Alberta Oil Sands Not Economically Viable, MIT Report States

I’m on my way to Washington DC with 20 other Canadian climate activists, to join forces with 330 Americans from across the United States who are concerned that future generations will inherit a harsh and unforgiving world because of the climate crisis. The Citizens Climate Lobby diaspora collecting in D.C. intends to lobby almost every office on Capitol Hill, focusing specifically on introducing a straightforward price on carbon, through carbon fee and dividend legislation.

While in Washington I will get the opportunity to hear climate hero Dr. James Hansen, recently retired from NASA, speak to the Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers.  Wish me luck on my quest for a photo with him!

Why am I, and these other Canadians, traveling all the way to Washington to lobby American politicians about the climate crisis? Our current Canadian federal government has made it clear that Canada’s energy and climate policy is tied to that of the United States; as the U.S. goes so will Canada, says Stephen Harper. It is in our interests to work to create the political will for a sustainable climate in DC as well as in Ottawa.

The oil-industry-friendly government of Stephen Harper has been overtly hostile to pricing carbon pollution. A new report out of MIT sheds some light on the possible reasons for this animosity:

canadian bitumen under carbon pricing


More links:

MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy Of Global Change: Report 183


Dirty Energy Ushers Us Into New, and Disturbing, Territory

How much more damage to our land, water, and climate are we willing to tolerate before we just say no to this economic system of death?

alberta oil spill in dene territory


This week in Alberta:

A toxic waste spill in northern Alberta has killed off roughly 42 hectares of boreal forest, in what could be the biggest environmental disaster in North America in recent history.

The spill was first discovered on June 1st, about 100 kms south of the border with the Northwest Territories, near the small town of Zama City. Texas-based Apache Corporation, the oil company responsible for the spill, just released their estimate of its size on Wednesday. According to their figures, 9.5 million litres of ‘produced water’ was released into the environment, covering the equivalent of over 50 football fields-worth of land.

“Every plant and tree died,” said James Ahnassay, chief of the Dene Tha First Nation, according to The Globe and Mail, as he spoke of the effect the spill has had on the land. Read more.

And meanwhile, a little further north:

Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures — as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years,” Miller (NASA) said. “As heat from Earth’s surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic’s carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.” 

Read more by Joe Romm: NASA Finds ‘Amazing’ Levels Of Arctic Methane And CO2, Asks ‘Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?’

We are very quickly entering into uncharted territory for humans; the planet will recover, she has proven that over millenia. It’s humans whose existence is in peril. Fear is an appropriate response, but if that’s where we stop, then nothing will change and we will go over the climate chaos cliff. It’s time to step off the “cliff” of fear into action, into the unknown. To signal our willingness to each other and to the universe that this will not happen on our watch without us putting up a fight for our children’s – all of the children’s – future. Their eyes are on us, pleading with us to do something, anything. Here’s some inspiration – for we humans are capable of great beauty and self-sacrifice as well as incredible destruction and horror.



Fearless Summer Heats Up

INM in New Brunswick.June 2013


  • There have been five arrests this week of people protesting the presence of SWN Resources Canada on traditional Mi’kmaq territory in New Brunswick. The protests are being led by First Nations leaders, and are a result of the fears that SWN’s seismic testing will result in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the land. Read more at “Anti-fracking Arrests Continue on Highway 126″.
  • A new report states there are “potentially catastrophic” changes underway in Canada’s northern McKenzie River Basin. Published on Monday, the report from an international panel of scientists warns that Canada’s Mackenzie River basin—among the world’s most important major ecosystems—is “poorly studied, inadequately monitored, and at serious risk due to climate change and resource exploitation” – and is particularly at risk because of the tar sands development:

In a report, nine Canadian, US and UK scientists convened by the US-based Rosenberg International Forum on , say effective governance of the massive Basin, comprising an area three times larger than France—holds enormous national and global importance due to the watershed’s biodiversity and its role in hemispheric , stabilizing climate and the health of the Arctic Ocean.

The panel agreed the largest single threat to the Basin is a potential breach in the tailings ponds at one of the large oil sands sites mining surface bitumen. A breach in winter sending tailings liquid under the ice of the tributary , “would be virtually impossible to remediate or clean-up,” says the report, available in full online. Read more at

And there was flooding in the Fort McMurray area this week, putting those tailing ponds even more than usually at risk of breaching.

  • Brace yourself – a climate scientist from the University of Ottawa is predicting that the Arctic summer ice will disappear this summer. On his blog on Sierra Club Canada‘s website, Paul Beckwith discusses his predictions and reminds us that it’s way past time for an adult conversation about climate change.
For the record—I do not think that any sea ice will survive this summer. An event unprecedented in human history is today, this very moment, transpiring in the Arctic Ocean.The cracks in the sea ice that I reported in my Sierra blog and elsewhere have spread. Worse news is at this very moment the entire sea ice sheet (or about 99 percent of it) covering the Arctic Ocean is on the move (clockwise), and the thin, weakened icecap has literally begun to tear apart.

