Activists block tar sands mining operation to send message to Obama and Harper: Climate leaders don’t buy tar sands

Last update: September 16th

Feature story - September 14, 2009
On the eve of the Harper-Obama meeting in Washington D.C., Greenpeace activists are locking down and blockading a giant dump truck and shovel at Shell’s massive Albian Sands open-pit mine in northern Alberta to send the message that the tar sands are a global climate crime that must be stopped.

Tar Sands Climate Crime


After more than 30 hours, Greenpeace activists have ended their successful blockade at Shell's Albian Sands tar sands mine. The blockade brought international attention to the climate crime of tar sands operations.

"Through this action, Greenpeace put this destruction centre stage to show the world why we must stop the tar sands." - Mike Hudema, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner. Read the full news release.

The 25 activists from Canada, the United States and France entered the mine, about 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, at 8:00 a.m. They blockaded a giant three-storey dump truck and hydraulic shovel by chaining together pick-up trucks. Two teams then scaled the truck and shovel and chained themselves to them, while another team placed giant banners on the tarry ground reading, "Tar Sands: Climate Crime."

"Greenpeace has come here today, to the frontiers of climate destruction to block this giant mining operation and tell Harper and Obama meeting tomorrow that climate leaders don't buy tar sands" said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner, from inside the blockade. "The tar sands are a devastating example of how our future will look unless urgent action is taken to protect the climate."

Canada is now the number one exporter of oil to the US, most of which is dirty tar sands oil. The climate crimes of tar sands development-rising energy intensity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and Boreal forest destruction-are leading the world to climate chaos.

The world's oil addiction has turned the tar sands into the biggest industrial project on the planet, occupying an area the size of England. Tar sands GHG emissions, already nearing those of Norway, could soon more than triple to 140 million tonnes a year, as outlined in a Greenpeace report by award winning author Andrew Nikiforuk released this week. At that point they would equal or exceed those of Belgium, a county of 10 million. These numbers account only for the production of tar sands oil, and do not account for the massive additional GHG impact of burning the fuel. 

"The tar sands are at the leading edge of climate chaos. Climate leadership from President Obama, Prime Minister Harper and other world leaders means abandoning the dirty oil that is pushing our planet to climate collapse and forging a green energy economy and a healthy world for our children."

Today's action targeted Shell, but other major companies including BP, Suncor, Syncrude, ExxonMobil, Total and StatoilHydro run tar sands operations that put them at the forefront of oil addiction.

Urgent action on the climate must be front and centre at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December. With fewer than 90 days left to the most important climate negotiations in history, Greenpeace is calling on world leaders to end to the climate catastrophe that is the Alberta tar sands and to commit to deep emissions cuts at Copenhagen.

"World leaders need to turn away from the dirtiest oil on the planet and embrace clean energy alternatives" said Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo. "Until they do, oil interests will continue to dominate and Canada will continue to obstruct crucial international climate talks like those in Copenhagen."

Through its KYOTOplus campaign, Greenpeace Canada is working to convince the Harper government to become a leader at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

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