green and sustainable business

Winter athletes blast Canada’s tar sands industry

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The Winter Olympics this year in Vancouver, BC is an opportunity to be little more than the usual venue for endless corporate advertising and big money sponsorship of “amateur” athletes, thanks to the Sierra Club and its campaign targetting Canada’s tar oil sands extraction industry.

Winter athletes, including sliers and snoboarders, are joining with various international environmental groups to call on Canada to “save the Winter Olympics” and end oil sands destruction.

It’s a combination of athletic self-interest and environmental activism, with the world watching.

“Canada has some of the best snowboarding in the world, but the oil sands industry is going to blow it. This is the dirtiest oil on earth. If we want to save our snow, we have to stop it,” said Jeremy Jones, a mountain snowboarding legend and founder of Protect our Winters, in a press release.

And Mike Richter, the Olympic hockey goalie, adds, “We can’t seriously combat global warming while getting fuel from the world’s dirtiest source. Unless we act now to combat climate change, it could put an end to the winters we know and love.”

The Sierra Club last week launched the U.S.-based “Love Winter, Hate the Oil Sands” campaign, featuring winter sports enthusiasts speaking out, a new website, a sticker giveaway, and tens of thousands asking Americans to sign a petition to President Obama.

In Vancouver, the environment watchdog Dogwood Initiative planned to guide a team of people dressed polar bears through the city “in an effort to rescue the Winter Olympics from the oil sands industry.” Kind of odd but very Canadian, eh?

Canada’s oil sands have been a dirty, somewhat under the radar secret, but maybe not for much longer.

A recent post on Triple Pundit (in which I write an occasional post) highlighted a damning report from Greenpeace on Canada as a global carbon bully with the title, Dirty Oil: How The Tar Sands Are Fuelling the Global Climate Change Crisis.

Oil sands are not quite the viable energy boon they’re cracked up to be. For one thing oil sands production emits three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil and requires clear-cutting of ancient forests, water pollution and waste, and creates toxic lakes to boot. The Sierra Club says that by accelerating climate change, the oil sands industry threatens to cause more drought, receding glaciers and early snowmelt, putting a once and future crimp in Olympic winter sports such as snowboarding and skiing.

“As a skier, I’ve already witnessed glaciers melting and ski areas closing around the world because of climate change,” says Alison Gannett, world champion freeskier and founder of the Save Our Snow Foundation. “The global warming emissions from the oil sands are a threat to the future of skiing and the health of our kids.

“The industry has proposed expanding into the U.S. via a network of pipelines and refineries that would crisscross Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Minnesota and Illinois, in many cases using substandard pipe and threatening drinking water and farmland, the Sierra Club says.

“If we allow the oil sands to expand into America, it will undermine all we’ve done to create good, clean, homegrown American energy. By denying permits for these pipelines, we can signal to the rest of the world that our nation is serious about becoming a global leader in the clean energy economy,” said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

“Canada’s identity as a winter wonderland is threatened by its government’s support of dirty oil and inaction on global warming,” adds Charles Campbell of the Dogwood Initiative.

It’s hard to think of Canada as an eco-bully, but when it comes to tar sands policy its eco-friendly reputation is getting tarred.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

24 February, 2010 at 9:25 am

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