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Media Release

Jun 11, 2007

America's Clean Fuel Future Doesn't Include Canadian Tar Sands: Report

A new report released today in Washington, D.C., reveals the environmental consequences of three "unconventional" fuel sources that are receiving increasing interest from major energy companies and the United States government. The report, released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), analyzes for the first time the harmful effects and costs that would result from growing reliance on carbon-intensive, polluting fuel sources like tar sands [oil sands], oil shale and liquid coal as alternatives to conventional oil.
The report, Driving it Home: Choosing the Right Path for Fuelling North America's Transportation Future, describes the stark energy crossroads that North America faces. Researched and written by the NRDC, Western Resources Advocates (WRA) - both American-based environmental groups - and the Calgary-based Pembina Institute, the report details the clear linkage between growing American demand for transportation fuels and the runaway growth of tar sands development in Alberta's boreal forest. Currently, approximately 60 per cent of tar sands oil production is exported to the United States, but this figure is projected to increase to 75 per cent by 2010.
"Citizens in both Canada and the United States are increasingly concerned about global warming," noted Dan Woynillowicz, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Pembina Institute. "They have the right to know that not only does producing a barrel of oil from the tar sands produce three times more greenhouse gas pollution than conventional oil, but this industry is the fastest growing source of pollution in Canada. And this growth is directly tied to the demand for transportation fuels."
The oil industry's ambition to rapidly increase tar sands production from one to five million barrels per day is being supported by the Canadian government through several recent initiatives. The 2007 federal budget included Cdn $60 million to establish a Major Project Management Office to "streamline the review of natural resource projects" with the goal of cutting in half the average regulatory review period, which the oil industry complains has been too lengthy and onerous. More recently, the Canadian government introduced greenhouse gas regulations that will allow the tar sands industry to comply with intensity-based emissions targets even while tripling the industry's total greenhouse gas pollution by 2020.
"Canada will be judged by the global community on how it handles tar sands development," stated Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, a Senior Attorney with the NRDC's International Program. "To date it appears that Prime Minister Harper is more intent on entrenching America's addiction to oil than on addressing greenhouse gas pollution. Initiatives like California Governor Schwarzenegger's low carbon fuel standard make it clear that, like Canadians, Americans expect better."
In the report, NRDC, WRA and the Pembina Institute offer a cleaner, cheaper path forward to meet our future transportation fuel needs without the use of unconventional fuel sources. This path includes moderating demand, increasing energy efficiency, and commercializing clean and renewable fuels. The report recommends specific solutions to American oil dependence. These include the adoption of a low carbon fuel standard, enhanced fuel economy standards for vehicles and incentives to increase the use of biofuels like cellulosic ethanol with the aim of achieving a future energy supply that is both clean and sustainable.
"America is at a fuels crossroads: Do we tackle oil addiction and clean up global warming pollution, or do we rush headlong into even dirtier sources of oil like the tar sands?" commented Casey-Lefkowitz. "As Americans learn about the environmental destruction caused by producing oil from the tar sands, the momentum behind switching to low-carbon biofuels and boosting vehicle efficiency will only grow."


For more information:

Download the report Driving it Home: Choosing the Right Path for Fuelling North America's Transportation Future

Dan Woynillowicz
Senior Policy Analyst, Pembina Institute
Cel: 403-888-6272
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz
Senior Attorney, International Program, Natural Resources Defense Council
Cel: 646-287-6225
High-resolution images of tar sands development are available for journalists from


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