The multi-billion investment needed to expand the extraction of oil from tar sands production over the next 15 years will divert finance from renewable energy development, say campaigners.
Figures from the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimate £254 billion is required to bring oil production up to four million barrels per day from the current levels of one million.
The energy needed to extract and process the oil results in greenhouse gas emissions per barrel far greater than those of conventional oil. The spread of the tar sands exploration and production is also destroying forests and impacting on local wildlife and communities.
Tar sands investment
A joint Co-operative Group/WWF report has highlighted that the multi-billion pound plans would not only increase reliance on fossil-fuels but is also an investment that energy companies like BP and Shell could be making in low-carbon alternatives.
BP is investing $12.5 billion in tar sands projects and infrastructure, including the Sunrise tar sands project, a tar sands extraction project near Alberta. It has also struck a deal to buy a major share in a Canadian oil sands company.
Shell is spending $14 billion on expanding the Athabasca Oil Sands project, also in Alberta. This is in contrast to the $1.7 billion the company invested in alternative energy between 2004-9.
The report, 'Opportunity cost of tar sands development', points out that £250 billion would be enough to fund the infrastructure [e.g. charging points] for a Europe-wide system of electric cars and subsidise their sale.
The same investment could also fund the Desertec project to link solar plants into a supergrid covering North Africa, Middle-East and Europe.
A much smaller £26.5 billion could pay for a North Sea supergrid linking European countries' renewable energy projects (mainly wind and wave) via high voltage undersea cables.
The move comes as campaigners look to put pressure on BP and Shell ahead of their upcoming AGMs.
Investors in the two companies have put forward a resolution which would force them to disclose and justify their involvement in Canadian tar sands. All shareholders will vote on whether to support the resolution.
Co-op/WWF report on tar sands
BP and Shell face new shareholder revolt over tar sands
Investors want oil giants to answer questions on their involvement in the environmentally damaging extraction of oil from tar sands
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