The Bigger Picture

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

Dirty Oil

  • Tar sands oil emits three times more greenhouse gases during production than conventional gasoline
  • About three barrels of water are polluted and dumped in toxic pools (called tailing ponds) for every barrel of oil produced.
  • Tar sands extraction requires strip mining huge tracts of pristine forest. An area the size of Florida is slated for extraction.
  • The project harms the lives and health of people living downstream from the tar sands operations and has been connected to high rates of rare cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism in the area.

Keystone XL Pipeline

    Producing the oil for this pipeline will emit 11 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, even before it gets to the U.S. for refining. This equals the annual emissions of 2.7 million cars. 
  • The pipeline will travel more than 1,700 miles through farmland and fragile ecosystems, such as the Missouri River. Pipeline breaks are not uncommon, as seen in January 2010, when a pipeline in North Dakota spilled 126,000 gallons of oil into the surrounding area.
  • TransCanada plans to use thin pipe and pump oil at pressures that exceed the normal allowable limits. The company is seeking a special permit to operate at this pressure from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
  • By connecting tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast, the Keystone XL will make our nation’s fuels dirtier and undermine the clean energy solutions we need to avert catastrophic climate change.

What are Tar Sands?

Tar sands oil is mined from a black sticky substance called bitumen, found beneath the vast boreal forest in Alberta, Canada. To extract tar sands crude, oil companies clear-cut ancient forest, then strip mine the soil beneath it, using huge quantities of fresh water and natural gas to separate the oil from bitumen. The process leaves behind giant toxic lakes that are linked to abnormally high rates of cancer in neighboring communities and are large enough to be seen from space.

Potential Disaster for Texas

The oil industry is expanding facilities to process this toxic oil here in the United States through a network of refineries and pipelines. Pipelines which would end up in our own backyards. Running from North texas, through East Texas and dumping its contents in South Texas, the pipelines are a disaster waiting to happen through many pristine natural areas and populated town alike.

In the wake of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, many people are thinking more about where we get our oil, and at what cost. A vast network of oil pipelines crisscross our country, posing a largely overlooked threat, especially in the rural areas of America’s breadbasket. Many pipelines are already poisoning water and land throughout the country, with over 2,5000 spills from pipelines occurring within the last decade alone.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would make the situation much worse here in Texas. The pipeline would carry toxic tar sands oil across hundreds of miles of Texas farmland. Now, Texans from the Red River to the Gulf Coast are worried about Canada’s tar sands expansion poisoning our water, destroying our farmland, and contaminating our air.

Download a fact sheet on the pipeline’s bigger picture:

Check out the documentary H2Oil for more background:

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