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Oil-ympics Come To Trafalgar Square

Oil-ympics protest at Trafalgar Squarephoto © Marina Watson Peláez

On Saturday, 13 February at 12 noon, UK and Canadian environmental activists opened the ‘Oil-ympics’ at Canada House in Trafalgar Square. The event, timed to coincide with the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, highlighted the role of British companies in the single biggest industrial project on earth, the Canadian Tar Sands (1).

The Oil-ympics event saw activists divided into three teams: BP, Shell and RBS, all ready to ‘Race to the Tar Sands’. Traditional winter sports were subverted to illustrate the irony of Canada portraying the Vancouver Winter Olympics as an event which celebrates Canadian indigenous culture and environmental sustainability, while in the neighbouring province of Alberta, Canadian First Nations are finding that their lands, communities and health are being devastated by the Tar Sands (2).

BP received special attention after it recently unveiled plans to embark on its first Tar Sands extraction project. BP had previously sold its potential stake in Alberta in 1999, when BP’s chief executive at the time, Lord Browne, deemed Tar Sands extraction to be economically unviable and environmentally unpleasant. However, BP’s new chief executive, Tony Hayward, is now set to make BP a major player in the Tar Sands with a partnership with Canada’s Husky Energy – a venture that is facing sharp criticism from BP’s own shareholders (3,4).

Alice Hargreaves, of the UK Tar Sands Network, said: “BP has been trying to prove that they are ‘Beyond Petroleum’ for years, but with their entry into the Tar Sands project, we can see the truth: Beyond Petroleum is nothing more than a Broken Promise.(5) BP shareholders are rebelling over this betrayal, and so are we. Over the next two months, we’ll be putting the pressure on to make sure BP get the message – stay out of the Tar Sands!”

Shell has been singled out as it is already a major operator in the Tar Sands, and RBS as it is the 7th biggest global investor in the Tar Sands. (6)
Oil-ympics - Tar Sands In Focus: photo © Victoria Habermehl, tarsandsinfocusphoto © Victoria Habermehl, tarsandsinfocus

(1) Deposits of Tar Sands are spread out over 54,000 square miles of prime forest in northern Alberta, an area the size of England and Wales combined. Producing crude oil from the Tar Sands generates up to five times more carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, than conventional drilling: see Environment Canada, 2007, National Inventory Report Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada 1990–2005,

(2) This action is in solidarity with Canadian First Nations who have called for a moratorium on the Tar Sands. For more information see the Indigenous Environmental Network:

(3) BP has entered a joint venture with Husky Energy to develop a Tar Sands facility which will be capable of producing 200,000 barrels of crude a day by 2020. In return for a half share of Husky’s Sunrise field in the Athabasca region of Alberta, the epicentre of the Tar Sands industry, BP has sold its partner a 50 per cent stake in its Toledo oil refinery in Ohio. The companies plan to invest $10 billion in the project, making BP a major player in Tar Sands extraction. The final investment decision will be made in the next few months.

(4) A coalition of shareholders has tabled a resolution for BP’s AGM on April 15 highlighting the environmental and social risks of Tar Sands extraction.


(6) For Shell Investments see

For RBS investments see

Originally posted on Indymedia UK by UK Tar Sands Network
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Meanwhile in Brighton:

Climate Camp Invades BP Petrol Stations Over Tar Sands

On Saturday 13th February activists from the South Coast neighbourhood of the Camp for Climate Action invaded the three BP petrol stations in Brighton, on the Lewes Rd, Ditchling Rd and London Rd, to protest at BP's plans to invest in the Alberta Tar Sands in Canada. Moving by bicycle 8 activists carried a banner reading 'Tar Sands Oil Is Blood Oil'. They handed out information on the Canadian tar sands and BP's plans to invest in it to customers and urged them to boycott BP.

Many of BP's customers where shocked to hear about BP's proposed involvement in one of the dirtiest businesses on earth, especially in the light of its past attend to project a green image, and in some cases left immediately left to get their fuel somewhere else. This action is the start of a campaign, which is hoped will spread across the UK. A one of the Brighton activists said: "We hope that other concerned local people across the UK will follow our example and begin putting the pressure on BP in their areas. Tar sands are an appalling example of placing insane greed ahead of the whole planet and everyone on it."

Tar sands are deposits of tar, sand and clay under the forests of Alberta in western Canada. Tar sands extraction is an ecological disaster, sometimes referred to as 'The biggest environmental crime in history'. Oil produced from tar sands is the filthiest most carbon intensive oil (over 3 times as much CO2 to produce as conventional oil). The Athabasca tar sands operations are the largest single industrial emitter of CO2 on the planet. Enough natural gas is used every day extracting this oil to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes.

Tar sands extraction involves the wholesale destruction of vast tracts of ancient forest over an area the size of England and Wales and the use of huge amounts of water that is left so contaminated that it must be stored in giant ponds. The toxic tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from space. Leaks for these ponds are poisoning local rivers and the indigenous peoples that live there. The rush to extract oil from tar sands is also trampling on the rights of the local indigenous peoples.

While the tar sands are in Canada, much of the financing is coming from UK companies. BP which once tried to rebrand itself as `Beyond Petroleum' to give itself a green image is planning on investing $10billion in the Sunrise Project a tar sands extraction project in Alberta. This week a number BP's shareholders have started a revolt and are pressuring BP to stop. Other UK companies that are involved in tar sands include Shell, RBS and Barcalys.

Brighton BP Tar Sands ProtestBrighton BP Tar Sands Protest banner


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