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The Battle Against the Tar Sands Is About to Change

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The fight against the tar sands is a big one.

We stand in defense of the land, water, climate and communities against the richest companies on the planet, and a federal and provincial government who are intent on extracting tar sands as quickly as possible regardless of the cost.

Working in Alberta, the belly of the tar sands beast, the odds are often overwhelming but, over the past few months, something has changed.

The resistance to the tar sands has not only grown in leaps and bounds, it is changing the dynamics of the entire fight.

Last week's massive People's Climate March in New York that brought over 400,000 people to the streets of New York, led by climate impacted and Indigenous communities, was just one of many signs of hope that are starting to emerge.

People are standing up to the largest carbon bullies on the planet and we are starting to win.

Here are just a few of the inspiring highlights:

We are winning the major tar sands pipeline fights (not just one, but all of them!)
  • Northern Gateway: Harper may have approved the Northern Gateway tarsands pipeline but its never going to be built. The B.C. government doesn't want it. There may be a B.C.-wide referendum on it. There is a litany of First Nation lawsuits against it. This pipeline is a dead man walking. Even investors think so which is why Enbridge's share price dropped the two days after there was approval to build it. This pipeline simply won't happen.
  • Kinder Morgan: This is another big battle but the signs are good we are going to win this one too. The mayor of Burnaby and the mayor of Vancouver are against it and the First Nation opposition is intensifying as well. With the recent Supreme Court decision strengthening First Nation rights to land and title, the future for the Kinder Morgan pipeline doesn't look good and the City of Burnaby just got an initial victory stopping Kinder Morgan's surveying operation dead in their tracks.
  • Line 9: Line 9 was dealt a major blow by the city council of South Portland, Maine, the port that Line 9 was hoping to export its tar sands oil to. The council voted six-to-one to ban tar sands oil from its port. This means line 9 has no outlet to the ocean! The City of Montreal also recently came out and said it doesn't support the project.
  • Keystone XL: This has been a big, lengthy battle but the signs are (knock on wood), if we keep up the pressure, President Obama will deny the project after the U.S. midterms in November. This would be another huge victory so be prepared to party down in Nebraska.
  • Energy East: This proposed tar sands pipeline is just getting started. As the pipeline slowly moves through the process, the opposition to it is getting bigger. The fact this pipeline would stretch from Alberta to New Brunswick means we have a roadmap of resistance to unite people right across Canada who would rather have a clean energy future than a tar sands nightmare. 

Growing opposition is already having huge effects not just in protecting communities and the environment from the problems pipelines and/or tankers pose. It's also hitting the tar sands beast at the source as well.

Here are a few examples:

  • Just a few days ago Norwegian owned StatOil mothballed its Corner tar sands project. The multibillion dollar project would have produced 806-million barrels of bitumen and have emitted 482-million metric tons CO2 by 2050, equivalent to one year's emissions from 101.4-million passenger vehicles. The reasons Statoil gave for the shelving were rising production costs and lack of pipeline capacity. ;)
  • A few months ago, because of how much we are collectively kicking ass on the pipeline front, Total also had to mothball its 11-billion dollar Jocelyn tar sands mine project. 
Total and StatOil are not the only ones feeling the hurt.
  • Sunshine oil has had to put its tar sands project on hold because of a drop in investment.
  • Sinopec is also considering backing out of its Northern Lights tar sands project. Check out this incredibly honest quote from an anonymous source within Sinopec, Sinopec "is having trouble with Northern Lights like everybody else. You can't throw money into a black hole forever."
  • CNRL is having problems as the recent review into its four ongoing spills showed that their method of extraction was the culprit. This means -- at a minimum -- that CNRL will have much fewer barrels of tar sands coming out of its operations this year and could have much broader implications for the future of in-situ if we can ramp things up.

While pipelines are being plugged, and projects are being cancelled real solutions are being implemented all over the world:

  • Last week the Rockefeller brothers announced that, together with 49 other foundations, they would be divesting over 50-billion dollars of fossil fuel investment and shift it to clean energy sources.
  • In May, 74 per cent of Germany's power needs were generated from renewables. That fact alone shows just what's possible. The 250,000 people Germany employs in its solar PV sector also shows the employment benefits that come from renewable investments. Germany is not alone.
  • The EU has ruled that each country in Europe has to have 30 per cent renewable energy.
  • Bangladesh is installing nearly two new rooftop PV systems every minute -- making it the most rapidly growing market for PV in the world.
  • India's newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an incredible plan to use solar to supply electricity to over 400-million Indians who currently don't have it.
  • In the U.S., the vast majority of new electricity is coming from renewables. California and Texas already set solar power records this year. As the price of solar continues to drop, coal fired power plants are being closed. As a show of their commitment to real solutions Keystone XL opponents have built a solar powered barn right in Keystone's path and have begun re-planting sacred Ponca corn, both as a solution and another sign of just how strong the Cowboy Indian alliance really is.

In Canada, solutions are also starting to take root even without any federal government support.

  • Ontario has emerged as a real solar champion. Ontario's feed-in tariff has spurred solar investment and propelled the province to be one of North America's leaders.
  • Despite the Alberta governments tar sands blinders, things are also starting to change here. Fort Chipewyan, one of the communities most heavily hurt by the tar sands, has started investing in solar. Their first panels went up two weeks ago.

It is still a huge fight ahead with fires blazing on many fronts, but we are doing amazing things and gaining a lot of ground on some of the biggest carbon crooks on the planet.

So take heart. The battles are big but, together, with love and courage, we can turn the tide and in many ways we already are. We are writing the future and it will be beautiful. We just need to keep up the pressure to get it here.

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