photo by species_snob (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Canadian province of Alberta is home to a particularly dirty kind of oil field: so called ‘Tar Sands’. The world’s largest source of bitumen – a heavy, black form of crude oil extracted by surface mining – is located in the northeastern portion of the province. Most of the oil mined from Canada’s tar sands is destined for refineries in the United States, but with American companies shying away from the oil sands due to environmental pressure and China moving in, things look to be changing. An article in the Guardian explains:

China’s growing investment in the tar sands is seen in Canada as a useful counter to waning demand for tar sands oil from the US, its biggest customer. The moves, which have largely gone unnoticed outside north America, could add further tension to efforts to try to reach a global action plan on climate change.

Though legislation limiting carbon emissions in the United States is currently tied up in Congress, oil giant Shell is scaling back expansion plans in the tar sands and the Pentagon is cutting down its use of tar sands oil to comply with regulations requiring that government agencies source fuels that have less greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite predictions of fall in global demand for oil, other Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and India are also joining China in investing in Canada’s oil sands.

Additional resources:

‘O No, Canada!’ – Alberta’s Oil Sands