Vast boreal forestlands in Alberta, Canada, are being ripped up by the world’s largest oil companies to extract “tar sands,” in what some have called the most destructive project on Earth. These tar sands are converted into a petroleum product destined mostly for sale in the United States. Maine currently imports very little gasoline from tar sands, but this could change if the tar sands industry gets its way.
This “dirtiest of the dirty” form of gasoline production (releasing three times as much greenhouse gasses as through extraction of conventional oil) could be destined for Maine starting in 2011. David Cyr of the Portland Pipe Line Company, told members of Maine’s Natural Resources Committee that his company is keenly interested in a project that would bring crude oil from Alberta tar sands to marine tankers at their South Portland facilities, then off to refineries on the East Coast. According to Cyr, “The pace of the project has been slowed in recent months due to economic conditions and we expect work will resume in earnest in 2011.”
Representative Elsie Flemings (D-Bar Harbor) introduced legislation (LD 1422) this year aimed at trying to keep Maine from becoming a pipe line superhighway for tar sands. Her bill also would have required a new level of public disclosure about the use of coal in Maine’s electricity product. The bill was defeated because Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection claimed that it would cost too much ($70,000) to produce the called-for studies and analysis, and lawmakers were not prepared to fund the bill. With the defeat of LD 1422, most Mainers will remain in the dark about the coal used in generating their electricity and Maine will not start exploring options to keep us from becoming a corridor for tar sands, opening up the entire U.S. east coast as a new market for this dirty fuel.