WHAT ARE TAR SANDS? Because fossil fuels are a finite resource, petroleum companies are now resorting to more extreme forms of oil extraction, including tar sands, fracking, and Arctic exploration. The “tar sands” are deposits of heavy crude oil trapped in sand and clay that are extracted using enormous amounts of water, as well as open pit mining, heat and horizontal wells. The largest deposit of Canada’s tar sands is along the Athabasca River in Alberta (Source: http://albertacanada.com).
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF TAR SANDS? Tar sands oil extraction and production emit three times more carbon dioxide than the extraction and production of conventional oil. Tar sands extraction requires total destruction of pristine areas within the Canadian Boreal forest, one of the few large, intact ecosystems on Earth (Source: Friends of the Earth). In a 2012 editorial in the New York Times, Jim Hansen of NASA famously wrote that if the tar sands are fully excavated, it will be “game over for the climate,” because Canada’s tar sands contain twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as has been emitted over the entire span of human history (Source: NYT 5/9/12).
WHY SHOULD MARTINEZ RESIDENTS BE CONCERNED? Shell Refinery in Martinez is currently receiving and processing tar sands (Source: CC Times, 6/10/13). Tar sands refineries are known to produce more sulfur dioxide pollution than refineries using conventional crude. Even short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can result in respiratory illness and cardiovascular issues, as well as aggravation of asthma already common in fenceline communities like Martinez (Source: Tar Sands Refineries: Communities At Risk, ForestEthics, September 2012). Shell also has a global role in profiting from the destruction of the climate – Royal Dutch Shell owns 60 percent of the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada (Source: http://www.shell.com).