Lockdown: the end of growth in the tar sands

MacKinnon, Hannah

Publisher:  Oil Change International
Date Written:  27/10/2015
Year Published:  2015  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX18232

Climate change is here and now. And if world leaders had heeded scientific warnings 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or even as recently as the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 -- it's possible we would be well on our way to securing the decarbonized future that the world desperately needs.

Abstract:  -

Just a few days ago, Hurricane Patricia became the strongest hurricane ever measured as it made landfall on the western coast of Mexico. It hit as we approach the end of another year that is expected to break last year’s record as the hottest year of recorded temperatures.


Unfortunately that is not how the story goes. Instead, world leaders have pandered and caved to the powerful fossil fuel lobby: rubber stamping massive carbon-intensive infrastructure, unlocking billions of tonnes of new carbon in hard-to-reach places like the deep offshore ocean, the arctic, or hard-to-extract resources like tar sands, and proceeded to design energy policy around scenarios incompatible with a safe global climate.


The report, Lockdown: The end of growth in the tar sands, is all about the numbers. We Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.20.01 PMbuilt a model (the first of its kind in the public sphere) that looks at the entire North American tar sands pipeline system. Using this model (INAP – the Integrated North American Pipeline model), we were able to determine bottlenecks, hurdles, and pressure points for the industry.


INAP finds that:

The current tar sands pipeline system is 89% full; and
The industry will run out of transportation capacity as soon as 2017 without major new pipelines, or significant expansion to existing systems.

We then assessed the impacts of these pipelines constraints on the tar sands sector and found:

Further growth in the sector is unlikely to be viable without major pipeline expansion;
Transporting tar sands by rail is too expensive to justify major new growth; and
The emissions savings of this no new growth reality would be 34.6 gigatons of CO2


New pipelines would mean massive tar sands expansion that is incompatible with a safe global climate. Any government serious about climate change must confront the scientific reality that there is no room for major new fossil fuel infrastructure that locks in production and expansion. The conversation must now be about keeping carbon in the ground. Period.


A safer climate is within reach and we cannot wait for decision makers to come to terms with the scale of the challenge – we must continue to build circumstances where clean, safe, and renewable energy replaces last century’s fossil fuels. We must create the conditions where this transition is a just one where workers can move from carbon-intensive energy production to a decarbonized technology workforce. And we must ensure that everything we continue to do is done as allies to those on the front lines of both climate change and carbon-intensive industries.

Subject Headings

Insert T_CxShareButtonsHorizontal.html here