Tar SandsWhile Shell is portraying a green image in its ads, the company is investing heavily in increasingly destructive practices. Shell is a lead company in the business of dirty and unconventional fuels, and is heavily invested in the tar sands located in Alberta, Canada [1].  The tar sands holds the second largest deposit of oil reserves in the world, and Shell is spending billions of dollars every year to make sure they remain a leader in both developing and processing the tar sands.  They are also quickly increasing investments in the tar sands and upgrading capacity.

Extracting oil from the tar sands has a huge impact on the environment and climate change. The production of oil from the tar sands is responsible for major greenhouse gas emissions (3 to 5 times the amount of GHG emissions as conventional oil), water depletion and pollution, toxic contamination of the surrounding ecosystem and local communities, as well as the destruction of the Boreal Forest. The tar sands are buried under thousands of square miles of the Boreal Forest and this critical forest ecosystem, often referred to as the “lungs of the our planet” is being clearcut so that Shell and other oil companies can access the tar. The Boreal Forest is a storehouse of carbon, holding more than 47 billion tonnes in its trees and soil.  Shell Canada’s President and CEO, Clive Mather, didn’t seemed phased about the destruction his operations are having on the environment when he talked about Shell’s expansion projects; he put it like this, “Shell has some of the best land and minable ore quality in the Athabasca area.  With billions of barrels of bitumen in place, we see clear potential for sustained profitable growth .” Profitable growth indeed . . . but at what expense?

Tar sands development is the single largest contributor to the increase in climate change in Canada, accounting for 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year [2].  By 2011 the tar sands are estimated to emit twice that amount, and more than triple that by 2020. Tar sands is one of the most environmentally destructive and greenhouse gas intensive ways to extract oil. By continuing to develop and expand production of the tar sands Shell is not only diverting us off the path to clean energy but also directly contributing to climate change.

In August 2008, Shell was found guilty of misleading the public over its tar sands operations. The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the company should not have used the word "sustainable" when describing its Canadian tar sands operations. The ASA ruled that the Shell ad had breached rules on substantiation, truthfulness and environmental claims.

[1] Shell website

[2] The Pembina Institute