Quantcast

Increase in Tar Sands-Derived Fuel Will Set States Back on Emission Standards and Climate Goals

Climate

Motorists from Maine to Maryland will soon be filling their tanks with gas increasingly derived from dirty Canadian tar sands oil, a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says.

A flood of dirty fuel into these East Coast states would undercut their efforts to reduce carbon pollution. The NRDC report, What’s in Your Tank? Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States Need to Reject Tar Sands and Support Clean Fuels, found that under current plans, tar sands-derived gasoline supplies in 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states (plus the District of Columbia) will soar from less than one percent in 2012 to 11.5 percent of the total by 2020, due to increased imports from Canadian refineries, fresh supplies of refined tar sands products from the Gulf Coast and production from East Coast refineries that would obtain tar sands crude via rail and barge.

An influx of carbon-intensive fuels into the region, which in 2012 was virtually tar sands-free, will hurt the efforts to combat climate change, which has already caused billions of dollars in damage in those states, according to the report. 

“Dirty gasoline supplies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are set to rise significantly, unless states take steps to keep out high-carbon fuel,” said Danielle Droitsch, director of the NRDC Canada Project. “By 2015 the volume of tar sands-derived fuel in the Northeast could grow six-fold, compared to 2012. Unless these states move as quickly as possible to clean energy, their efforts to combat climate change will suffer.”

The new Gulf Coast Pipeline, which will bring tar sands crude from Cushing, OK, to refineries on the Gulf Coast, makes it even more urgent for communities and policy-makers to take action to keep tar sands out of the region, she said.

All the states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region have developed state action plans or enacted legal requirements to cut dangerous carbon pollution, which is the major driver of climate change. Among the steps they’ve taken: clean car and zero-emission vehicle performance standards, the purchase of clean buses and other fleet vehicles, and funding clean fuel infrastructure, such as charging stations for plug-in vehicles.

But these important carbon savings would be squandered by using gasoline from tar sands, which emits 17 percent more carbon pollution than conventional gasoline measured on a life-cycle basis (from initial extraction to burning in vehicles, or “well-to-wheels”.) 

If the controversial Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. is approved by President Obama, the region’s share of gas from tar-sands crude could rise even further, according to the report.

The report said the state leaders with the support of citizens and local communities need to take steps to clean up transportation. “First, they should demand that gasoline suppliers disclose the origin and the carbon intensity of the fuel, i.e., the amount of carbon emitted measured on a ‘well-to-gas-tank’ basis,” Droitsch said. “Second, they should enact policies to discourage the greater use of carbon-intensive fuels.”

“People have the right to know what is going into their fuel tank,” Droitsh added.

The extraction and refining of oil from Alberta’s vast tar sands region, an area the size of Florida, is an energy-intensive process that destroys carbon-trapping forest lands and emits 81 percent more carbon pollution than conventional oil extraction and refining (‘well-to-tank’). NRDC and others oppose Keystone XL, which would carry Alberta’s tar sands oil through the heartland of America to Gulf Coast refineries, in part because it would enable a vast expansion in tar sands production. As NRDC has explained, Keystone XL is primarily an export pipeline, but some portion of its refined products would flow to the East Coast. 

If dirty tar sands fuel continues on track to become a significant share of supplies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, that would add millions more tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere each year—just as the region is aiming to cut such pollution under the landmark Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state pact to combat climate change by reducing carbon pollution from power plants, according to the report. Hurricanes Sandy and Irene—the type of extreme weather that will become more frequent with climate change—have already wreaked billions of dollars of damage in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

The report also underscores the importance of promoting a wide variety of low-carbon and no-carbon transportation alternatives, from cleaner fuels to buses and rail, bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly city planning.

Visit EcoWatch’s TAR SANDS and TRANSPORTATION pages for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

With well over a billion cars worldwide, electric vehicles are still only a small percentage. An economist from the University of Michigan Energy Institute says that is likely to change. Maskot / Getty Images

In 2018, there were about 5 million electric cars on the road globally. It sounds like a large number, but with well over a billion cars worldwide, electric vehicles are still only a small percentage.

Read More
Nestlé is accelerating its efforts to bring functional, safe and environmentally friendly packaging solutions to the market and to address the global challenge of plastic packaging waste. Nestlé / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Nestlé, the world's largest food company, said it will invest up to $2 billion to address the plastic waste crisis that it is largely responsible for.

Read More
Sponsored
Determining the effects of media on people's lives requires knowledge of what people are actually seeing and doing on those screens. Vertigo3d / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Byron Reeves, Nilam Ram and Thomas N. Robinson

There's a lot of talk about digital media. Increasing screen time has created worries about media's impacts on democracy, addiction, depression, relationships, learning, health, privacy and much more. The effects are frequently assumed to be huge, even apocalyptic.

Read More
Indigenous people of various ethnic groups protest calling for demarcation of lands during the closing of the 'Red January - Indigenous Blood', in Paulista Avenue, in São Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 31, 2019. Cris Faga / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Raphael Tsavkko Garcia

Rarely has something so precious fallen into such unsafe hands. Since Jair Bolsonaro took the Brazilian presidency in 2019, the Amazon, which makes up 10 percent of our planet's biodiversity and absorbs an estimated 5 percent of global carbon emissions, has been hit with a record number of fires and unprecedented deforestation.

Read More
Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Washington on May 12, 2017. GLENN CHAPMAN / AFP via Getty Images

Microsoft announced ambitious new plans to become carbon negative by 2030 and then go one step further and remove by 2050 all the carbon it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975, according to a company press release.

Read More