TAR SANDS BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Canada isn't just the pristine place of moose and maple syrup anymore. It's home to the tar sands; amoonscape of environmental destruction. Tar sands are being supported by our governments anddeveloped by major oil companies (Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, BP, Syncrude, Exxon and manymore) as a last resort to harvest oil. In a few short years, they've dashed almost all hope of a clean,healthy future in the name of 'secure energy' and profits - and they've only just begun.
But at whatcost? Read up.
What exactly are the tar sands?
The tar sands operations are fossil fuel production enterprises innortheastern Alberta, operated by over a dozen of the topmultinational oil companies. Although tar sands technology begandeveloping many years ago, the industry has only been commerciallyviable within the last 2-3 years, due to peak oil prices. Currently, tarsands developments add up to an area roughly the state of Florida.There are 2 main processes for harvesting tar sands oil. The first isessentially strip mining, and the second is a process more akin to traditional drilling called steamassisted gravity drainage (SAGD), or
. For the first method, an area must be 'prepared' toextract the oil-steeped tar, e.g. the Boreal Forest must be clearcut and the crust of the earth must bedug up to expose the tar. When the tar is collected, it is infused with countless chemicals includingbenzene and arsenic and heavy metals such as lead and mercury. This chemical cocktail is called
is then boiled with super-heated steam- lots of it- over 500 million gallons of waterdaily to be exact. Oil is then separated from the chemicals and the toxic sludge is disposed of, e.g. it isdumped into behemoth pits called
. These 'ponds' are not lined or covered- they leakstraight into the ground and their toxic fumes are released into the air.With
, the tar sands are located too far beneath the surface to dig up. So the process ofcreating
and boiling it is done underground. The oil rises to the surface like a traditional oil welland the toxic runoff remains in the earth, seeping into groundwater and bleeding up into the soil.With either process, the environmental and health impacts are extremely negative. Local communitiesand wildlife are exposed to deadly toxins and carcinogens. The operation has very little oversight, evenless accountability, and absolutely no impetus to change.