Tar sands are deposits of tar, sand and clay under the forests of Alberta in western Canada. Tar sands extraction is an ecological disaster, sometimes referred to as 'The biggest environmental crime in history'. Oil produced from tar sands is the filthiest most carbon intensive oil (over 3 times as much CO2 to produce as conventional oil). The Athabasca tar sands operations are the largest single industrial emitter of CO2 on the planet. Enough natural gas is used every day extracting this oil to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes.
Tar sands extraction involves the wholesale destruction of vast tracts of ancient forest over an area the size of England and Wales and the use of huge amounts of water that is left so contaminated that it must be stored in giant ponds. The toxic tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from space. Leaks for these ponds are poisoning local rivers and the indigenous peoples that live there. The rush to extract oil from tar sands is also trampling on the rights of the local indigenous peoples.
While the tar sands are in Canada, much of the financing is coming from UK companies. BP which once tried to rebrand itself as `Beyond Petroleum' to give itself a green image is planning on investing $10billion in the Sunrise Project a tar sands extraction project in Alberta. This week a number BP's shareholders have started a revolt and are pressuring BP to stop. Other UK companies that are involved in tar sands include Shell, RBS and Barcalys.
Tar sands info:
BP faces protest over oil sands development
Shareholder group calls on BP to rethink oil sands project