Tar Sands in Your Tank

Feature story - May 10, 2010
Greenpeace today released a new report on exports of tar sands oil to the United Kingdom and Europe as part of a campaign to put pressure on European politicians to adopt tough fuel standards that could ban imports of Alberta's dirty oil.

The report, "Tar Sands in your tank; Exposing Europe's role in Canada's dirty oil trade," exposes for the first time the corporate trail that takes dirty tar sands oil by pipeline from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas and from there by tanker to ports in Britain and Europe. The report warns that imports of tar sands oil could increase dramatically unless the European Parliament adopts tough anti-pollution measures and fuel quality legislation.

"The campaign against Canada's dirty tar sands oil is expanding," said Christy Ferguson, climate and energy coordinator for Greenpeace Canada. "This important report will strengthen the hand of Greenpeace and all other organizations working to convince the European Parliament to adopt stronger regulations to block the import of dirty oil into Europe. This new research also gives European consumers added incentive to support a ban."
The report notes that at least three refineries in the US Gulf Coast region source oil from the tar sands and then export some of their refined diesel fuel to Britain and Europe. These imports could increase dramatically if the Keystone XL pipeline is completed and carries a proposed 500,000 barrels a day from Alberta to Texas by as early as 2012. Greenpeace offices across Europe including the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands support legislation to keep tar sands out of the European Union though a strengthened Fuel Quality Directive.
“We can stop this before it gets out of control,” said John Sauven, Greenpeace UK executive director. "Our politicians have the power to outlaw dirty fuels like tar sands at a stroke and focus instead on promoting the clean technologies that will help cure our addiction to oil, rather than make it worse.”
To support growing efforts in Europe to block tar sands oil, Greenpeace Canada has teamed up with Greenpeace Norway, WWF Norway and the Indigenous Environmental Network to host a delegation of tar sands experts and First Nations representatives in Scandinavia. The delegates include prominent scientist Dr. David Schindler, George Poitras, former Chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, and Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a Lubicon Cree and a Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner. They will tour the Nordic countries this week to meet with the Norwegian parliament, several pension funds and investors across Norway, Sweden and Denmark on a 10-day tour in the lead-up to the Statoil AGM in Stavanger, Norway on May 19th.
In addition, Greenpeace and WWF Norway have for the second time tabled a motion that Statoil, owned by Norway, withdraw from its controversial investments in the tar sands.  A similar motion last year drew nearly three million votes in favour, and created a controversy that became a divisive issue in the national election in 2009. Several key investors spoke out at the AGM and gave Statoil a year to prove it could find a more sustainable way of developing its leases in Alberta, as it claimed it could. A year later, Statoil has not been able to demonstrate any concrete plans to do this.

The motion at the Statoil AGM follows closely on the heels of a similar motion at the BP AGM at the end of April, which received 15 per cent support. A week after the Statoil AGM another motion related to tar sands development will be up for voting at the Shell AGM in Amsterdam.

Greenpeace UK recently launched a high profile campaign targeting BP for its plans to start operating in the tar sands. It launched a new website to expose BP’s expensive and carefully-crafted logo as an exercise in greenwashing and had local volunteer groups engaging the public on high streets across the country. The site is at: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/files/tarsands/index.html

The website provides information on why BP’s plans for the tar sands are in opposition to the company’s so-called “green” image and includes a public competition that asks people to re-design and rebrand BP's logo.

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