Extreme Energy Extraction and Transportation

As humanity approaches the end of Earth’s conventional, easy-to-reach oil and gas, we are now turning to the fossil fuels that are most difficult to reach and process. The fossil fuel age continues thanks to extreme energy extraction processes, such as the mining of oil sands bitumen (i.e. from Alberta’s Tar Sands) and high-volume horizontal fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas. Tar sands extraction and fracking require incredible amounts of energy and resources, and take a devastating toll on the environment and our climate. The Great Lakes region has both fracking operations and tar sands pipelines threatening our water and air.

High Volume Horizontal Fracturing (Fracking)

Fracking uses on average five- to eight-million gallons of water and toxic chemicals per fracture, and the water flows back so contaminated that it must be permanently taken out of the water cycle. There are numerous accounts of groundwater contamination, and methane leaks from wellheads are a large contributor to climate change. Michigan has seen fracking grow in the past decade. Learn more about how FLOW helps Michigan communities protect themselves from oil and gas exploration here: Local Fracking Ordinances

Tar Sands Oil

Oils sands development requires massive open pit mining, which severely pollutes groundwater and raises cancer rates in downstream communities. Bitumen refinement requires substantial amounts of energy, often cheap natural gas. Transporting heavy oil also presents a hazardous challenge; spills of diluted bitumen make for extremely difficult, if not impossible, cleanups, as evidenced by Enbridge’s Kalamazoo River disaster in 2010, which spilled over 800,000 gallons of diluted bitumen and cost over a billion dollars to clean up, and still bitumen remains. Learn more about FLOW’s work leading the charge to shut down the flow of oil in the Line 5 Mackinac Straits Oil Pipelines here: Line 5 Pipeline

Nuclear Waste

The shores of four Great Lakes (all but Lake Superior) house active or closed nuclear power plants, and a number of nuclear waste sites and uranium mines dot the region. Ontario Power Generation is currently seeking permission to bury nuclear waste from the Bruce Power Plant within a mile of Lake Huron and about 120 miles upstream from the main drinking water intakes for southeast Michigan. In 2014 the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant  located on Lake Michigan in Van Buren County had its safety rating lowered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from Column I to Column II, causing community concern and calls for decommissioning.

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Solutions: Renewable Energy, Efficiency, and Conservation

When it comes to shaping and forming an energy policy for the Great Lakes, it must necessarily be compatible and harmonious with the need for pure and sustainable freshwater for present and future generations. Adopting a strong renewable energy policy is good for water, good for jobs, good for the environment, and good for energy affordability. FLOW supports the development of renewable energy sources like wind and solar as we transition away from dirty fossil fuels.