Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Alberta’s tar sands could double by 2020, according to a recently released report from the Canadian government. In 2009, Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord, pledging to reduce its GHG emissions 17 percent by 2020. All the decreases will be offset by the increases in tar sands emissions, and that will mean Canada will only meet 25 percent of its targets.
Guess who is the biggest purchaser of Canada’s tar sands? Let me give you a hint: A proposed project, the Keystone XL project, would take Alberta’s tar sands crude to Texas refineries via a pipeline. In fact, the pipeline would pump 500,000 barrels of tar sands crude from Alberta to Texas every day, with a $13 billion price tag.
“The keystone pipeline sends a signal from Gulf Coast refineries to Alberta that we’re open for business. Of course, that is going to drive far more production at the tar sands. And that’s a sad story from a climate perspective, because we’re talking about unlocking a lot of new emissions,” says Ryan Salmon, an energy policy advisor at the National Wildlife Foundation (NFW), in an interview with Climate Progress.
“The idea that this is fuel for America, that it will improve our energy security, is a mirage. It’s going to go to refineries, some owned by Saudi interests, and get sold off on the global market. It’s a way to connect Canadian crude producers to more refining, and easier access to the world market,” says NFW’s Salmon. “Is that really benefiting us?”
What about the emissions from the tar sands’ American cousin, shale? The method used to drill for shale is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking causes methane emissions, according to a study published this spring, and methane has a warming potential 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.
The Center for Biological Diversity calls shale and tar sands development “one of the filthiest ways to produce energy.” The Center points out that developing shale and tar sands deals a “disastrous blow to any hope of reducing atmospheric carbon to below 350 parts per million,” which is the level needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
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