Tar Monsters and Tarmageddon!

Hi Tar-Monster Trashers,

Last week saw a flurry of tar sands actions for International Stop the Tar Sands Day all over the world. As well as catching a Tar Monster in the streets of Oxford we marked the day by being part of the launch of the new film  ‘Taking on Tarmageddon.’  The UKTSN team are now busy getting ready to work with our friends from Alaska and Canada to confront Shell at their AGM in two weeks. Next Friday we will be having a pre-AGM event in London to hear from communities impacted by Shell – it will be an amazing evening to meet fellow tar-stoppers!

1. International Stop the Tar Sands Day – Monster Hunts
2. ‘Taking on Tarmageddon’ hits the screens
3. Time to tell Shell to Get Out!
4. Still time to vote for BP…

We can’t wait to see you all next Friday!

Sue, Emily, Jess and Ruthi


1. International Stop the Tar Sands Day – Monster Hunts

This Saturday in we joined thousands of people all over the world marking both International Stop the Tar Sands Day and 350.org’s Climate Impacts Day (aka Connect the Dots). Working with the lovely people of Lush Oxford (who market ISTSDay in their store throughout the day) and local 350.org activists, we had fun chasing the oily Tar Monster all over Cornmarket, to the surprised gaze of bemused onlookers. When we finally had it contained – using a big ‘No Tar Sands’ banner! – we talked with the good people of Oxford and told them about our plan of declaring Oxford a Tar Free Town. We will formally launch this initiative in June, so stay tuned for details about when and where this public meeting will happen.

Meanwhile in London, we joined the Occupy Energy, Environment and Equity Group and 350.org to connect the dots at St Paul’s Cathedral with a giant game of twister, followed by a travelling guerilla film screening! Read all about it here.  Also, make sure to grab a look at 350.org’s moving film documenting the growing global movement acting against climate change.

2. ‘Taking on Tarmageddon’ hits the screens

On Sunday we joined People and Planet and Campbell Road Productions for the premiere screening of ‘Taking on Tarmageddon’.  The film tells the story of the exchange which took place between P and P activists and community members from Beaver Lake.  The film is a powerful reminder of the power and importance of the solidarity work between communities resisting the tar sands and activists committed to challenging Big Oil.  If you want to organise your own Tarmageddon screening the good people of P and P are distributing the film for free!

3. Time to tell Shell to Get Out!

Next Friday we will be pulling out all the stops to host community members from Canada and Alaska to share with us first hand the impacts of Shell’s hellish plans and for the launch of a shiny new report.  This will be a great chance to meet fellow tar sands activists and shell campaigners in the run up the AGM on May 22nd.  We would really appreciate if you could spread the word about the event. It starts at 7:30pm at Toynbee hall, there will be free drinks! If you are planning on attending the Shell AGM in London do get in touch with us [email protected]

4. Still time to vote for BP…

If you haven’t already, head on over to greenwashgold.org and vote for BP as the worst Olympic sponsor. The site is also sporting a new blog post about the BP or not BP guerilla Shakespeare performance and an update on Rio Tinto from Cherise Udell from Utah Moms for Clean Air. Incidentally, Utah is also the latest hotspot for new tar sands developments – we may well end up working more with these folks in the future…

As the Olympics approach we are starting to think about how we will award BP with its Greenwash medal, so if you have any ideas let us know!

BP or not BP? That is the question

Friends, Romans, company-baiters – lend us your ears!

This week we helped launch the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, which made its debut with a stunning piece of ‘guerilla Shakespeare’ on the stage at the BP-sponsored Royal Shakespeare Theatre no less! We are also gearing up for International Stop the Tar Sands day, swiftly followed by hitting Shell hard at their AGM next month. There is much ado about tar sands right now. We hope you can get involved!

1. Protesters take to the stage over BP sponsorship
2. Time to get MPs involved in Greenwash Gold 2012
3. Get the Shell Out!
4. Upcoming events: International Stop the Tar Sands Day, Pete the Temp and more

Fare thee well. Parting is such sweet sorrow…

Jess, Sue, Ruthi and Emily


1. Protesters take to the stage over BP sponsorship

On April 23rd 2012 – Shakespeare’s birthday and the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival – a group of merry players known as the “Reclaim Shakespeare Company” took unexpectedly to the stage in Stratford-upon-Avon, just before a Royal Shakespeare Company performance of The Tempest. This piece of guerilla Shakespeare aimed to challenge the RSC over its decision to accept sponsorship from BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster and the oil company’s decision to start extracting highly polluting and destructive tar sands in Canada. Just two days later a second troupe of intrepid performers claimed the stage to sing an anti-BP ballad before the opening of BP-sponsored Twelfth Night.

– Find out more at the beautifully-crafted BP or not BP? website

– Watch the film of the incredible two-minute performance and savour the cheers from the audience

– Read the letter that appeared in the Guardian that same morning, criticising BP sponsorship of Shakespeare

– Follow @ReclaimOurBard on Twitter, and like BP or not BP? on Facebook to keep up to date with the campaign

2. Time to get MPs involved in Greenwash Gold 2012

Last week we launched the Greenwash Gold 2012 campaign with London Mining Network and the Bhopal Medical Appeal. We are, of course, encouraging people to vote for BP as the worst Olympic sponsor. If you haven’t watched the hilariously gory film promoting BP’s extreme badness then please do, and share with your friends. And don’t forget to actually vote!

