What’s in Your Tank? Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States Need to Reject Tar Sands and Support Clean Fuels
- Tar sands fuels cause significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels.
- Tar sands fuels entering the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states from Western Canada and the Gulf Coast threaten to undermine efforts to combat climate change.
- State leaders should begin by categorizing and tracking the sources and carbon intensities of the gasoline and diesel that power cars and trucks in their state.
Oil industry plans could cause a dramatic increase in the use of tar sands-derived gasoline in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, a shift that would move the region backwards in its efforts to fight climate change. Roughly 85 percent of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic fuel supply comes from refineries on the Gulf Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and eastern Canada. As of 2012, the region was virtually tar sands free, with fuel derived from that source at less than 1 percent.
However, Gulf Coast refineries are taking an increasing volume of tar sands crude as more pipelines are built or retrofitted to carry it to the Gulf. While most of the tar sands-derived product from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be exported, some of it could end up being sent from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. If the pipeline is approved, even a small percentage of the pipeline's volume could cause a dramatic increase in the volume of tar sands flowing to the Northeast, a major threat to the carbon intensity of the region's fuels. Additional threats may be posed by refineries in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and eastern Canada, some of which may be considering options including retrofitting in order to process more tar sands.
By 2020, if these carbon intensive projects move forward, as much as 18 percent of the region's fuel supply could be derived from the high-carbon feedstock. At that penetration, the switch to tar sands fuels would increase greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 million metric tons, an amount that would offset most of the carbon pollution reductions that the region is seeking under its landmark Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Even without Keystone XL, the region's fuel supply will contain more tar sands if steps are not taken to keep out this high-carbon fuel. In the short term, between 2012 and 2015, the volume of tar sands–derived fuel supplying the Northeast is projected to grow more than sixfold.
Citizens, Towns, and State Leaders Can Take Action to Support Clean Transportation
Citizens in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states strongly support efforts to fight global warming, which means rejecting carbon intensive fuels like tar sands and embracing cleaner transportation alternatives. For example, fueling our cars and trucks with lower-carbon fuels such as electricity and creating more public transportation will preserve our health, protect our environment, and strengthen our economy.
State leaders, with the support of citizens and local communities, need to take action now to implement policies that will clean up transportation. The first step is tracking tar sands fuel and the carbon intensity of the gasoline and diesel that power cars and trucks. But above all, it is imperative for state leaders to enact policies that prevent the influx of carbon intensive tar sands fuels.
last revised 1/22/2014