Green Century Capital Management filed a shareholder resolution with ExxonMobil to disclose information about its investments in Canadian oil sands (commonly called tar sands). Canada’s tar sands are the second largest oil resource in the world, with over 173 billion barrels in reserve. By the end of last year, ExxonMobil’s “total proved reserves in the oil sands were over 2.78 billion barrels-just over 11 percent of the company’s total proved reserves,” according to a press release by Green Century.
An ExxonMobil ad about oil sands says developing them is “good for our energy and our economy.” However, extracting Canada’s tar sands requires “clear-cutting of the Boreal Forest,” according to Green Century. Extracting tar sands oil also causes 15 to 40 percent more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional oil sources.
“ExxonMobil’s considerable investments in the oil sands expose the company to significant financial and regulatory risks, yet the company fails to provide meaningful disclosure on this important issue,” said Larisa Ruoff, Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Green Century. “Without transparency, shareholders have no way of knowing how the company is managing and mitigating these potential risks.”
“We believe this strong vote indicates that a substantial portion of the company’s shareholders support increased transparency and accountability related to its oil sands operations and we encourage the company to respond swiftly and fully to its investors,” continued Ruoff.
Tar sands oil is not good for the environment
Earlier this month an oil spill occurred in northern Alberta from a broken pipeline. 28,000 barrels of oil leaked “into the soil and collected into pools along hundreds of meters of the pipeline’s path northeast of Peace River,” reported the Canadian Press. The leak was found in a 44 year old pipeline which runs 772 kilometers from Zama, Alberta to Edmonton.
“It is a very large spill,” said Davis Sheremata from the Energy Resources Conservation Board. “It’s a very large amount of oil.”
A report released in February by the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Pipeline Safety Trust and National Wildlife Federation about the Canadian tar sands industry details the environmental risks from transporting diluted bitumen (DilBit) extracted from the tar sands. The report describes DilBit as “highly corrosive, acidic and potentially unstable.” The report cited a leak in a tar sands pipeline which spilled over 840,000 gallons of DilBit into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in July 2010 as an example of the danger of tar sands oil transportation.
DilBit exports to the U.S. increased “almost fivefold, to 550,000 barrels per day” last year in 2010. By 2019, as much as 1.5 million barrels per day of DilBit is planned to be imported to the U.S. by Canadian tar sands producers.