Transatlantic Tar Sand Storms: Lobbying and Dirty Oil are Canada’s New Exports

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Manic Street Preacher, Flickr under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 License
by Eva Zschirnt and Arne Jungjohann

In its tar sands, Canada has the biggest oil reserves worldwide after Saudi Arabia – and also one of the biggest carbon sinks. However, oil from tar sands is among the most climate-damaging fuels. The big oil companies can count on the support of the Canadian government in the extraction and sale of tar sands oil. The Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is delaying the fight against climate change at home while undermining low-carbon legislation abroad – paving the way for the unbridled export of tar sands oil. In the meantime, Canada’s CO2 emissions are rising rampantly, in part due to the exploitation of the tar sands. The country falls far short of the international climate targets it once pledged to work toward.

This move has garnered Canada’s government and business representatives opposition worldwide. In the European Union and the US, particularly California, climate protection strategies are being pursued that aim for a significant decrease in emissions from traffic and fuels, among other goals. In that context, the Canadian tar sands lobby fears the loss of important export markets for its “dirty” oil. President Barack Obama’s temporary suspension – despite the economic crisis and fierce opposition from the Republicans – of the Keystone XL pipeline project that was to transport Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico is evidence of the growing sway of the environmental movement. Only a year ago, the pipeline was barely on the public radar and the project was expected to receive swift permit approval. But thanks to the environmental movement’s efforts, the controversy surrounding the pipeline is now front-page news. The subject provides a foretaste of the upcoming presidential campaign and has the potential to become a major issue in the debate between Republicans and Democrats over the country’s future energy supply.

This report was originally published in German in February 2012. The text was translated into English, updated and published in March 2012.

Click here to read Tar Sand Storms (14 pages, pdf, 1.59MB) (EN)