On my regular walk to work along Pennsylvania Avenue, I passed a big hairy "Carbon" Big Foot on the sidewalk who was cheerfully grunting offers of tar sands oil to passersby. This was not an everyday sight in my morning walk, but this has not been an average week. Knowing that Canadian Prime Minister Harper was meeting with President Obama focused international concerns in a series of activities, reports and voices being raised all with a common message: there is no place in a clean energy future for tar sands oil.
The meeting itself was uninspiring, resulting in a joint statement that reiterated past messages. Most disappointing was the fact that tar sands were once again not addressed head on, but allowed to lurk behind the statements of the Canadian Prime Minister unchallenged. The summaries of the meeting by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper were markedly different, showing once again that the two are world's apart in how they view our energy needs. The President characterized climate change as an "international threat," while the Prime Minister took time to remind Americans that Canada is "the largest supplier of energy to the United States." The action plan for the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue that was released today was held up as today's major announcement. But, the technology and information exchange of the Clean Energy Dialogue is in no way a substitute for addressing the growing problem of oil from Canada's tar sands.
As is seen in the growing international outrage around tar sands, many are watching how Canada and the United States handle the issue of high-carbon fuels, concerned that tar sands are already undermining efforts to curb global warming pollution.
Some of the voices heard just this week include:
- The week started with expansion of tar sands oil as a major issue in Monday's Norwegian elections as concern grows about the ethics of Statoil - the state oil company - investment in extraction of tar sands oil.
- Also on Monday, the more than 100 groups that make up the Climate Action Network in the U.S. and Canada sent a letter to President Obama asking for a moratorium on expansion of tar sands development, including on further approval of infrastructure that would lock us into using high-carbon liquid fuels from sources such as tar sands, oil shale and liquid coal.
- Two major reports (one by Greenpeace Canada and one by Environmental Defence Canada) were released this week detailing how tar sands oil distorts our climate policy and international negotiations leading to Copenhagen.
- Prior to the meeting, over 10,000 people sent letters to President Obama asking that he say "no" to expansion of dirty tar sands oil.
- Banner ads describing Prime Minister Harper's connection to big oil ran on blogs across North America.
- A DVD with eye-opening, new film footage of the tar sands was distributed to policy-makers in the United States.
- On Tuesday morning, Rainforest Action Network hung an impressive 70 ft banner over Niagara Falls with an arrow towards the U.S. for "clean energy future" and an arrow towards Canada for "tar sands oil."
- Greenpeace activists are still blockading Shell's Albian open pit tar sands mine in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, hanging banners that tar sands are a "climate crime," in the first such action at a tar sands extraction operation.
- As mentioned earlier, Avaaz Action Factory welcomed the Prime Minister today with street theater outside the White House including the characters of Carbon Big Foot, the Alberta Clipper pipeline, and a tar sands oil milkshake.
- And the week saw numerous reactions in the blogosphere. NASA climate scientist James Hansen wrote that tar sands should not get special treatment and NRDC President Frances Beinecke wrote that dirty tar sands fuel has no place in a clean energy future.