This is abrupt climate change in real-time.

Humans have benefited greatly from a stable climate for the last 11,000 years (roughly 400 human generations). Not anymore. We now face an angry climate — one that we have poked in the eye with our fossil fuel stick — and have to deal with the consequences.

We must set aside our differences and prepare for what we can no longer avoid: massive disruption to our civilization.”


fearless summer

Because of all of the above, I have decided to attend the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, July 5 & 6 in Fort McMurray Alberta, and join people from across Canada and beyond who are traveling there to support our First Nations in their fight for climate justice. Along with the other participants, I will call on the Alberta and Canadian governments to stop the reckless mismanagement of these resources. Go to for more information.

The Harper Government: Making The North Pole Safe, For Oil Companies & You

The Alberta tar sands aren’t only environmentally friendly, they’re good for the ozone layer, they will stop illiteracy and alleviate erectile dysfunction; and that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg! Don’t believe me? The Canadian federal government can’t stop gushing over them, so they must be out-of-this-world amazing!




Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance

Indigenous Environmental Network

Keystone XL: Nightmare In The Making

KXL and Red Deer River blowout.*

Think it can’t happen? Remember Mayflower Arkansas, where residents of a residential suburb woke up to a sea of dirty oil around their homes.

Mayflower, Arkansas. Photo: EPA

More links:

Alberta Oil Spill: Up To 3,000 Barrels Spill Near Red Deer River Reports Plains Midstream Canada

Alberta Oil Spill Will Take Months To Clean Up (Photos)

The Obama Tar Sands Pipeline

Is the Keystone XL pipeline really what President Obama wants to leave as his legacy, for future generations to remember him by – and curse him for?



Meanwhile climate destabilization continues as unabated as our carbon dioxide emissions:

  • Czech PM Declares Emergency As Floods Threaten Prague: Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas declared a state of emergency for most of the nation on Sunday as swollen rivers caused by days of heavy rain threatened Prague’s historic center and forced evacuations from low-lying areas.Prague authorities limited public transport and planned to close underground stations in the center of the city as water from the Vltava River overflowed into picturesque areas popular with tourists. The main train line connecting the capital and the east of the country was also shut. Click here to read full story.

Rising waters from the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers have inundated parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic after days of heavy rainfall. Emergency operations are under way to deal with record levels of flooding in some areas, as landslides have killed at least nine people, with many more still missing. Click here to see pictures.

  • Meanwhile it’s so dry and parched in Texas even the dead can’t rest quietly:       …Across South Texas, the drought scorched front yards, dried up lakes and forced Corpus Christi into water restrictions. But one of the unexplored consequences has been the drought’s effect on cemeteries. Once serene sanctuaries, these final resting places now show signs of distress from too little rain.

Sections of Rose Hill Memorial Park where Matson’s parents are buried are patchworks of cracked dirt and weeds. In Seaside Memorial Park, where slain Tejano star Selena Quintanilla lies in rest, scattered live oaks that once provided shade have died and started to shed their bark. Click here for the full story.

As U of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith tweeted this morning:

PB tweet


At the present time we humans are behaving like brainless frogs. Frogs, it turns out, don’t remain in water being heated to the boiling point unless their brains have been removed.

Tom Toles Cartoon
Tom Toles Cartoon – click for larger display

Canadian Oil Waste Blackens Detroit

detroit carbon waste
graphic: I Heart Climate Scientists


The Koch brothers are about their usual dirty business, this time in Detroit:

WINDSOR, Ontario — Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom. Read the full story on

More links:

Petroleum Coke Piles On Detroit River Should Be Investigated, Urges Congressman Gary Peters

Koch Carbon piling up mountains of potentially toxic petroleum coke on banks of the Detroit River


Betting The Farm On Hazardous Pipelines With Poor Track Records



Ready or not, painful or not, we are in the middle of a huge shift from an oil dependent economy to one that is run on renewables, the Great Transition. Our governments and the corporations that control them – the people and structures that have become out-of-this-world wealthy from the way we do things now and are heavily invested in maintaining the status quo – are willing to bet the farm, and clean water, clean air, and a stable climate, on new pipelines that will carry more dirty fuel across agricultural land and aquaducts across the Turtle Island (the First Peoples’ name for North America). It’s up to citizens to stop the insanity. has compiled the available data on U.S. pipeline incidents – publicly available from Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) – and it’s startling. There were 1,887 incidents in the gathering and transmission, distribution, and hazardous liquids pipelines between January 1, 2010 and March 29, 2013, or an average of 1.6 incidents per day. Only addicts who have lost the perspective of the big picture along with a sense of responsibility for the future would be willing to “roll the dice” on this bad bet.

