Tar sands industry admits protests’ effect

November 5, 2011

The statement below was released by Tar Sands Action on October 31. The group is seeking to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, built to transport oil from the Athabasca tar sands in north-east Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States. Mining the Athabasca tar sands is one of the most environmentally destructive practices on the planet. For more information, visit www.tarsandsaction.org .

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Yesterday we got some of the strongest confirmation yet that efforts to stop the Keystone XL pipeline are having a long-term impact on the tar sands industry.

It’s clearer than ever that President Barack Obama’s decision on the pipeline will have a critical impact on the development of the tar sands in Alberta — potentially leading to “stranded oil sands” long term.

Canada’s Financial Post — the premier business magazine of Canada — published an article detailing how the escalating pressure to stop Keystone XL is causing investors in the tar sands to reconsider their long-term plans for exploiting the world’s second largest pool of carbon.

Organising by environmental justice advocates across the country has put the Keystone XL pipeline in question, which in turn has revealed just how important the pipeline would be to the development of the tar sands industry.

Here is the conclusion from the Financial Post: “The signs are there: the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline has festered into an uncomfortable election issue for the US president, Barack Obama.

“The upshot for Canada: a decision on whether to grant a Presidential permit, promised by year end, could once again be delayed.

“The reality is that anything short of a go-ahead in December for Keystone XL would plunge the oil sands sector into disarray until new solutions move forward. The worst-case scenario? Stranded oil sands — for years.

“Keystone XL, with a capacity to carry up to 830,000 barrels a day from Alberta to Texas, was due for startup in early 2013. There is no backup on the same scale or timeline.”

These reports contradict many earlier claims by TransCanada and tar sands industry sources suggesting that other transportation alternatives could potentially substitute for Keystone XL’s capacity should the project be rejected by Obama.

Additionally, these new comments contradict the State Department’s assertion that the global warming effects of Keystone XL should not be assessed in the final national interest assessment of the pipeline, on the assumption that rejection of the pipeline would have no impact on overall tar sands production.

All signs point to the president’s decision on Keystone XL as being a turning point for the Alberta tar sands.

The entire industry and all future US regulatory decisions have been deeply affected by concerted organising from the environmental movement, suggesting a hard road ahead for further exploitation of this deadly resource.

The dedicated organising of countless activists — including 1253 people arrested at the White House this summer at the first Tar Sands Action protest, and hundreds more arrested in Ottawa in a similar protest — means we are potentially one step closer to slowing the growth of the tar sands long term.

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