The scale of tar sands devastation is mind-numbing.
Tar sands are sludge. A sticky, viscous, tarry material that literally oozes from the ground in certain areas of northern Canada and other places like Russia, Venezuela, and even right here in the US. Technically called "bitumen," tar sands can be processed into gasoline and other petroleum products, though it takes more effort and causes a lot more pollution than conventional oil, the liquid we're used to seeing drilled up by rigs in Texas or Saudi Arabia. The cornerstone of the argument against tar sands is that because it requires so much energy to turn from sludge into gasoline, it produces a significantly greater amount of the carbon dioxide which is turning our atmosphere into a heat-trapping blanket and fundamentally altering nearly every ecosystem on Earth.
It takes about three barrels of water to extract one barrel of oil. More than 90 percent of this water, 400 million gallons per day, ends up as toxic waste dumped in massive pools that contain carcinogenic substances like cyanide.
About 100 trillion gallons of tar sands have been discovered so far. The vast majority is in Canada, which holds around three quarters of the world total.