Meanwhile, John McDonnell MP has got on board with the campaign and tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, supporting it and urging the Olympic authorities to ‘bring forward reforms of the process by which Olympic sponsors are selected so that known polluters and human rights abusers are never allowed to tarnish the image of the Olympics again.’ Brilliant! However, so far only 16 MPs have signed it, so please write to your MP and ask her or him to add their name to Early Day Motion 2951.

Finally, make sure you tune into Resonance 104.4 FM tonight from 8-9pm to hear more about the Greenwash Gold campaign. Clayton Thomas Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network and Derrick Evans from the Gulf Coast Fund will join representatives of communities in Mongolia, Utah, West Papua and India to talk first hand about the impact these greenwash monsters have had on their lives and livelihoods. You can also listen online.

3. Get the Shell Out!

We are getting ready to again don our best suits and briefcases as we prepare for the Shell AGM on May 22nd.  Before we head off to the Hague we hope you can join us on  May  18th, 7:30 pm at Toynbee Hall to hear from community members  who are resisting the reckless activities of Shell across the globe from the Canadian Tar Sands, the Arctic and Nigeria.

For London people out there TONIGHT, 7pm @ LARC is a screening of the Award-Winning Shell resistance film “The Pipe” – the story of the Rossport community and their struggle against Shell’s devastating pipeline construction.  There will also be a bar, cake and film screenings of some past Shell Rising Tide and UKTSN actions to get you in the mood for the next few weeks of Shell-stopping!

4. Upcoming events: International Stop the Tar Sands Day, Pete the Temp and more

The Big Six Energy Bash: May 3rd, 11am Central London
UK Tar Sands Network is proud to support the Climate Justice Collective‘s Big Six Energy Bash, a day of direct action against corporate control and for energy democracy. We will be joining the Dirty Energy Bloc.

Pete the Temp vs. Climate Change: May 3rd, 7.30pm, The Cockpit, Gateforth Street, Marylebone, London, NW8 8EH
Launch of new show from Pete the Temp, co-star of last November’s ferocious oil orgy. In this multimedia, theatrical, stand up poetry show, Pete tells the story of some of the sticky situations he gets into on his quest to stop climate chaos.

International Stop the Tar Sands Day and 350.org Climate Impacts Day: May 5th, worldwide!
A convergence of two important global days of action! We will be joining a coalition of groups including 350.org, Occupy London, and Lush, in organising actions in London, Oxford and elsewhere. See here or here for an event near you, or email [email protected] to find out more.

Taking on Tarmageddon: May 6th, 7pm, East Oxford Community Centre, Princes Street, Oxford, OX4 1DD
We are very excited to finally see this new film by Campbell Road Productions, a documentary about People & Planet activists and young people from the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta coming together to take on ‘the most destructive project on Earth’. The film will be introduced by some of the people involved in making the film and will be followed by a discussion about the rewards and intricacies of tar sands solidarity campaigning.

BP sponsorship of Shakespeare criticised by actors, directors and playwrights

Tomorrow – April 23rd – is both Shakespeare’s birthday and the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival. To mark the occasion, a group of actors, directors, academics and others from the theatre and arts community will publish a letter in the Guardian criticising the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) over its decision to accept sponsorship money from BP.

The RSC is the latest cultural institution to face criticsm for allowing BP to use corporate sponsorship to boost its flailing public image. The Tate has also come under sustained fire for its ongoing sponsorship relationship with BP.

The letter, which was co-ordinated by the UK Tar Sands Network,  is signed by 29 theatre and arts professionals, including: Mark Rylance, former Creative Director of the RSC; award-winning playwrights Caryl Churchill*, Moira Buffini and Van Badham; and actor James Bolam.

BP, they argue, should not be allowed to associate itself with cherished cultural institutions in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster and the oil company’s decision to start extracting highly polluting and destructive tar sands in Canada.

The letter comes after a week of high-profile criticism of BP’s role as London 2012 ‘Sustainability Partner’. The company’s financial support for the World Shakespeare Festival, and a trilogy of plays at the RSC, is part of a massive Olympics sponsorship push, which BP hopes will ‘build its brand’ and improve its sullied reputation.

It comes at a time of government cuts to arts funding that are forcing theatre companies to forge closer and more prominent links with corporate sponsors. But, as the signatories point out, these relationships can be dangerous. In this case, the RSC is ‘allowing itself to be used by BP to obscure the destructive reality of its activities with a veneer of respectability.’


Full text of the letter and signatories


Today is Shakespeare’s birthday, and marks the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival. Yet what should be an unabashed celebration of Shakespeare’s continued relevance to our world has been sullied by the fact that the festival is sponsored by BP.

While the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill continues to devastate ecosystems and communities, and the highly-polluting extraction of tar sands oil brings us rapidly closer to the point of no return from climate change, we feel that BP has no place in arts sponsorship.

We, as individuals involved in theatre and the arts, are deeply concerned that the RSC – like other much-cherished cultural institutions – is allowing itself to be used by BP to obscure the destructive reality of its activities with a veneer of respectability.

