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Tar sands

Aerial view of Syncrude Aurora tar sands mine in the Boreal Forest north of Fort McMurray. © Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through complex and energy-intensive processes that cause widespread environmental damage. These processes pollute the Athabasca River, lace the air with toxins and convert farmland into wasteland. Large areas of the Boreal forest are clearcut to make way for development in the tar sands, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Greenpeace is also concerned with the social and health costs of the tar sands. First Nations communities in the tar sands report unusually high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases. Their traditional way of life is threatened. Substance abuse, suicide, gambling and family violence have increased in the tar sands region. Meanwhile, the thousands of workers brought in by oil companies face the boom and bust cycles of the oil economy rollercoaster.

Tar sands companies want to build new pipelines so that they can expand output in the tar sands. These pipelines would threaten thousands of rivers and streams across the country. The increased tanker traffic required to carry this oil would threaten our coastlines. Oil spills would devastate communities and existing livelihoods that depend on a health environment, while the greenhouse gas emissions from producing and burning the oil would fuel climate change.

We have better alternatives.  

How Greenpeace works to stop the tar sands

  • Pressuring governments: The governments of Alberta and Canada actively promote tar sands development and ignore international commitments Canada has made to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Through direct action, we draw international attention to government climate crimes in the tar sands and demand change.
  • Educating shareholders: We meet with Canadian and international shareholders in oil companies and discuss and expose the investment risks associated with tar sands development.
  • Working with impacted communities: We reach out to landowners and First Nations affected by the tar sands amplify their voices and stand in solidarity with them.

The latest updates

 

Enbridge lobbied hard to "streamline" eco-laws as pipeline debate heated up

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | March 27, 2012

When federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver first launched his assault on the core elements of Canada’s environmental legislative regime in a January 2012  open letter , everyone knew he was talking about clearing a path...

Speaking Truth to Power on Tar Sands

Blog entry by Melina Laboucan-Massimo | March 22, 2012

We don't always have the opportunity to speak truth to power. But this week I did. I was called to testify in front of the U.S. Congress on the terrifying consequences of runaway tar sands expansion. ...

No Tankers, no pipelines, no oil on our coastline

Blog entry by Christine Leclerc | March 21, 2012

On Monday, March 26, hundreds are set to rally against tar sands tankers and pipelines at  the Vancouver Art Gallery . Enbridge and Kinder Morgan are trying to punch new tar sands pipelines through a wall of opposition, bring...

Dirty Diplomacy: What happens when we let oil run our government

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | March 16, 2012

A new report, Dirty Diplomacy: The Canadian Government’s Global Push to Sell the Tar Sands , details how the Harper government is teaming up with the big oil companies to attack climate legislation in the US and Europe, while ...

Tar Sands Fever Brings on Dutch Disease

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | March 6, 2012

Last week’s exchange between Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has put the debate over the “ Dutch Disease ” on the national agenda. The name was coined by the Economist magazine based on what...

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