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Grant Bentley

Canada's Tar Sands and Resourse Development

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“I recently apologized for being Canadian” says Canadian mother living in US.

How sad is that. Canada has gone from being one of the most respected countries in the world to its citizens apologizing for being Canadian. Thank you Stephen Harper.

First, I am not a “tree hugger”, I am however, according to our prime minister, an ‘environmental radical’ I assume because I am concerned about the environment, global climate change, and the world our children are going to grow up in. Unfortunately for many of us, tar sands expansion means jobs and, hopefully big paycheques. But at what cost. Harper, the media, and the oil and gas industry have gone to great lengths to convince us that climate change is not happening. Well it is. Do we have to continue the way we are going until the atmosphere becomes so unstable that the storms and droughts are totally devastating before you will believe? If we do, it will be too late. As we poison the ground water with chemicals from fracking, and in situ extraction of tar sands, destroy the land, lakes, and oceans with oil spills and chemical dumping, fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and cancer causing carcinogens, and clear cut the trees that remove the carbon dioxide and give us oxygen, we will exceed the earth’s ability to sustain life. No matter how big your paycheque or how many billions of dollars you may have, the earth dies, you die, as do your children and grandchildren..

The few people who benefit from reckless tar sands expansion are ignoring the risks to our communities, our climate and our economy. From reckless tar sands expansion to the growing push for shale gas fracking, the fossil fuel industry is trading our safe climate for their short-term profits. Areas in northern Alberta near the tar sands already have 6 000 times the normal amount of cancer causing carcinogens…NOW. Also, did you know that 71% of the big oil corporations are foreign owned and the billions they make don’t even stay in Canada? The RCMP have become private security guards for foreign owned oil giants at our expense.

From Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline to Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan, Line 9 and Energy East, the Harper government and global oil industry have worked together to undermine our democracy, gut our environmental laws, and ram tar sands pipelines through local opposition as well as shale gas fracking in New Brunswick.

In the west, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway want to expand or construct pipelines to B.C.’s West Coast, quadrupling the amount of oil tankers that will ferry through B.C.’s dangerous and environmentally sensitive maritime waters.

To the east, TransCanada is pushing to turn an aging natural gas pipeline into its Energy East tar sands pipeline. Enbridge, too, is proposing to reverse its Line 9 pipeline through Quebec and Ontario to convey the tar sands’ bitumen to market. Line 9 will be an oil spill waiting to happen.

To the south, TransCanada has been lobbying hard to complete the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the American Midwest.

The pipelines are a problem by themselves. They will carve through the countryside and threaten the coasts with catastrophic spills. They will inevitably leak toxic bitumen into the countless waterways along the way. They are opposed by local communities, including many First Nations with rights to the land, air and water.

The pipelines are also an enabler. They’re a 50+ year infrastructure that commits hundreds of billions of dollars to a dirty energy economy, and unlocks emissions growth that will help push the Earth’s climate system past a tipping point. For those of you whole don’t grasp the term ‘dirty’, it refers to chemical air pollution, immense carbon dioxide emissions, toxic chemicals dumped or leaked into lakes and rivers, toxice chemicals entering the ground water through fracking, to name a few.

Few Canadians are aware how massive the tar sands are or how fast they are growing. Canada’s tar sands are already the biggest industrial project on earth, and the pace and scale of industry’s continued plans for expansion is unreal. Current production has already been proven to create a toxified local environment, with rising cancer rates and other health risks largely borne by workers and First Nations communities who live in the region. If it gets its way, the tar sands industry plans to triple production to more than 5 million barrels per day over the next 17 years. The industry has pushed the Alberta government to approve more than 100 tar sands projects covering 92,000 square km of northern boreal forest, with another 100 projects covering an additional 50,000 square km proposed – a total area the size of Florida.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently confirmed we want to prevent global temperatures from increasing more than two degrees C. This is a science driven target that every country, including Canada, has agreed is the red line we shouldn’t cross. The reckless expansion of the tar sands would make it impossible to avoiding blowing past our carbon budget. According to the International Energy Agency, the tar sands industry’s expansion plans alone, will commit the world to as much as six degrees Celsius of global warming. It would do irreversible damage to communities in the area, and it would unlock enough buried carbon to set off a “climate bomb” in our atmosphere and make it almost impossible to stop runaway climate change. This will destabilize the global climate and create a dangerous planet condemning us to a future of climate disasters, sunken coasts and economic chaos. The next ‘Sandy’ to hit North America could make the cyclone Haiyan that devastated the Philippines, or the hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans, look small.

We deserve the truth about the tar sands. With industry and government working overtime on massive PR campaigns that simply lie about the tar sands, it’s time for a reality check. They are even giving talks at elementary schools to brainwash the kids into thinking tar sands development is a good thing.

That’s why Environmental Defence joined academics, scientists, economists and other environmental organizations to launch TarSandsRealityCheck.com, a one-stop free shop for the 25 most important facts about the tar sands. It’s a must-visit if you want to be honestly informed about Canada’s tar sand’s industry.

The website focuses on the impacts of the tar sands on our climate, economy, water, air, land, animals and communities. The facts were compiled and peer-reviewed by internationally renowned scientists, academics and economists. Look past the oil industry’s spin. The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution and they’re standing in the way of the safe, clean and sustainable energy that we all deserve.

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Sorry, but that's my rant for the moment. However, if those of you in the US get the chance to tell them to stuff the Keystone XL pipeline please do. I should also mention there are rallies in at least 130 Canadian towns and cities today opposing the tar sands development as well as fracking and other destructive forms of resourse extraction. Harper and his big oil buddies will be stopped. We wiil not allow greed to compromise our environment or our planet.

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Noam Chomsky said it, “The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”

On a brighter note, lots of people know, and the Save Our Climate protests across Canada yesterday brought out thousands of people opposed to fracking, the tar sands period and obviously any expansion, and the building of new pipelines that would lead to tar sands expansion. Thousands turned out in Vancouver and Toronto, hundreds in smaller cities like Edmonton, and dozens in smaller towns, including remote villages in the very far north. Sadly, Calgary only had a couple of dozen protesters. But then Calgary is the home of most of the oil and gas corporations’ head offices and PM Harper’s federal riding.

Now the hope is that Harper pays attention to the peoples’ wishes and begins to support clean energy sources like wind and solar.

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