We would like to see an end to oil sponsorship of the arts, and are committed to finding more responsible ways to finance this country’s cultural life, for our own and future generations.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Rylance, Actor, Writer and Playwright
Caryl Churchill, Playwright*
Moira Buffini, Playwright
Van Badham, Playwright
Jo Tyabji, Director and Actor
Rod Dixon, Red Ladder Theatre Company
James Bolam, Actor
Sue Jameson, Actress
Lisa Wesley, Artist and Theatre Maker
Arabella Lawson, Actress
Harry Giles, Environment Officer, Festivals Edinburgh
Professor Stephen Bottoms, Chair of Drama and Theatre Studies and Director of the Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds
Andy Field, Co-Director, Forest Fringe
Daniel Balla, Producer for Gaia Theatre Collective, Director for Coexists Events Space
Tom Worth, Producer of The Globe’s ‘Hamlet on Tour’ documentary
Lucy Jameson,Gaia Theatre
Simon Lys, Gaia Theatre
Leo-Marcus Wan, Actor
Tim Jeeves, Artist and Writer
Phil Maxwell, Director,
Hazuan Hasheem, Director,
Sue Palmer, Contemporary performance maker and artist
Stephen Duncombe, Associate Professor, New York University, Gallatin School of Media, Culture & Communications, Center For Artistic Activism,
Kenny Young, Songwriter, Musician, Founder of Artists Project Earth
Ana Betancour, Professor, Architect, Artist
John Volynchook, Photographer
Leila Galloway, Artist and Senior Lecturer
Dr Wallace Heim, Academic and former set designer
Tracey Dunn, film maker and community tv broadcaster

* Caryl Churchill signed on rather late in the day so missed the Guardian print deadline.

AGMs, spaceships and Greenwash Gold

Dear BP-botherers,

Over the last few days, we’ve launched a campaign, fallen for a hoax, got thrown out of an AGM, and been covered by just about every news outlet we’ve heard of. It’s been fantastic to work in partnership with friends from the Gulf Coast and the Indigenous Environmental Network, and give  BP the hard time they deserve. Read on for:

  1. Spin and spaceships at the BP AGM
  2. BP dropped as Olympic ‘Sustainability Partner’?!
  3. The launch of Greenwash Gold 2012
  4. Save the date for “Get the Shell Out!”

If you’ve been impressed by the work we’ve been doing, please consider giving us a donation. We promise that we’ll spend it on similar hijinks.

Love and escape pods,

Jess, Sue, Emily and Ruthi

P.S Keep an eye on our events page. International Stop the Tar Sands day is on May 5th and if you’re in Oxford, please come along to the launch of Taking On Tarmageddon on 6th May.


1. Spin and spaceships at the BP AGM

BP’s Annual General Meeting last Thursday was once again an uncomfortable experience for the Board. They were confronted by questions on oil spills, tar sands, Olympic sponsorship and – bizarrely – interplanetary escape pods, before nine people “died” in protest at the company’s contribution to climate change and human rights abuses, and were removed bodily from the room by security guards.

In the meeting with us was Bryan Parras, representing devastated communities on the Gulf Coast. Speaking afterwards, he said: “Last year, I was barred from this meeting by BP’s security, along with other community representatives. While I was glad to be allowed in this year, I was insulted that the Chair tried to cut me off, and that the Board then completely ignored my question and instead reeled off their prepared PR spin.” Nonetheless, the media didn’t ignore Bryan and the rest of us, and BP’s PR department must have been cringing as they saw the headlines the next day.

For the full story, and links to some of the media coverage, click here.

For a list of the questions we asked in the AGM, and the non-answers we received from BP, click here.

2. BP dropped as Olympic ‘Sustainability Partner’?!

Our jaws dropped over our morning coffee as the news spread around the web – the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics had dropped BP as ‘Sustainability Partner’! At last, sanity was prevailing… Sadly, it was revealed to be an elaborate hoax by CAMSOL, a group of tech-savvy Londoners who had created a website that looked exactly like the official one, and sent out a fake press release, fooling several media outlets into covering the story.

Not very surprisingly, it seems that the Olympics’ Brand Police have now taken down the fake website, but the Daily Telegraph has a picture of it!

3. The launch of Greenwash Gold 2012

Who is the least ethical Olympic sponsor? It’s a tough call to make when the field is so strong. There’s Dow Chemicals, responsible for the Bhopal disaster. There’s Rio Tinto, poisoning and displacing local communities around the world. And Adidas, Atos, EDF and Coca-Cola all deserve an honourable mention. For us though, it has to be BP. But what do the general public think?

We will soon find out, following the launch of the Greenwash Gold 2012 campaign last Monday. UK Tar Sands Network joined forces with the London Mining Network and Bhopal Medical Appeal to encourage people to choose between BP, Rio Tinto and Dow, and vote! We would like to encourage you to vote for BP, and we’ve created this somewhat gory animation to try and persuade you! Please watch, share and vote…

4. Save the dates for “Get the Shell Out!” 

We are just catching our breath before we turn our attention to call out Shell on their devastating track record of environmental destruction and human rights violations in the tar sands and around the world. On the 18th of May we will be hosting a gathering of community members and campaigners who have been impacted by Shell’s atrocious activities globally. We hope you can join us and do share the invitation.

The Shell AGM takes place on May 22nd in the Hague. We will be going along with our friends from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, IEN and the Alaskan Arctic to make sure that we put the board and shareholders on the spot about their hellish operations. There will also be London Shell shenanigans taking place on the day of the AGM at the Barbican Centre and at petrol stations across the UK. Check out Occupy Oil the Sequel so you can get involved!

Please get in touch if you saw the amazing fun we had at the BP AGM and want to join us to take on Shell! Email [email protected].

UK Tar Sands Network’s Questions to the 2012 BP AGM

On April 12th, 2012, we attended BP’s Annual General Meeting, and challenged the board with some tricky questions.

First of all, the meeting was addressed by Bryan Parras and Derrick Christopher Evans, representing Gulf Coast communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster. You can read about their powerful testimony to the Board here.

BP’s Chair, Carl-Henric Svanberg, largely ignored their questions – he even rudely interrupted Bryan Parras and told him to hurry up! Instead of a proper answer, he repeated the prepared BP PR statement about how they were doing all they could to help deal with the spill, despite the fact that they’d just been told that these efforts were completely inadequate.

