THE BLOG
10/01/2014 06:49 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2014

If a Tar-Sands Project Fails in the Forest...

Back in March, I wrote about the Keystone XL "it"s not about the pipe," saying that any rejection of new tar sands pipelines serves the purpose of keeping this dirty oil in the ground. Some good news from last week proves the point that I and others have been making. The Norwegian energy firm Statoil announced that it would pull the plug on a planned multibillion-dollar, 40,000 barrel per day destructive tar sands project in Alberta. What reason did they give? Rising costs and "limited pipeline access which weighs on prices for Alberta oil, squeezing margins and making it difficult for sustainable financial returns." (Translation: We are kicking Keystone's keister.)

In fact, Statoil's is actually the third Canadian tar-sands cancellation this year. This latest one, though, is both the largest and the first in-situ project to get the axe. The other two were strip-mining operations, which carry a higher overhead. If you can't make the numbers work for an in-situ tar sands mine, then your business model is in trouble.

And if Statoil's project is in trouble, you can bet the whole tar sands industry is looking over its shoulder. They may wish they hadn't, because we're gaining on them.

Unless you've watched tar sands mining firsthand (an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone but a couple of Wichita billionaires), it's impossible to comprehend how nightmarish it really is. (Last week's "In Focus" photo feature from The Atlantic comes close, though). No rational reason exists for doing this to our planet -- unless you count greed. Sadly, some people do. But even if you are willing to destroy 50,000 square miles of boreal forest just to make a profit, there's no way to justify destroying our future in the process.

No one knows exactly how much oil lies under Alberta's tar sands fields -- perhaps as much as 3 trillion barrels. But we do know that it would take far less than that to put our planet on a path to runaway climate disruption.

I've said before that we cannot let that happen. Today, I'm proud to say that we aren't letting that happen. Over its lifetime, the Statoil project alone would have released a total of  777.4 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 into our atmosphere. For comparison, the EPA projects that its Clean Power Plan will be eliminating up to 555 MMT of CO2 emissions annually by 2030. Every single tar-sands project cancellation is a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who've stood up to fight Keystone XL.

But as I said, it's not about the pipe. It's about stopping the expansion of tar-sands mining while we still can. The three dominos that have fallen this year in Alberta are just a beginning.

Let's keep 'em falling: Tell President Obama he needs to reject this pipeline for good.