In a new television advertisement, oil giant Exxon Mobil promotes Canadian tar sands for “energy security and economic growth,” with the potential to create “hundreds of thousands of jobs.” The narrator, Exxon marketing manager Artis Brown, claims Exxon’s Kearl tar sands project will produce crude “with the same emissions as many other oils”:
America is facing some tough challenges right now. Two of the most important are energy security and economic growth. North America actually has one of the largest oil reserves in the world. A large part of that is oil sands. This resource has the ability to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. At our Kearl oil sands project in Canada, we’ll be able to produce these oil sands with the same emissions as many other oils, and that’s a huge breakthrough. That’s good for our country’s energy security and our economy.
The 30-second ad manages to say almost nothing that isn’t misleading:
“Two Of The Most Important Challenges”: Exxon deliberately ignores mention of the third related challenge that tar sands development affects: global warming. The Kearl tar sands mine contains over 5.5 billion barrels worth of bitumen — the tarry substance that gets processed into synthetic crude through an energy-intensive and ecologically destructive process. Even if the processing of the bitumen didn’t produce huge amounts of greenhouse pollution (see below), using oil from the Kearl project would emit about 2 billion tons of greenhouse pollution. There will be no “energy security and economic growth” in a world ravaged by rapid climate change.
“Hundreds Of Thousands Of Jobs”: The industry study that claims there will be massive job creation from tar sands development — mostly in Canada — admits that 82 percent of the jobs “created” aren’t actually in tar sands production. The oil and gas industry is one of the worst sectors for investment in job creation — green sectors create four times as many jobs with the same investment.
“Same Emissions As Many Other Oils”: Kearl is expected to produce 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to 800,000 passenger vehicles. ExxonMobil is optimistic that experimental technology will reduce greenhouse pollution from oil derived from the Kearl tar sands by about 6 percent (a 25 percent reduction of production-related emissions, which are about 25 percent of total emissions, including combustion). Even with advanced technology, the tar-sands oil production will always be more polluting than conventional oil production.
Each year, the cost to civilization of each added ton of carbon dioxide increases. Exploiting the Canadian tar sands to fuel ExxonMobil’s profits would be suicidal. If Exxon has its way, climate scientist James Hansen warns, “it is essentially game over.” This is why thousands of people are heading to the White House to stage a mass protest to convince President Obama not to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.