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LETTER: Andrea challenges Sun columnist on the tar sands

Yesterday, Sun Media columnist Roy Clancy wrote in more than 27 newspapers across Canada that, “Canadian church leaders head to northern Alberta tomorrow to explore the theological, moral and ethical implications of the oilsands…This massive industrial project creates a national demand for jobs, technology and manufactured goods. The enormous tax revenue generated by all this activity benefits everyone…Maybe the church group should make Windsor-Detroit the next stop on its ‘eco-justice’ tour.”

Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue has responded through a letter to the editor that has been published in the London Free Press (with a circulation of 115,000 readers), and undoubtedly in other Sun Media news outlets.

Andrea writes, “Clearly, there is a need for more ‘sermons’ on the impacts of the tar sands, especially for Canadian decision-makers. Ranging from Environment Minister Prentice declaring emission related trade sanctions on imports in the U.S. Climate Bill a ‘prescription for disaster’ to Natural Resource Minister Lisa Raitt’s veiled threat that California’s now passed Low Carbon Fuel Standard may be perceived as an ‘unfair trade barrier,’ the undercurrent is clear: we need to keep exporting our crude to the U.S.”

She argues, “Rather than bemoan the affects of U.S. policy, we should be focusing on the task at hand. The current slowdown in tar sands expansions caused by the economic crisis – which is not yet slowing the over 1 million barrels of crude being produced per day – is an opportunity to assess, address and develop a Canadian plan to transition to sustainable energy production and consumption. There is a reason why Maude Barlow used ‘Mordor’ to describe the tar sands. Vast tracks of boreal forests are ripped up, large amounts of water are used and contaminated, there are health concerns downstream and the tar sands are one of Canada’s largest and fastest growing sources of emissions.”

Andrea concludes that, “While the HIS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) report recognizes concerns with the tar sands, it obviously fails to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and buys into the same ‘magic bullet’ prescription of carbon capture and storage (CCS) that the Canadian and Albertan governments have. CCS is expensive requiring massive subsidies, the timeframe for its implementation is long and there is evidence that it will have limited capacity to reduce emissions in the tar sands. CCS does not address the other serious impacts of the tar sands, tail pipe emissions and distracts from focusing on reducing our dependency on oil. Further, to suggest that we must continue expansions in the tar sands because the Canadian economy depends on it fails to recognize the well-known pitfalls of a boom and bust cycle – one that we should be remedying, not defending.”

Andrea’s letter can be read at

Roy Clancy’s column is at