The TAR SANDS are the second largest oil reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia and cover an area larger than the size of England. They are rapidly being converted (with UK help) from pristine Boreal Forest and peatlands (a globally important carbon sink) to a greyish expanse of lifeless opencast strip mines and huge “tailings ponds” of toxic waste-water and sludge – visible from space! It is the most hugely environmentally destructive industrial project on earth. And most of us have never even heard of it!
Now consider the carbon emissions of the Tar Sands oil industry: It produces 3 to 5 times the volume of carbon dioxide per barrel as compared with the “conventional oil” production as in e.g. Saudi. This is because it is a “dirty oil” - as it is in fact bitumen – mixed up so closely with sand, water, clay (and a good dose of toxins!) – that it has to be melted out with vast quantities of hot water/steam – heated by burning natural gas at a rate per day (currently) the same as would heat 3.2 million Canadian homes! In fact the energy-related cost to produce a tar sands barrel can even exceed the market price per barrel!
Furthermore these costs exclude any of the high potential habitat restoration costs – so such restoration is just not done! (and very difficult anyhow). And of course – at the moment – the costs of resulting climate change damage elsewhere in the world are not quite part of the oil industry balance sheet.
We here in Cumbria are fortunate we can at least choose whether our savings make their lives worse by where we invest them. Barclays, RBS and HSBC have a big Tar Sands investment. So how appealing now is a Black Gold ISA?
The full exploitation of Canada’s tar sands - over all the area greater than the size of England - would lead to an estimated increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide of between 9 and 15 parts per million, enough to take us to the brink of runaway climate change. To science fans – This is when “tipping points” to uncontrollable positive feedback carbon-climate loops are reached (e.g. accelerating loss of polar ice-caps (esp. arctic), and exponential release of the extremely potent GHG methane from melted permafrost.
So you and your children are highly likely to be increasingly affected by climate change due to continued exploitation of the Tar Sands – and not just affects on your conscience. What’s more – because the UK is investing heavily into the Tar Sands – and using our money to do so, we also face potential future financial risk if emissions costs, regulations or even legal costs are forced on the Tar Sands industry, or climate-change legislation becomes widespread and effective – such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s low carbon legislation against use of “dirty oil” in California, such as that from the Tar Sands (- now being challenged by the oil companies).
So could “toxic fuel” investments replace “toxic debts” as the next future long-term threat to our bank profits or security?
Fortunately these risks have being heeded by the respected and influential FairPensions org, which assisted by major investors has successfully got Tar Sands resolutions tabled for voting at the imminent AGMs of BP (15th April) and Shell (18th May). If you have a pension (or savings) you can easily support these resolutions by clicking on www.fairpensions.org.uk/tarsands/action. This will help persuade pension providers to vote for these resolutions, and they hold significant share-holder influence on BP and Shell.
This is urgent – as BP is poised to massively increase its stake in the Tar Sands industry. Shell is already hugely in there – but may be decreasing its rate of expansion.
Not so fortunately – our government ignored these investment risks during its “bank bailout” – when the government Treasury (via government-owned UKFI Ltd) gained 85% ownership of RBS using £billions of taxpayers money, and decided not to exercise its huge share-holding power with RBS to influence how they invest this money. This was despite that the known investment track record of RBS with the oil industries – which included many billions already into the Tar Sands – was likely to continue unrestrained.
So with this huge “blank cheque” implying “business as usual”, RBS promptly invested a further $2.5+ billion (this time “bank bailout money” from us taxpayers) into the Tar Sands industry – in direct opposition to apparent government climate change policy.
You can keep up pressure on the Government (e.g. via our MPs) to incorporate your climate change concerns into all government investments – including those into and by RBS.
For further information (and stunning aerial photos) about the Tar Sands see the following websites: