Sad news in Detroit: yesterday the expansion of the Marathon Oil Refinery was approved in Detroit. As you would expect from the ruthless, profiteering oil industry, the refinery is cited in a predominantly community of color, and the brunt of pollution is borne by neighboring residents. In exchange for voluntary pledges from Marathon, the city awarded a whopping $176 million in tax breaks. Thus, African-American residents living in an area that has been dubbed Detroit’s “Cancer Alley” get even more pollution and big oil gets to pocket even more profit.
The $1.9-billion expansion will expand the refinery’s capacity from 100,000 barrels of oil per day to 115,000 barrels, all of it to accommodate tar sands oil from Canada. Unlike your average dirty liquid crude oil, tar sands oil is known as ‘heavy crude’ – it’s much more polluting, at least 2.5 times more greenhouse gas emissions per barrel than regular crude oil. Ironically, on the same day, the ‘godfather’ of climate science, Dr. James Hansen called out the development of tar sands, telling a packed audience at the National Press Club that climate change is no less than a planetary emergency.
Hansen went on to say: “If we squeeze oil out of the tar sands then there is no hope for life as we know it.” People from Alberta where the tar sands are mined for oil, all along the pipeline corridor to Detroit, and the neighboring residents in southwest Detroit will pay the immediate price for the Marathon Refinery expansion. Unless we stop more expansions, in the long term, we’ll all suffer.