Oil sands, tar sands; tar sands, oil sands–let’s call the whole thing awful

With so many Americans facing a summer characterized by “staycations” (if they’re lucky to even have homes in which to stay), job-hunting, and general belt-tightening, it’s understandable that they’d be more receptive to something–anything–that promised to keep gas prices from soaring again, even if it meant turning their heads for a while so as to avoid seeing the toxic morass of trouble waiting for them not too far down the road. Few of us enjoy being reminded about the dirty realities attendant to our oil addiction on a good day–and in a good economy. When the chips are down, though, and the clever PR folks have been busily weaving their magic, even the sticky, corrosive stuff from Alberta might start to sound good to us–Hey, it’s from Canada, our friends. It will increase the world’s oil supply and that will lower the price!

Or something. Gain an understanding of the nature of the beast–the commodities market, that is, and the manner in which speculators can drive prices upward, as well as the way other oil-producing nations open and close the spigots–and you’ll be quickly disabused of any Econ 101-style fantasy. But who’s got the heart to do even that much, and can we be blamed, really? I mean, what options exist beyond the gasoline-powered internal combustion engines that power the cars we’re all currently trying to cut down on driving?

Yes, more and more automakers are offering electric and hybrid-electric cars, and I’m excited about the ones yet to come. But even taking into account any modest tax incentive, these vehicles don’t come cheap, and for the millions of Americans who are currently unemployed or underemployed, buying a new car of any kind is simply not feasible.

And yes, there are public transportation options for some, depending on where you live. In the vast majority of Florida, for example, it’s extremely difficult to get around without a car. Few areas in this state were built on a model of sustainability, with a mind toward residents being able to walk to work, school, and grocery stores. For the most part, our peninsula is stuffed like a Christmas stocking with huge, ungainly suburbs, all of them laced together by increasingly threadbare ribbons of horrifically crowded roads and interstate highways.

So, then, at this point in time and given the current economic climate, a lot of us are going to be ripe for a good PR nudge by Big Oil. And boy, are the spinmeisters working overtime in their efforts to overcome the facts about the proposed tar sands pipeline, excuse me, oil sands pipeline. (I imagine the phrase tar sands is being phased out due to its propensity to evoke mental images of tar on our sands, fresh in our minds thanks to the catastrophic BP spill last year.)

As I wrote last month, the Keystone XL Pipeline is a project so encumbered by serious threats–to American water tables, to ecosystems, to human lives, and, thanks to the resource-greedy, carbon-spewing process of refining tar sands, to the future of the planet itself–it is almost surreal. It’s a horror show that puts the summer theatre lineup to shame; coming soon, only it’s dead real.

Forewarned is forearmed, so here’s a sampling of information (emphasis mine) about this nightmare of a proposed oil project, and at the bottom, you’ll find a link to the House of Representatives along with the address of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I hope you’ll take a few moments to write to them. It bears repeating: the United States should to be investing heavily in sustainable and renewable energy resources, not enabling further dependence on a fuel that is slowly killing us–or, as is the case with tar sands oil and the Keystone XL pipeline, that will likely sicken and wipe out unknown numbers of lifeforms, including human beings, on an accelerated schedule.

Tar sands oil–that is, the production and exporting thereof–is undeniably bad for Canada:

Oilsands deposits underlie three main areas in northeastern Alberta, totalling about 140,000 square kilometres.

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