Aaron Sanger

Report: Tar sands refineries put communities at risk

Warns of heart and lung problems from refineries using tar sands
Monday Sep 17, 2012

Tar sands refinery, view from the fence-line.

U.S. refineries and Canada's tar sands

Without oil refineries, our current transportation system would not function. Refineries produce the vast majority of the energy we use for moving people and things from one place to another.

Refineries are also one of the most hazardous parts of our transportation system, especially to the already vulnerable segments of our society. Minority communities and the poor, the young and the old, and those suffering from diseases that affect their heart and lung systems—these are the groups that already pay most dearly for our current dependence upon refineries for transportation fuel. And these are the same people who are now facing additional health costs because of the growing relationship between U.S. refineries and Canada’s tar sands.

U.S. refineries 'pushing the envelope' with Canada's tar sands

Now that the easy oil is gone1, U.S. refineries have begun pushing their ‘operating envelopes’ by using Canada’s tar sands. Refinery use of tar sands leads to a number of problems.

  • Material from Canada’s tar sands is not oil when it comes out of the ground. It's called ‘bitumen’ and is used to make a type of synthetic oil that is much more difficult and expensive to produce than conventional oil2
  • U.S. refineries are using extremely toxic and corrosive ‘bitumen blends’ that comes from Canada’s tar sands
  • Potential health effects of the growing relationship between U.S. refineries and Canada’s tar sands are becoming clear in Alberta, where communities downwind and downstream from those refineries have elevated levels of cancer3

View the press release >>

1. Murray & King, “Climate policy: Oil’s tipping point has passed”. Nature. January 25, 2012.
2. Standing, “Canadian Oil Sands Misses Unrealistic Projection – Issues Another”, Energy Bulletin. December 14, 2009.
3. Chen, “Cancer Incidence in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta 1995-2006.” February 2009.

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