The Cost of Energy: Dirty Tar Sands Oil
No fuel better summarizes the desperate lengths humans will go to recover fossil fuels than dirty tar sands oil, extracted in a massively destructive process from a widening expanse of western Canada.
Unlike conventional oil, tar sands oil comes from a hydrocarbon called bitumen found under the largest remaining ecosystem: the Boreal Forest. The oil industry strip mines and drills pristine forests and wetlands to get at the bitumen, which lies under the trees and is mixed with sand and clay. The industry then separates the bitumen, thins it down and pipes it out for refining into gasoline and diesel. In the process, giant swaths of forest and bird habitat are lost forever. An area the size of Florida will become a wasteland if tar sands growth goes unchecked
The process of stripping the land to mine for bitumen has double environmental consequences: not only are thousands of acres of pristine and ecologically critical habitat destroyed in the process, but the boreal forest stores 11% of the world’s carbon and is our first line of defense against global warming (Source: NRCM).
No Tar Sands Oil in Maine!
Now, there is a threat that tar sands oil will start to flow through Maine. According to NRDC, “Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge Inc. appears to be reviving a previous pipeline plan that would take tar sands oil to central Canada and New England. The long-term plan would reverse the direction of oil flowingthrough two major pipelines—Line 9 and the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line—along an approximately 750-mile route, running through central Canada and down to the New England seacoast for export.”
And by New England, they mean Portland, Maine:
Photo from NRDC report
On the way from Alberta to Portland, the planned pipeline would travel through some of the most ecologically important areas in Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. In Maine alone, the pipeline would put at risk the Androscoggin River, Crooked River, and Sebago Lake (the water source of Portland, Maine, and home to landlocked Atlantic salmon).
The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) recently held a series of “No Tar Sands in Maine” rallies that happened in July to commemorate the second anniversary of the worst tar sands oil spill in the U.S., in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, on July 25, 2010. View NRCM’s website for more information on the rallies and photos.
You can help the effort by signing a petition against Tar Sands Oil. The growth of tar sands oil is being limited today thanks to its remote location, but a pipeline would set up a terrifying future where the natural environments of a huge swath of North America are put at risk by this dirty fuel.
In an era of growing scarcity, the tar sands represent the length to which we’ll go to sate our our fossil fuel addiction. It’s time to kick the habit for good!