Next, Clayton Thomas-Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network told the meeting that BP’s Tar Sands extraction projects could soon be illegal, thanks to a legal challenge from the Beaver Lake Cree Nation over their treaty rights in Canada. You can read more about this important message from First Nations to BP here.

Again, the BP Chair largely ignored Clayton’s question, and instead waffled irrelevantly about the particular tar sands extraction techniques that BP were planning to use.

A series of campaigners from the UK Tar Sands Network were then able to stand up and directly challenge the BP Board with the following questions (interspersed amongst many other questions from ordinary shareholders):

1) Planning for a six degree future:

On page 22 of the annual report you state, quoting International Energy Agency figures, that in 2030 80% of the world’s energy demand will be met by fossil fuels. As a consequence of this, you state on page 23 that you accept there will be a 28% rise in annual CO2 emissions globally by 2030.

On the same page, you note that in this future – the future that you believe will happen – the world will fail to keep global temperature rise below two degrees. What the report doesn’t say is that if the temperature rises beyond two degrees then the world will have passed the tipping point on climate change and we will almost certainly be on the path to a six degree global temperature increase. This is the unavoidable consequence of the figures you quote, according to the International Energy Agency. The experts are telling us that in a 6 degree world we will face global food deficits, mass population shifts, frequent extreme weather disasters, the loss of many major cities and other huge infrastructure problems all of which will obviously have an effect on the world economy and on oil demand.

I can only assume from pages 22 and 23 of the Annual Report that BP is planning for a 6 degree world. Does the Board foresee BP remaining a commercially successful company in such a world of climate chaos with the resulting economic and social impacts? Can you provide any information Mr. Chairman on what plans the company is making to ensure its success in a 6 degree world?

BP’s Response: The Chair repeated the same response he’d made at the 2011 AGM, claiming that “There’s a difference between the future we think is likely to happen, and the future we’d like to happen”. He then also pointed out that BP was increasing its investments in wind energy and biofuels, and that renewables would have a vital role to play in the future. We countered this lame response in Question 6, below.

2) Lobbying (asked by someone posing as an ordinary shareholder, in an attempt to expose BP’s lobbying activities that are undermining important EU legislation):

The proposed EU Fuel Quality Directive calls for a 6% emissions reductions target for transport fuels. When passed, this could have an impact on our recently acquired Canadian oil sands operations and may be a considerable a threat to the profitability of BP’s operations. What is BP doing to assure its shareholders that such unfair legislation will not pass and impact on our dividends?

BP’s Response: The Chair took a few questions at once, including this one. He answered the other questions in the bundle, but ignored this one entirely!

3) Olympic Sponsorship (also asked by someone posing as an ordinary shareholder, to make BP admit the real reasons behind their sponsorship activities):

Given BP’s financial problems, and the drop in dividends that we have all experienced, I can’t help but notice the amount of advertising for BP’s sponsorship of the London Olympics, and cultural events taking place this year. This must surely run well into the tens of millions, way beyond what BP would normally be expected to contribute to public life as a good corporate citizen. I assume that such expenditure is justified by the company on the grounds of receiving a return of some sort, just as with any other investment of our company’s capital. This might include increasing our corporate citizenship profile or corporate entertainment opportunities. Could you tell us Mr Chairman, how much money BP has invested in sponsorship activities for this year’s events and detail for us what return you believe the company is getting on this investment?

BP’s Response: This question got a ripple of applause from some sections of the audience, who presumably didn’t like their potential dividends being spent on sport instead! The Chair passed this question over to Ian Conn, BP’s Chief Executive for Refining and Marketing. Although he was careful not to give an exact figure for the company’s lavish sponsorship deal, he did say that BP had written a business case for Olympic sponsorship “going through exactly the same processes as we would for any investment”. He said that the aim of their role as Oil and Gas Partner, sponsor of the Cultural Olympiad and Sustainability Partner was “brand protection and connection with customers and society”, and to “enhance their relationship with strategic commercial partners”, and that the company’s expectations were being met in these areas. These comments confirm that these kinds of sponsorship deals bring significant returns to the company and are all about the bottom line. BP is not supporting cultural and sporting events out of the goodness of its non-existent heart!

4) Ecocide:

Mr Chairman, with the crime of “ecocide” soon to become international law, are you concerned that your decision to take BP into the Tar Sands might one day land you in jail?

BP’s Response: The Chair ignored the question.

5) Renewable energy:

Given that you say in your Sustainability Review that renewable energy sources ‘will be essential in addressing the challenges of energy security and climate change over the long term.’, why have you closed down BP Solar, your longest-running renewable energy division? Is solar going to be part of your long term plan, if not, why not, and how does investment in renewables compare to investment in fossil fuels?

BP’s Response: In a patronising tone of voice, the Chair explained that BP Solar had been sold off because it was no longer profitable enough. They were going into biofuels and wind power instead because there was more money to be made there, as they were better suited to BP’s particular infrastructure and expertise.

6) Interplanetary escape pod:

Mr Chairman, we’ve already heard that, according to your Annual Report, you believe that fossil fuels will still make up 80% of global energy use in 2030, leading to a 28% rise in CO2 emissions. You countered this by pointing to your investments in biofuels and wind power, but – even without going into all the problems with biofuels! – these investments are already included in the future energy predictions in your Annual Report. Your Annual Report clearly states that you believe we will be getting 80% of our energy from fossil fuels in 2030, despite your small investments in biofuels and wind. As we’ve heard, this will lock us into disastrous runaway climate change. So my question is: what’s the escape plan? I mean, the really scary stuff will start to kick in over the next twenty to thirty years, and a lot of people in this room will still be around then. So I can only assume that there’s some kind of interplanetary escape pod being built in a secret BP bunker, to carry the Board, executives and senior shareholders away as society collapses around us.

