What are Tar Sands?


Canada’s Tar Sands are the biggest energy project in the world, currently producing 1.3 million barrels of oil a day. Largely located in Alberta, the Tar Sands deposits are distributed over an area of 140,000 km2 – an area larger than England. Canada has the second largest oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia, and is the biggest supplier of oil to the US, the world’s largest oil consumer.

Already, millions of barrels of Tar Sands oil are being extracted every day from under the Canadian wilderness, producing three to five times as many greenhouse gas emissions as conventional oil extraction and using enough natural gas every day to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes. Add to this the mass deforestation the project is causing and it becomes clear that the Tar Sands must be shut down if we are serious about tackling disastrous climate change. In fact, leading climate scientist James Hansen has stated that runaway climate change will be almost inevitable if Tar Sands extraction is allowed to continue.

The effects of the Alberta Tar Sands on local First Nations communities are devastating. The Tar Sands development project has created toxic tailing ponds so huge they are visible from space, leaking poisons into the local water supply. Indigenous rights being violated and livelihoods and futures are being destroyed. Communities on land where Tar Sands extraction has been imposed are experiencing disturbingly high rates of rare forms of cancer and auto-immune diseases.

UK Involvement

Although, Tar Sands oil is not currently flowing through UK petrol pumps, large amounts of investment is coming from UK banks and corporations. Shell is already heavily involved, and BP have recently announced their entry into the Tar Sands via the Sunrise project. The Royal Bank of Scotland is the world’s 7th largest investor, using taxpayers’ money to fund climate disaster. HSBC and Barclays are also major financers.