Have you heard about tar sands? Until recently I haven’t. But it turns out to be a type of oil the extraction methods of which are quite bad for environment, human and animal health, communities’ and individuals’ rights. So what is that?
Tar sands, also called oil sands, are a mix of clay, sand, water and bitumen (heavy black sticky oil), which are mined and processed to get oil rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil.
Since bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state, it must thus be mined openly.
After that, bitumen is separated from the clay, sand and water that make up the tar sand. Additionally, bitumen needs upgrading before it is refined, after which it also gets mixed with lighter hydrocarbons to make it less thick and thus transportable through pipes (for the source and further details on processing method, check here).
Since the largest deposits of this type of oil is concentrated in Alberta (Canada) (in lesser amount it is found in Venezuela, Middle East, the U.S.), so far only Canada has a large-scale commercial tar sands industry.
However, this type of oil mining and the extraction techniques not only add more greenhouse gasses to our Earth, impact the wildlife, air and water quality. It also requires huge amount of water for processing tar sands, more precisely, several barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced. This is an ecological burden especially for water scarce regions.
Despite this, bitumen extraction is already happening. The Canadian pipeline company TransCanada proposed the Keystone XL Pipeline project that will take around 900,000 barrels per day of this polluting fuel to the U.S. Gulf Coast. However, there is an opposition both in Canada and the U.S. to this project.
For joining the opposition to these polluting projects, you can first find more answers to your questions through Friends of the Earth page and Rainforest Action Network’s page, as well as through Greenpeace and Natural Resources Defence Council.
If you are a resident in Canada, you could also take action following one of these suggestions by Greenpeace. Are you a U.S. resident? Then write to the president pleading to once and for all reject the project.
Best of Luck.