I’d like to know how many spaces are available on the ship, and where the Board is planning to escape to – Mars? The Moon? Somewhere deep below the Earth’s surface, or another solar system altogether? Also, are tickets available to shareholders and how do we book our place onboard?

BP’s Response: “I think we’ve already answered that question”! Of course, they hadn’t. We were horrified to hear that there was no escape plan, and that BP was happy to let us be killed by climate change, so we all fell over and pretended to die in the aisles. The security guards had to come over and drag us out. Most of the shareholders in the room seemed rather entertained by the whole thing – one shareholder even came up to us afterwards and congratulated us on a great protest…

7), 8) and 9):

Sadly, we didn’t get the opportunity to ask our three final questions, below, because time was running out and we needed to do our die-in stunt before all the shareholders left! Maybe next time…

One problem with BP’s Olympic sponsorship is that it makes the company more exposed to criticism, as we saw with the online hoax yesterday. For those who didn’t see it, a campaign group hijacked the Olympics website and issued a fake press release pretending that BP had been dropped as Sustainability Sponsor. A follow-up article in the Daily Telegraph spoke to several different groups who are planning further protests against Olympics sponsors whose activities they disagree with, including BP. Why did the board take the risky decision of not just sponsoring the Olympics, but taking on the specific role of Sustainability Partner? BP’s core business is in oil and gas – even more so now BP Solar has been sold off – and so surely the board should have realised that the inevitable criticisms would expose the company to significant reputational risk?

On page 70 of the Annual Report, you state that BP will be using Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage – SAG-D -to extract oil from the Canadian tar sands. You note that this method has a smaller land impact than open-cast mining, but you fail to mention that this extraction method still causes great damage to the local environment, by fragmenting habitats with seismic lines, drawing heavily on local aquifers and polluting the groundwater. It also carries the significant risk of steam blowouts, which could cause death or serious injury to staff, community members and wildlife. You then correctly note that because SAG-D requires the burning of large amounts of natural gas, it has a significantly higher carbon footprint than conventional oil. However, you then quote a low figure of just 5-15% of extra emissions per barrel, well-to-wheel, rather than the peer-reviewed Stanford University figure of 23% extra per barrel which is the official number that has been accepted by the EU. Because of this high carbon footprint, if all the currently accessible oil in the tar sands were burned it would take us 12% of the way towards the climate change “point of no return” all by itself. Why are the board playing down the risks and impacts of SAG-D technology?

On page 24 of the Annual Report, you say that a “diverse mix of fuels and technologies” will be required to meet future global energy needs, and cite oilsands as a necessary element of that mix. But the International Energy Agency’s most recent World Energy Outlook suggests that if the world continues along its current path, the Canadian tar sands would represent just 5% of liquid fuel production in 2035. So just a 5% more fuel-efficient future would mean we wouldn’t need the tar sands at all. Why are we pressing ahead with this risky fuel source when even the International Energy Agency suggests it isn’t really necessary?

What’s wrong with BP?

1) The Alberta Tar Sands

In December 2010, BP announced it was going ahead with a £1.6 billion investment in its first tar sands extraction project. ‘Sunrise’- a 50% partnership project with Canadian firm Husky Energy – is due to start producing oil in 2014. Two other tar sands leases, Terre de Grace and Pike, are in the early stages of development. BP is now making major investments in this risky, capital-intensive, highly-polluting unconventional oil.

This move represents a final abandonment of any pretence by BP to be going “Beyond Petroleum”. As explained elsewhere on this site, tar sands are one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel on earth, and trample on Indigenous rights.

BP tries to defend its actions by saying that rather than open-cast mining it will be using Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAG-D) to extract oil from the Canadian tar sands. In its 2011 Sustainability Review they state that SAG-D has a smaller physical footprint than open-cast mining, and point out that it does not create tailings ponds. However, it fails to mention that this extraction method still causes great damage to the local environment, by fragmenting habitats along seismic lines, drawing heavily on local aquifers and polluting the groundwater. It also carries the significant risk of steam blowouts, which could cause death or serious injury to staff, community members and wildlife.

Copyright 2005 The Pembina Institute www.OilSandsWatch.org

Because SAG-D requires the burning of large amounts of natural gas, it has a significantly higher carbon footprint than conventional oil [1]. Because of this high carbon footprint, if all the currently accessible oil in the tar sands were burned it would take us 12% of the way towards the climate change “point of no return” all by itself [2].

For more information, see our “BP in the Tar Sands” briefing.

2) The Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster

On April 20th, 2010, an explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and caused a rapid stream of crude oil to begin gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. It flowed unabated for the next three months, releasing just under 200 million gallons into the ocean – the largest marine oil accident in US history.

Deepwater Horizon Controlled Oil Burn by Petty Officer First Class John Masson

Delegates representing communities along the US Gulf Coast – where the effects of the disaster continue to devastate coastal ecosystems, local livelihoods and residents’ health – attempted to gain entry to BP’s London AGM in 2011. They were turned away, despite having valid proxy cards and having travelled thousands of miles to question the Board in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. In 2012, delegates from the Gulf Coast did manage to get into the meeting with us and confront the Board.

