Washington/Toronto/Montreal – A new analysis released today shows that pipelines exporting tar sands oil out of Alberta are nearly 89 per cent full.
The analysis released by Oil Change International, in collaboration with several major environmental organizations, calculates that if market constraints continue, there will be no further growth in tar sands extraction and tens of billions of metric tonnes of carbon will stay in the ground – a significant positive step towards a safer climate.

The analysis is featured in a new report, entitled Lockdown: The end of growth in the tar sands, which illustrates how citizen opposition from across North America has successfully stopped and/or delayed tar sands pipeline infrastructure, keeping carbon in the ground and benefiting our climate.

“Growing public opposition, the drop in oil prices and the lack of pipeline availability all show that tar sands growth is no longer inevitable,” says Adam Scott of Environmental Defence Canada. “There is no place in a warming world for new pipelines that would enable tar sands expansion, and cause carbon emissions to climb.”

“When asked about the Energy East pipeline during the election, Liberal leader and now Prime minister-designate of Canada Justin Trudeau said that “governments give permits, people give permission” and clearly, people are saying no to pipelines all across North America,” said Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre.

By definitively demonstrating the hard link between pipeline capacity and tar sands expansion in coming years, the analysis confirms that building tar sands pipelines, such as Energy East, Kinder Morgan or Keystone XL, would directly lead to massive increases in climate pollution.

The report finds that all proposed new pipeline routes out of Alberta are currently facing legal challenges, opposition by local authorities and regulators, and broad-based public opposition. All major projects have been significantly delayed, with some cancellations seemingly imminent. No pipeline has been built since 2010 despite oil industry efforts.

To assess the impact of these pipeline constraints, Oil Change International built a new and comprehensive model called the Integrated North American Pipelines model (INAP). The model finds:

  • the current pipeline system is at 89 per cent of capacity
  • the industry will run out of pipeline capacity as soon as 2017
  • Subsequent economic and carbon analysis of the data finds:
  • 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
  • the emissions savings of no new growth would be 34.6 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (equivalent to the annual emissions of 232 coal plants over 40 years)

“This model shows us what every board room in the sector is stewing over – this industry does not have room for profitable growth,” says Tom Sanzillo, Director of Finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Under mainstream oil price forecasts, the model shows that market access constraints take new growth from being commercial to uncommercial.”

“In the lead up to the Paris climate talks, it is people power that is driving the future we need – it is saving us from locking in decades’ worth of high carbon infrastructure that the climate and our economies simply cannot afford,” says Hannah McKinnon of Oil Change International. “Now is the time for leaders to see the writing on the wall and look towards the safer, cleaner energy that will power this century.”

With the previous Canadian administration having faced major international criticism on climate and energy, the pipeline constraint also offers the new government an opportunity to change course.
Download the report here.

The groups issuing this release are: Oil Change International, Bold Nebraska, Environmental Defence Canada, Équiterre, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club U.S., and 350.org.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Tim Ehlich, Environmental Defence, 647-468-3641 (cell); tehlich@environmentaldefence.ca