A Growing Chorus Against Tar Sands Oil

Greenpeace Banner welcomes Obama to Ottawa

When President Obama travels to Canada tomorrow, he will be met by cheering crowds eager to greet him along with a welcoming banner from Greenpeace that reads "climate leaders don't buy tar sands oil."

Canadian tar sands oil development strip-mines and drills Boreal forests and wetlands for the tarry bitumen that is mixed with sand deep below the surface. The industry pollutes air and water, destroys migratory bird habitat, threatens public health and carries a heavy burden in terms of global warming pollution. A growing number of diverse voices are all carrying a similar message: Canadian tar sands oil development is inconsistent with fighting global warming.

Just this week, in anticipation of the President's trip to Canada, the chorus has swelled:

  • Over the last few days, more than 45,000 Americans and Canadians wrote to their leaders saying that tar sands oil has no place in a new energy economy.
  • Today, over 50 musicians, writers, athletes, including musicians Anton Kuerti and Jim Creeggan of the Barenaked Ladies, writer Farley Mowat, and athletes Adam Kreek (Olympic Gold Medalist) and Andrew Ference (Boston Bruins)  in an open letter to President Obama said "green jobs - yes we can, tar sands - no we can't."
  • Internationally, a former Minister of Defense of the Netherlands and chair of the European Center for Conflict Prevention commented that giving special protections to fuels such as tar sands that make global warming worse is an international and national security threat.
  • Today, leading U.S. and Canadian investors named two major tar sands companies to a "Climate Watch List" citing the companies' heavy involvement in Canada's tar sands and their lack of attention to the business risks from global climate change.
  • Last week, U.S. mayors shared the U.S. Conference of Mayors high carbon fuel resolution with the President highlighting the fact that it discourages use of tar sands fuel by American cities.
  • Today the Climate Action Network in Canada and the U.S. sent a letter asking for leadership on climate and noting that expansion of tar sands production will make climate goals difficult to achieve.
  • Going one step further James Hansen, NASA Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in an interview today called tar sands an environmental "wild card" concluding that you can't exploit sources such as tar sands without pushing the climate past its limit.
  • And locally in Alberta, voices were also raised as 55 Alberta conservation groups asking Alberta's Boreal forest be protected from un-reigned tar sands development. While two of the indigenous communities in Alberta downstream from the tar sands joined in placing an ad in USA Today depicting all of Canada as dripping in the shared responsibility of the damage done by tar sands oil extraction.

Leadership on global warming will mean listening to the many voices raised in protest of high carbon and environmentally destructive fuels such as Canadian tar sands oil.

The current administration is positioning itself to become a leader on climate. A White House spokesperson today said that the President wanted the U.S., Canada and Mexico "to be real leaders on green energy, low carbon energy opportunities here as we push ahead on the important agenda of climate change and carbon emission reduction." And that is hopefully the message that the President will carry to Canada.