Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Don't let our country sink into this stuff

Don't let our country sink into this stuff
Special to McClatchy-Tribune

WASHINGTON -- Anything that allows America to continue its narcotic-like dependence on carbon fossil fuels -- whether the sprawling tar sands of Canada or the petroleum pools under Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- misses the point about shifting to alternative energy.

Alternative sources should be real energy alternatives such as wind, solar and geothermal power rather than alternative fossil fuel sources that often give off more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil.

Without making that crucial distinction, we will continue to stoke the boilers of global warming that are destroying our planet's all-too-fragile environment.

Congress was wise to ban oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most pristine areas on Earth, and it would be equally wise to ban the importing of oil from the tar sands of Alberta in Canada. Congress also should support efforts by farsighted Canadians, who are pushing for a moratorium on the further development of those tar sands.

Recent reports estimate that Alberta's tar sands could produce 3.1 million barrels of oil per day by 2015.

That's a much-too-tempting opportunity for Canadian businessmen and politicians to line their pockets with increased profits from rising global oil prices by shipping across the border to desperate, gas-swilling Americans.

The one sure way to prevent this monumental crime against the environment is for Congress to immediately ban the import of oil processed from tar sands. The fact that existing Canadian pipelines will result in more than half of Alberta's tar sands oil moving southward ought to provide all the impetus that Congress needs to impose this sensible -- and highly moral -- ban.

Opponents can seek to label this action as "too drastic," but only drastic action now will eliminate the attractiveness of tar sands oil and eliminate much of the profit motive for its exploitation.

And exploitation it is! Extracting oil from tar sands relies on surface mining that requires defoliation of trees and destroys wildlife habitat -- compounding the injury to the environment. Destroying trees that produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the air creates a nightmarish situation that will only accelerate the coming global warming catastrophe.

How many more tornadoes ripping through Atlanta's downtown and super-hurricanes devastating New Orleans will it take to wake up Canadian oil profiteers to the fact that their gated communities and Caribbean luxury condos are located on the same planet that the rest of us inhabit?

With the United Nations issuing report after report on the disastrous effects of global climate change, even the Pentagon is now concluding that global climate change will adversely affect our national security and increase world instability.

The irresponsibility of Big Oil and its political allies in Edmonton and Ottawa can only be checked by urgent congressional action that once and for all removes the United States as the world's top customer for tar sands oil.

Congress was wise to include in last year's energy legislation a section that stops federal use of high-carbon content energy from nonconventional petroleum sources like tar sands. That means the military, the Postal Service and government vehicles are banned from using fuel from tar sands, oil shale or coal.

It's a good start, but Congress should now extend the ban to the rest of the United States.

Only a concerted effort by the United States and Canada to shift to noncarbon fuel energy sources can help mitigate the mounting effects of severe climate change.

Wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and biofuels should be the order of the day in both Washington and Ottawa. Alberta's tar sands -- tantalizing as they are -- should remain buried.


"A loose to consolidated sandstone or a porous carbonate rock, impregnated with a heavy asphaltic crude oil, too viscous to be produced by conventional methods; also known as ... bituminous sand."

-- www.answers.com
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to the progressive Online Journal ( www.onlinejournal.com). Readers may write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20045


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