The Tar Sands Project - What Is It?
There has been a great deal of news lately about the Tar Sands Project, especially as it relates to the arrest of Bill McKibben.
Many people are struggling with exactly what the Tar Sands Project is and exactly who Bill McKibben is.
Let us start with the man that is Bill McKibben. Mr. McKibben is a noted author and environmentalist. In 2010 the Boston Globe referred to McKibben as "probably the country's most important environmentalist."
Recently he was arrested outside the White House for protesting a pipeline that will carry oil from tar sands fields in Canada to American refineries.
This brings us to tar sands. Most simply, tar sands are a mix of water, clay, sand and bitumen. Bitumen is the "good" stuff, oil. This oil however is not liquid in this form and must be mined and processed.
The process of mining this oil is extremely inefficient and harmful to the environment.
Extraction requires huge reserves of water and once used the water becomes highly toxic. In addition to the water issue, huge areas of land are destroyed. Let us not forget about the air as well. It requires an incredible amount of energy to get to the oil. It takes around half a barrel of gas just to obtain one barrel of crude oil.
Alberta, Canada is home to one of the largest deposits of oil in the world.
The name of the proposed pipeline that would transport the oil from Alberta to the United States is Keystone XL.
Whether or not Keystone XL is approved, the tar sands project will not come to an end. Nor will it be slowed. Oil can still be transported via rail or ship and China will likely take up any slack left from the United States.
There is at least one positive effect of the Bill McKibben protest and his resulting arrest and that is that he has demonstrated that a relatively small group of people can do a great deal to increase awareness for the environmental movement.