Millions of Canadian Taxpayer Dollars Are Spent On Tar Sands PR

Apparently the current federal government can’t afford to spend taxpayer money on climate action or giving affordable healthcare to the poorest and most vulnerable among us, refugees, but it can spend $9 million dollars on greenwashing the Alberta tar sands. That’s not my Canada!

graphic: Greenpeace
graphic: Greenpeace

Click here to tell Harper we need climate action, not public relations.

Canadian First Nations Leader Takes Tar Sands Fight To Europe Ahead Of Key Council Vote


via Friends of the Earth Europe & Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief

A leader of Canada’s Indigenous peoples gave a dramatic eyewitness account of the environmental and social devastation associated with mining tar sands at the world’s biggest tourism fair on Friday March 8,  ahead of key vote by the European Council later this year that could deter tar sands from being exported to Europe.  The European Commission said recently it was sticking to its guns in labeling tar sands as one of the world’s dirtiest crudes under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) despite strong protests from Ottawa and a major lobbying effort by the oil industry to water down the EU law. The Directive is a pillar of the bloc’s climate legislation that aims to reduce emissions from transport fuels.

Representatives from Canada’s First Nations and the environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe are at the Berlin International Travel Fair (ITB) expo to protest about the destruction of Canada’s natural environment and publicize the dangers of tar sands expansion.

Canada sits on the world’s third-largest oil reserves but the vast majority is unconventional crude, including tar sands – clay-like deposits that are some of the oil industry’s most polluting fuels. European Commission studies show that mining just one barrel of oil from tar sands generates 23% more emissions than from conventional crudes.

NASA scientist James Hansen has warned in an opinion piece for the New York Times that if Canada continued to exploit oil sands production it will mean “game over” for the planet. “If we were to fully exploit this new oil source … concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now,” Hansen wrote.

Canada’s tar sands operations are concentrated in the second most western province of Alberta, spanning roughly 700 square kilometers an area so large they can be seen from space.

Ottawa’s shame: the untold story

Chief Bill Erasmus, head of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories, said Canada has gone from being known as the “Great White North” and a country of outstanding natural beauty to a “petro-state” with one of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The Dene Nation covers a large geographical area — from Alaska to the southern-most tip of North America.

“The tar sands industry is destroying the way of life of First Nations peoples. On the one hand Ottawa is seeking to sell Canada as a top tourist destination for nature lovers at the ITB while simultaneously destroying kilometers of wilderness,” said Erasmus, from Denendeh, who is also a regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Northwest Territories.

Alberta is home to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, one of the country’s main attractions, that draws millions of tourists every year – 2.1 million Europeans in 2012 alone. According to Canadian government statistics, Europe is the source of most of its overseas visitors annually with the United Kingdom (622,754), France (432,987) and Germany (308,825) sending the most.

Erasmus said the extraction process was making his ancestral homeland uninhabitable in contravention of existing treaties. And he revealed how mining squandered vast amounts of fresh water and natural gas, left lakes of sludgy toxic pollution and released carcinogens into the environment (Please see attachment 1).

There is evidence the oil’s environmental impact is having a detrimental effect on Canada’s image abroad, according to documents obtained by Friends of the Earth Europe under access-to-information laws. In one heavily redacted email detailing a high-level meeting between British and Canadian diplomats, Gordon Campbell, the Canadian High Commissioner to the UK, described tar sands as “a totemic issue, hitting directly on Brand Canada”.

Europe next if Canada has its way

Canadian tar sands could soon hit European shores despite the European Commission’s effort to label fuels from tar sands deposits as highly polluting under the FQD (See report Keeping Their Head In Tar Sands). Canada is urgently seeking new markets for its energy-intensive tar sand oil to compensate for dwindling U.S. buying and has European refiners in its sights.

“If Canada, which recently withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, is successful in watering down EU laws on emissions allowed from fuels it will open the door to oil sands-derived fuels in Europe and seriously undermine Europe’s fight against climate change,” said Darek Urbaniak of Friends of the Earth Europe.

“Canada through intense lobbying efforts has been trying to scupper EU legislation since it was first mooted. EU law makers know tar sands are the most climate hostile energy source in commercial production today and they should not give in to Canadian pressure,” he said.

An inconclusive EU vote on the introduction of the FQD last year forced the European Commission to carry out an Impact Assessment on the Directive, the results of which are due out in the next couple of months ahead of another European Council vote later in the year. Just last month, in a major lobbying effort, two ministers from Alberta visited 11 EU countries between them to argue that the proposed EU law discriminates unfairly against Canadian oil.

fish with a tumour


Click here to read the text of the letter to the Canadian tourism representatives at Berlin ITB from Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief, AFN Regional Chief (NWT)

More Links:

Indigenous Environmental Network: Tar Sands