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Oceans Already Hold Three Billion Barrels of Tar Sands/Oil Sands Bitumen: Saxifrage

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While Alberta and British Columbia fight it out over the risk that the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion will trigger a diluted bitumen spill into coastal waters, B.C. analyst Barry Saxifrage says the oceans have already absorbed more than three billion barrels of carbon pollution from the Alberta tar sands/oil sands.

“All the bitumen that doesn’t spill from pipelines or tankers gets burned, ending up as carbon pollution dumped into our environment,” he explains. “Over one-quarter ends up in the oceans, acidifying them for millennia to come.

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Alberta has extracted more than 12 billion barrels of bitumen since 1967, Saxifrage reasons, citing data from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that about 28% of all burned fossil carbon ends up in the oceans—hence the massive problems scientists are reporting with ocean [2] acidification [3]. Another 28% is stored in plants and on land, while the other 44% goes into the atmosphere.

“Kinder Morgan’s new pipeline aims to pump as much new bitumen as Alberta has extracted in the entire history of the oil sands,” Saxifrage notes. “The pipeline is designed to pump 890,000 barrels a day. Over a 40-year operational lifespan, that adds up to 13 billion barrels.”

Which means that, “one way or the other, bitumen, like other fossil fuels, will pollute our oceans. Whether this fossil carbon gets spilled in liquid, solid, or gaseous form, it will cause lasting damage to marine life, to coral reefs, to fisheries, and to the people who cherish and depend on our oceans.