Greenpeace Podcast: Dirty Oil is Not Dirty When It’s Called Something Else

by MaryAmbrose

April 30, 2015

These giant earth movers at the Alberta tar sands are roughly three storeys high. Canada's tar sands are an oil reserve the size of England. Extracting the crude oil called bitumen from underneath unspoiled wilderness requires a massive industrialized effort with far-reaching impacts on the land, air, water, and climate. This photo was taken during the production of "Petropolis", a documentary film about the tar sands, directed by Peter Mettler and produced by Greenpeace Canada. For more information about this project, please go to:

© Greenpeace / E M

When is dirty oil not dirty oil? When you call it something else.

We call the biggest resource extraction project in Canada the tar sands. Not the oil sands. Thats what those doing the extracting call it. We call it the tar sands because it is closer to describing the process involved. Its not a liquid.

Oil sands sounds like it’s Saudi Arabia; you put a pipe in the land and turn on the tap. That is not what theyre doing in northern Alberta.

The words used to describe this completely insane idea may seem beside the point. But they’re not. Because when you change the description even the definition of something, you change the rules. And that is what has happened with the tar sands. But Im getting ahead of myself.

Most of the media coverage about exporting tar sands oil has been about the Keystone XL pipeline to the US. We rarely talk about the other markets the tar sands people have in their sights. One of them is Europe.EU accepts dirty tar sands oil in Europe

They have been lobbying hard in Europe. Its a bigger market than the US but and its a big but it also has the highest environmental standards in the world.

John Smith reported that these lobbying efforts just may be successful in slipping through the definitional loophole.

The proposed pipeline for moving tar sands oil across Canada and closer to Europe is called Energy East. Its a really dramatic project which would have pipelines covering vast areas of Canada, in order to transport oil from Alberta to the eastern parts of Canada, where it can go to the US or Europe.

Robert Van Waarden is a photographer raised in Alberta and now living in Montreal. Robert decided to go along the route of this proposed pipeline and see what people thought about possibly living next to a pipeline. Along the way, Robert met people who were pro-pipeline, people who were anti and some still making up their minds.

His photos are gorgeous and give you some idea of the landscape that is at stake. The full show is called Along the Pipeline.

People affected by the proposed pipeline Energy East

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