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Tar Sands Protested at Eugene Shell Station

A protester calls for an end to tar sands mining.
A protester calls for an end to tar sands mining.

Protesters in Texas have put up treesits and locked themselves to machinery to stop the Keystone XL pipeline; thousands of activists gathered around the White House Nov. 18 to call on President Obama to reject the controversial tar sands conduit; and here in Eugene, as part of a week of solidarity actions, local activists faced high winds and rain to voice their concerns about tar sands oil. 

Members of Cascadia Forest Defenders, Occupy Eugene, We the People, No Coal Eugene and other Eugene activists spent hours on Nov. 19 picketing outside of the Shell gas station on 7th and Van Buren and Chase Bank downtown. Activists say that the picket was held to raise money for the Tar Sands Blockade and to bring attention to Shell’s role in extracting tar sands from indigenous lands. According to Ben Jones of Cascadia Forest Defenders, “Shell owns 60 percent of the tar sands operations in Alberta.”

Erin Grady, also of the Forest Defenders, says that more than 40 other cities have planned anti-tar sands solidarity actions. “The tar sands are something that affects everyone in North America,” Grady says, “because it’s a huge extractive project in Canada coming down through the middle of the country with a pipeline that will be probably leak and malfunction.” 

Grady says that tar sands extraction in Canada “is on a huge scale that we have not seen before.” Tar sands mining has been called “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,” and climate change opponent Bill McKibben has made tar sands extraction a focus of his 350.org campaign to curb global warming. 

Grady says many Eugene activists have traveled to Texas to protest the tar sands pipeline construction there.  “It’s so sad,” she says. “So many people, protesting for such a long time, and it’s still going through.” Grady says Obama got liberal votes by blocking the Keystone XL, but then he quietly OK’d the southern portion of the line.

Oregon may not be facing a tar sands pipeline in its near future, but Oregonians do put tar sands oil into their cars. According to Michael O’Leary, energy and fuel consultant with the National Wildlife Federation, the data can be hard to find; but he cites by way of example information from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that shows 90 percent of Oregon’s oil comes from Washington and about 8 percent of Washington’s oil comes from tar sands crude. — Camilla Mortensen