New Internationalist

Europe gets its first ‘Tar-Free City’

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Oxford has rejected tar sands oil Tejvan Pettinger under a Creative Commons Licence

Oxford has become the first city in Europe to declare itself a ‘Tar-Free City’ after its City Council voted on 24 June to reject the use of tar sands oil by adjusting the policies governing the procurement of fuel for use in the area.

The city, famous for its university, took the lead from the US where similar declarations have been made. ‘Tar-free’ locations include Bellingham, a US gateway for the tar sands, and Burlington, which lies near the route of a proposed tar sands pipeline. In Vermont alone, 28 towns have made the pledge.

Nearly 20 US companies have also agreed to stop using tar sands oil in their vehicles.

There is now thought to be a real possibility that large quantities of tar sands oil will be imported into Britain thanks to the planned Keystone XL pipeline and reversal of the Line 9 pipeline in Canada, which will connect Alberta, where the tar sands are extracted, to the eastern coast of North America. There are already plans to import the oil to Britain via Pembrokeshire in Wales.

‘Europe doesn’t need this extreme energy source, which is responsible for so much destruction,’ said Miranda Shaw from Tar-Free Oxford. ‘Our Council understands that we need to embrace clean, green fuels if we are to have a chance of stopping runaway climate change. I hope other towns and cities will follow Oxford’s lead and take a stand.’

The Canadian tar sands use a carbon-intensive extraction process and have greatly impacted on the lives of First Nations communities such as the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Beaver Lake Cree, who have suffered effects on their health and livelihoods.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are currently taking legal action against Shell, and the Beaver Lake Cree have recently been told they can go to trial over violations of treaty rights.

Thought to be the biggest energy project on earth, the tar sands is also devastating for the environment and produces 1.9 million barrels of oil a day.

A vote is expect later in 2013 on the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Europe’s transport section by 6 per cent by 2020. The legislation, currently opposed by Canada and the oil industry, would label oil imports according to their carbon intensity. According to EU calculations, tar sands oil is 23 per cent more carbon intensive than conventional oil.

Find out more at the Tar-Free Towns website.

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