Bryan Parras, from Houston, explained to shareholders and the media: “BP claims that the spill has been cleaned up. This isn’t true. Oil is still impacting our communities, causing sickness, and triggering a collapse in fish stocks and local livelihoods. Many face overwhelming medical bills from illnesses associated with the spill and clean-up. To add insult to injury, local communities must bear the burden of proof that the 200 million gallons of oil and 2 million gallons of chemical dispersant released into the Gulf has caused lasting and detrimental effects, even though the most basic common sense would suggest exposure to raw crude oil and the dispersant Corexit is bad for ecosystems and people’s health. It’s important that people hear the truth.”

Derrick Evans, from Gulfport Mississippi, said “The story BP is trying to sell to the media is that the causes and consequences of the spill have been effectively addressed and the company has moved on. We want everyone to know that what we are seeing on the ground is very different. We are seeing oil surface in areas deemed ‘clean’ by BP, while tarballs filled with dangerous bacteria continue to wash ashore. We are finding record numbers of dead dolphins and a whole host of other dead animals along the Gulf Coast. Stress due to loss of livelihood and uncertainty is exacting heavy tolls upon communities, and people are sick from toxic exposure. Despite this, BP is already developing new deepwater wells, including some in the Gulf of Mexico. If this type of risky drilling practice is allowed to continue then it’s only a matter of time before there’s another disaster.”

For more information, see:
The Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health
Bridge the Gulf

3) Other Sources of Extreme Oil

BP is determined to write off the Deepwater Horizon disaster as a tragic one-off. Unfortunately, these kinds of accidents are likely to become common occurrences if BP proceeds with its current business plans. Rather than shifting towards sustainable energy sources, the company is making ever-increasing investment in difficult “frontier” oil developments in inhospitable and fragile environments, such as deep offshore rigs and Arctic waters.

At the same time, it has sold off its solar energy division, and is pushing into large-scale biofuels, which have little or no climate benefit in their current form and have been linked to rainforest destruction, the violation of land rights and rising global food prices.

The International Energy Agency’s Chief Economist Fatih Birol recently admitted that all the cheap and easy oil has now been found. We stand at a crossroads – we can either switch to a more sustainable transport system (with better public transport, and vehicles powered by renewable electricity), or charge headlong into difficult and dangerous “extreme” oil sources. The risks of spills and leaks are far higher for deep offshore drilling, especially in the Arctic circle, and the damage to ecosystems could be devastating.

4) Climate Change.

In its 2011 Sustainability Review, BP admits that if we carry on down our current path of increasing global fossil fuel use, we will be committed to temperature rises of over two degrees.

A two degree rise will almost certainly trigger “runaway” global warming, bringing with it massive infrastructure collapse, a global food deficit leading to mass starvation, disease, population shifts, extreme weather disasters, and ultimately an unrecognisable planet. Rather than proposing an alternative path, BP seems to calmly accept this terrifying future, and bases its entire business plan on increasing fossil fuel demand and rising CO2 emissions. The company is unashamedly basing its future profits on the end of civilisation as we know it.

In this, it is no different from any other major oil company. However, its ongoing (and disgraceful) attempts to brand itself as a “sustainable” company, such as its role as Sustainability Partner to the 2012 London Olympics, make it particularly vulnerable to criticism. Focusing on BP’s hypocritical attitude to climate change can help us to expose the profit-driven ideology behind the fossil fuel industry as a whole.

[1] BP’s Sustainability Review quotes a low carbon footprint figure of just 5-15% of extra emissions per barrel for tar sands oil when compared to conventional crude. However, a more reliable figure is the peer-reviewed Stanford University figure of 23% extra greenhouse gas emissions per barrel. This is the official number that has been accepted as correct by the EU.
[2] Based on research by the University of Oxford Physics Department, about how much CO2 we can “safely” put into the atmosphere before we hit runaway climate change.

Vote BP for worst Olympic Sponsor!

The Greenwash Gold 2012 launch event takes place on 16th April at Amnesty Human Rights Centre from 7pm.

The UK Tar Sands Network has teamed up with London Mining Network and Bhopal Medical appeal to unveil a new website and campaign, Greenwash Gold 2012, focussing on the ‘worst’ Olympic sponsors.

With short films made by award-winning animators, each company is in the running for the prize of worst corporate sponsor of the Olympics. An online public voting competition will then produce the winner, who will awarded the Greenwash Gold Medal during the games in July.

We’re nominating BP, undeservedly named London 2012 ‘Sustainability Partner’, for the Greenwash Gold prize – the other controversial nominees are Dow and Rio Tinto.

Members of communities impacted by the Olympic sponsors from all over the world have come together for the launch event on the 16th to criticise the companies, including:

  • Derrick Evans and Bryan Parras from the Gulf Coast, where communities are still dealing with the environmental devastation of BP’s catastrophic oil spill.
  • Clayton Thomas-Muller, an organiser with indigenous communities in Canada fighting BP’s controversial tar sands operations.
  • Cherise Udell, a mother from Utah fighting against the life-threatening air pollution levels caused by one of the mines from which Rio Tinto is providing the metal for the Olympic metals.
  • Zanaa Jurmed, a community representative from Mongolia where another Rio Tinto mine proving medals metal is accused of exploiting scarce water resources in a desert region.
  • Farah Edwards-Khan, a survivor of the Bhopal disaster who witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by Union Carbide’s horrific chemical explosion.

The launch on the 16th is being chaired by Meredith Alexander, the ex Olympics ‘ethics tsar’ who resigned over controversies surrounding Olympic sponsorship.

For the full press release, and more info on the speakers, see here.

