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February 03, 2011

Americans Urge Obama to Say No to Harper's Tar Sands

Tar sands This Friday, President Obama will be meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to talk energy. President Obama has promoted clean energy as an engine for U.S. economic growth and a key to "winning the future" in his most recent State of the Union.

Prime Minister Harper, on the other hand, is predicted to push for an expansion of U.S. imports of tar sands and specifically U.S. government approval to jumpstart the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Most Americans have never heard of the Canadian tar sands, yet it is one of the largest and most destructive projects on Earth. This little-known oil mega-project is creating an ongoing environmental disaster in Canada and is now threatening to create on here in the United States.


The tar sands industry is expanding facilities to process this toxic oil here in the United States through a network of refineries and pipelines. Public health in several states is under threat from dramatic increases in refining pollution, and massive pipelines are planned to cross the United States’ largest freshwater aquifer, which supplies one-third of our nation’s agriculture.

Communities in Canada have long been speaking out about the damage tar sands poses to their health through water and air pollution. Now, Americans from Minnesota to Houston are worried about Canada’s tar sands expansion poisoning their water, destroying their farmland, and contaminating their air.

Americans from around the country have expressed their opposition to this project over the course of the past year. Several hundred thousand emails have been sent expressing outrage at the idea of the U.S. government permitting Keystone XL. Hundreds of articles have appeared in American papers, and people of every political color and economic background have joined together along the proposed route of the pipeline to unite in an effort to stop it.

Tomorrow, activists will be erecting a colorful display of scenes from across the nation, showing how many citizens in each state are against the use of oil from the northern Alberta tar sands. They will be at the park before, during and after the meeting between Prime Minister Harper and President Obama.

Our hope is that the President will follow through on the American commitment to clean energy and urge the Canadian officials to join with the United States in creating better energy. Specifically, the Sierra Club hopes U.S. officials will:

  • Recognize the threat tar sands pose to U.S. agricultural water, land, air and climate goals and use this knowledge to steer forward America’s energy policy.
  • Share with Canadian officials the level of opposition Keystone XL faces in the United States and request that Canadian officials let the U.S. conduct its permitting analysis and due process without the current level of intensive lobbying.
  • Tell Canada that tar sands weaken U.S. energy security by continuing our dependence on oil, in this case the most toxic and one of the most expensive forms of oil.
  • Push for North American governments to prioritize clean, renewable forms of energy that can move us away from its debilitating and expensive dependence on oil.

-- Kate Colarulli, Director of the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign. Photo is of a Canadian tar sands site; Courtesy of the Pembina Institute.

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