Tar Sands mining in Alberta, Canada creates as much air pollution as a large power plant or a medium-sized city, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Scientists used satellites to measure nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide emitted from the industry and found high levels of both gasses, despite the industry's claims that they are making great strides in reducing the pollution associated with tar sands development.
"For both gasses, the levels are comparable to what satellites see over a large power plant - or for nitrogen dioxide, comparable to what they see over some medium-sized cities," said Chris McLinden, a research scientist with Environment Canada, the country's environmental agency. "It stands out above what's around it, out in the wilderness, but one thing we wanted to try to do was put it in context."
Previous research by Environment Canada
showed that the pollution from the tar sands alone was going to make it impossible for Canada to come anywhere close to meeting its emissions reductions targets.
“Environment Canada’s projections make it crystal clear that the oil sands will only continue to be one of this country’s most urgent emissions problems in the coming decade and beyond,” Simon Dyer, policy director at the Pembina Institute, which studies energy and environmental issues, told the New York Times when the study was released.
That study and the one released this week are stark reminders that the tar sands are one of the largest carbon bombs on the planet and that tar sands fuel is some of the dirtiest stuff on earth. President Obama made the right call in stopping the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Now, it's up to all of us to make sure that any other tar sands projects meet the same fate.