The Absurdity of the Tar Sands and the Keystone XL –Join the Action in DC!

TransCanada Corporation’s proposal to construct the Keystone XL pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska has been a topic of serious political contention for the past few years.  The proposal provoked public responses and a series of protests from a wide range of actors from Canada, America and around the globe.

Syncrude Aurora Oil Sands Mine, Canada.

The pipeline was approved by the Canadian National Energy Board in 2010, but TransCanada’s original Presidential Permit application was rejected by Obama in 2012, as the route through the Sandhills in Nebraska was widely opposed.  The intent to carry bitumen from the controversial tar sands in Alberta to the West Coast and down through the United States is of serious concern to protesters, and should be of serious concern to all citizens.   Why is it so necessary to stop this pipeline and extraction from the the tar sands?  The first and most important reason has to do with the dirtiness of the tar sands oil itself.

  • The heavy bitumen in the tar sands takes far, far more heat and energy to extract and refine than low grade oil.  It takes about 2 tonnes of tar sands to produce one barrel of oil.  The extraction of the tar sands releases about 3 times as much carbon dioxide emissions than regular crude oil.  Once extracted, energy still needs to be invested to refine it to a gasoline that can travel through the pipeline.  The oil companies have not released which chemicals they use to refine the oil, or whether these chemicals will have damaging effects on the environment.


  • Bitumen is basically tar, and requires 12 barrels of water to separate one barrel of it from the sand.  This means that oil sands mining uses twice the amount of fresh water than the city of Calgary does in a year.  The water used for this process is left so toxic that nothing can live in it.  The region around Fort McMurray in Alberta is dotted with man-made lakes of this toxic water waste, and propane cannons are fired to prevent any birds from landing in it.
  • Strip mining, a common method used, scrapes the oil sands off the surface and damages the land for future use.  Huge acres of forest have been cut in the name of the tar sands.
  • The significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions from the oil sands is what will drive climate change to an unmanageable degree in the future.  Canada, already haven given up on their Kyoto pledge, will not be able to reduce emissions while relying on the oil sands.  The Fort McMurray region, with a population of only 61,000 people, is expected to emit more carbon dioxide than the entire country of Denmark, population 5.4 million, by 2015.


  • When heavy bitumen spills, it reacts differently with water than regular crude oil.  It carries heavier minerals and metals that contaminates waters and soils.  Because it is so thick, it sinks to the bottom of bodies of water it is spilled in, then breaks down and rises to the surface again to recontaminate the surface environment after skimming has been done.

People have been convinced that foreign oil is the devil, and that local oil will not only stave off war, but will create jobs and lead to ‘energy security’.  The fact is that even with the oil sands, we will never fully be able to stop relying on foreign oil or products, and wars will not cease unless foreign policy changes.  The devastation to the environment and the high cost of extraction and refinement is not sustainable in the least, so ‘energy security’ based on this dirty and damaging energy source is absurd.

The only real reason that governments and Big Oil are pushing for this pipeline is to maintain power, maintain wealth, and drive the economy with short-term gains in mind and the long-term losses ignored for the moment.  This selfish devastation of our land and our atmosphere is irrational and very unnecessary.


There have been great moves made by a great deal of people to protest this pipeline.  It is extremely important that we all get on board.  On February 17th of this year, please join in the movement against the Keystone XL in DC.  Tell Obama that it is a clean energy future we want, and a just and democratic society.  Government decisions should not be based on lobbies and ties to Big Oil, but rather on what is best for the people and the environments we live in.

Join the movement here:



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