Smithsonian Folklife Festival Features 100-ton Dump Truck from Alberta's Tar Sands Oil Mining Operation

WASHINGTON (June 30, 2006) -- The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, opening today on the national mall, features an exhibit touting the mining of oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, a marked departure from the festival's traditional celebration of culture and diversity, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

"The Folklife Festival has never been a trade show, and it should not become one now," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, an NRDC attorney and director of the organization's Canada projects. "With a 100-ton yellow dump truck towering above this summer's Festival, Alberta is using the Smithsonian to engage in an equally hefty public relations effort to sell Americans on an unconventional oil that is dirty and destructive even by the standards of the oil industry."

NRDC, along with Canadian partner the Pembina Institute, has expressed its concern to the Smithsonian that the exhibit will not present a complete picture of the devastating environmental consequences of mining and drilling Alberta's boreal forests and wetlands for the underlying tar sands oil. The exhibit is being sponsored by the Alberta provincial government and many of Canada's biggest energy companies, whose champions also are in Washington this week to promote U.S. investment in Canadian tar sands oil development.

Although still in its infancy, the mining and drilling of tar sands already is Canada's fastest growing contribution to global warming. The Alberta tar sands are found under a region of boreal forest and wetlands larger than the state of Florida. Tar sands is a mixture of 85 percent sand, clay and silt; 5 percent water; and 10 percent bitumen -- a tar-like substance that can be converted to oil. Producing oil from the tar sands generates 2.5 times as much heat-trapping gases as conventional oil production. Mining and drilling of the heavy oil also threatens to contaminate ground water and turn the boreal forest and wetlands into wastelands.