Read more about our campaign against BP’s sponsorship of the Olympics.

A round up of media so far includes:

Join us at the launch event at Amnesty International.

Vote BP for Greenwash Gold 2012!

Clayton Thomas-Muller of Canada's Indigenous Environmental Network, Zanaa Jurmed of Mongolia and Derrick Evans of the United States' Gulf Coast Fund in front of the 2012 London Olympic Stadium.

All eyes on the Greenwash monster

Dear Brand Pirates,

Our proxies are sorted, our smart clothes are bought, and BP’s AGM is nearly upon us. We’re all set to hear the oil giant’s board try to justify their destructive operations directly to our visiting friends from the frontline: Clayton Thomas-Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Bryan Parras and Derrick Evans from the Gulf Coast. We still need people to join the protest outside, so if you’re free on Thursday 12th, please come along.

BP isn’t the only Olympic sponsor wreaking havoc on the world. So on 16th April we will join Dow and Rio Tinto campaigners to launch a brand new campaign: Greenwash Gold 2012. It’s going to be awesome – more details below.

Clayton and Derrick will also be speaking at the Counter Olympic Network’s action-planning meeting on 14th April, an event uniting various groups of people adversely affected by the Olympics and their sponsors.

It’ll be a busy, and momentous week. Please come along and help us stick it to the Big Polluter!

Jess, Sue, Emily and Ruthi


Protest outside the BP AGM – help counter the inevitable greenwash deluge!
Thursday 12th April, 10am, ExCel Centre, London
Just like last year, we plan to be there in force outside the AGM to make sure that the BP board, shareholders and the media are in no doubt that we are not ok with their plan to keep extracting fossil fuels until the planet burns. We will meet at 10am at the bottom of the steps of the London ExCel.

Whose Olympics? Counter Olympic Network action planning meeting + special guests
Thursday 12th April, Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial Street, Greater London E1 6LS
The Olympics are upon us – and people from London to Portland and beyond are sick of being sacrificed for this giant corporate bonanza. Come along to Bishopsgate Institute to plan for a major action – the target, location, date and nature of the action are all open for discussion. Speakers include Clayton Thomas-Muller from Indigenous Environmental Network.

Launch of Greenwash Gold 2012 Campaign
Monday 16 April, 7 – 9pm, Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.
April 16th marks the 100 day countdown to the start of the Olympics: 100 days for some of the world’s most disreputable corporations – like Rio Tinto, Dow and BP – to keep using the Olympics as a smokescreen for environmental and human rights abuses the world over.
Meredith Alexander, the ex Olympic ‘Ethics Csar’ who stepped down over controversial sponsorship decisions, will be introducing members of communities impacted by Olympic sponsors all over the world, and we will be launching a new campaign to stop Dow, BP and Rio Tinto from winning at the 2012 Olympics.


Stop the moose abuse!

Dear pop-up protesters,

Last Wednesday, we held a candlelit vigil outside the Canadian High Commission, which suddenly turned into a noisy protest when we discovered there was a meeting going on inside, involving oil company reps and tar sands investors! Read on for the full story.

Meanwhile, our favourite social engagement of the year is coming up – the BP AGM! We’d love you to be involved. Read on for all this plus some thrilling upcoming events.

1. Vigil over Canada’s tar sands lobbying unexpectedly turns into full-blown protest
2. BP AGM – help counter the inevitable greenwash deluge
3. Upcoming events

Love not aggressive lobbying,

Jess, Emily, Ruthi and Sue

PS In case you didn’t know, the Keystone XL pipeline – which got killed off by Obama last month (and the month before) – did a Dracula and rose again in the US Senate last week. But don’t worry, it was firmly staked through the heart. Hopefully it’ll now remain just a pile of dust, though we’re not prepared to bet actual money on that…


1. Vigil over Canada’s tar sands lobbying unexpectedly turns into full-blown protest

Last Wednesday’s vigil outside the Canadian High Commission was one of 20 that took place in cities across Europe and North America. The aim was to highlight the damage being done by Canada’s multi-million dollar lobbying initiative, which is aggressively promoting their filthy fuel to our governments. As a result, the Fuel Quality Directive – an important piece of EU climate legislation – is under threat. We also wanted to expose the UK government for being Canada’s top cheerleader in this strategy.

We joined with members of the Occupy LSX Energy, Equity and Environment group to hold a sombre candlelit vigil on the steps of the High Commission in Grosvenor Square. But then someone spotted that there was a meeting going on inside the building. As we peered through the window, we saw a huge sign promoting links between UK and Canadian business, and as people started leaving, they told us there were oil industry reps and tar sands financers inside. So we got the megaphone out and started chanting ‘No Tar Sands’, ‘Stop the Moose Abuse!’ and ‘Canada, BP, RBS and Shell – if you dig up the tar sands we’ll raise hell!’ More details, photos and videos here.

It was great to be able to catch them in the act. Next week, our lobby-busting efforts will escalate. We will be welcoming to London a delegation from Canada, including Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus. The delegation are going to be touring European capitals, meeting with governments and countering the Canadian government’s dangerous campaign of misinformation. Stay tuned for how their meetings go with UK politicians.

2. BP AGM – help counter the inevitable greenwash deluge

This year, BP’s AGM is taking place on the 12th April in London. Once again, we plan to be there in force, inside and outside, to make sure that the BP Board, shareholders and the media are in no doubt that we are not ok with their plan to keep extracting fossil fuels until the planet burns.

Here’s what we did last year – and it got global media coverage for the issue of tar sands. If you would like to be involved this year, we are looking for people willing to be both inside and outside. Please email [email protected] and let us know if you’re available.

