America’s west coast to Eastern Europe, the breadth of actions illustrate that Canada’s risky extreme energy project in the tar sands faces stiff resistance from a global community committed to cleaner energy in the 21st Century.

“Twelve Canadian cities will be joining cities all over the world to state their opposition to a toxic and deadly tar sands industry,” said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada‘s climate and energy campaigner. “Oil zombies, green job rallies, and movie screenings will be showcased as people across the country and around the world say no to Alberta’s dirty oil and yes to a green, just energy economy.”

In the United States, the primary market for tar sands oil, protests will spur further movement by the largest buyers of tar sands-tainted transportation fuels: large US corporations. Nearly 20 major companies have already taken supply chain action to reduce their use of extreme fuels like those from tar sands.  These company actions illustrate the mismatch between the environmental and social costs of Tar Sands and a marketplace that is becoming more environmentally aware and empowered.

A 2010 Opinion Research Corporation poll found that more than 70 per cent of Americans “favour cleaner energy sources that use the least water and involve the lowest possible risk to the public and environment.”

“No values-driven company wants its products delivered with fuel that exacerbates climate change, poisons local communities, destroys forests, and kills wildlife,” said Todd Paglia of ForestEthics. “Companies like Dole and Chiquita that ship products thousands of miles with fuel that is increasingly dirty and more toxic are increasingly out of step with America’s clean energy priorities.”

The tar sands are home to one of the most resource-intensive oil extraction processes in history. One barrel of tar sands sludge requires the excavation of two tonnes of earth beneath Boreal forest. Ninety per cent of the water consumed in Tar Sands mining ends up in the world’s largest lakes of toxic waste.

Downwind of tar sands developments, a rare cancer among residents has been confirmed at more than 400 times its normal incidence. US communities surrounding tar sands refineries and pipelines are exposed to extremely dangerous chemicals and associated health risks.

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