In the meantime, you may have noticed that BP has launched its Olympics advertising campaign with a series of TV ads apparently claiming that they are fuelling 5,000 Olympic vehicles with advanced biofuels. They’re not. So if you see this advert, you could do us a massive favour by noting down the time, date and channel, and letting us know.

3. Upcoming events

Unveiling the Olympics
Friday, 16 March, 5pm – 8pm, B102, Brunei Gallery, opposite SOAS Main Building, Russell Square, London
Panel discussion aiming to address the many contradictions of the London games. The first part will focus on the Bhopal gas disaster, Justice for Bhopal Movement and the controversy surrounding Dow sponsorship. The second panel, which will include UKTSN’s Emily Coats, will focus on other controversial sponsors, like Rio Tinto and BP.

‘Tate à Tate’ Launch Party
Friday, 23 March, 6pm – 9pm,  Calder Bookshop & Theatre, 51 The Cut, SE1 8LF 
Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil invite you to come and celebrate the audio unveiling of Tate à Tate, a site-specific sound artwork themed around the issue of BP sponsorship of Tate. It is is a permanent installation inside Tate galleries that is created by your participation. From Thursday 22nd March the audio tour will also be available for free download.

Ecocide Trial – The Sentence
Saturday, 31 March, Institute for Democracy & Conflict Resolution (IDCR) at the University of Essex
The Ecocide Trial in September found two fictional CEOs guilty of ecocide for their operations in the tar sands. Now it’s time for the sentencing! This will use ‘Restorative Justice’ – putting the CEOs face to face with individuals who speak on behalf of the inhabitants of the territory they have been convicted of extensively damaging. The event is open to the public. There will be breakout sessions, debates and speakers during the day.

Oxford screening of Taking on Tarmageddon
Sunday, 6th May, 7-10pm, Downstairs, East Oxford Community Centre, 44b Princes Street (corner of Cowley Rd) Oxford OX4 1HU, £5/£3
OARC Sunday Screenings are pleased to be holding a screening and debate of the brand new Taking on Tarmageddon, a Campbell Road Productions film about People & Planet’s tar sands youth exchange with the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in 2011. The UK Tar Sands Network, People & Planet, and the film makers will be present to talk about the film, the tar sands and their experiences.

Give yourselves a pat on the back…

Dear grassroots lobbyists and graffiti artists,

Here’s a big round of applause for everyone who has been tirelessly and creatively telling Norman Baker not to vote against the Fuel Quality Directive proposal… It worked! Although the battle isn’t over yet, and there will be plenty more action needed on the ongoing attempts to keep tar sands oil out of Europe in coming months.

In the meantime some interesting things have been happening in London, with BP getting an earful from angry activists over its visually perturbing sponsorship of the Olympics.

We are also very happy to announce that we have a new member on board – welcome to Ruthi who will be volunteering with us!

1. A small stalemate for Europe, a big step for the climate
2. BP: F***ing the Future
3. Dates for your diary

Love and fistfuls of black paint,

Jess, Sue, Emily and Ruthi


1. A small stalemate for Europe, a big step for the climate

The Fuel Quality Directive finally came to a vote in the EU last week. For well over a year we’ve been pushing – along with campaigners all over Europe – for this key piece of climate legislation to label tar sands as dirtier than conventional oil, thus restricting the European market to future importshttps://www.no-tar-sands.org/files/. after all the effort, the outcome was… a stalemate.

Disappointing? Not at all! Although this outcome has been widely reported in the Canadian media as a major victory for the Canadian government’s recent multi-million-dollar lobbying frenzy, in fact, it’s the opposite. Despite all the pressure from Canada, countries that had previously indicated they were going to vote against the law – including the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands – abstained.

This was a major breakthrough. It shows that the pressure that all of us have been applying over the last few months to Transport Minister Norman Baker has paid off. The stalemate means that now the decision has been bumped up to Environment Ministers to vote on in June, so we have an exciting few months ahead of us to make sure that the UK government fully supports the FQD and does not allow Canadian lobbying to scupper our chances at keeping tar sands out of Europe for good.

2. BP: F***ing the Future

Last week BP, as London 2012 ‘Sustainability Partner’, began a flashy new Olympic marketing push, with TV ads, billboards, internet ads and newspaper spreads all illustrating the company’s role in the Greenest Games ever. An anonymous group used this as an opportunity to rip into BP’s image and challenge its propaganda. Calling it ‘Brand Piracy’ day, activists subvertised BP billboards and logos all over London with black paint and cleverly placed asterisks. Looks like we’re not the only ones slamming BP for its ridiculous greenwash!

3. Dates for your diary

Lots of exciting actions and events are coming up in the next month. Remember, if you’d like us to help organise a talk or film screening in your area, get in touch!

3rd March: Oxford Radical Forum, Tar Sands workshop, Wadham College, 2.30-4pm

3rd March: Tar-Free Transition Heathrow’s Second Birthday

6th March: Climate Rush presents: Occupy the Oil Aisle: A Waitrose and Shell intervention

7th March: Candlelit tar sands vigil – 7pm, Canadian Embassy, London.

8th March: Plymouth talk on tar sands and open discussion about Plymouth going tar-free.

22nd March: Lobby-busting tour! Representatives of Canadian organisations will be in London to lobby the UK government in favour of the Fuel Quality Directive!

31st March: A second chance for FairPensions’ AGM training

31st March: Croydon Greenpeace talk on tar sands and Tar-Free Towns

1st April: Oxford screening of Taking on Tarmageddon

Email us for more details or see our events page.