Tarred and Tethered: Will America Opt for Tar Sands or Will Renewables Take the Starring Role?

The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to bring Canadian tar sands to U.S. refineries, is being billed as a make-or-break moment for energy: Will America place its bets on fossil fuels, or we will turn instead to more reliance on renewable energy? It’s an important debate, but one crucial point that’s often missed is that the economics of oil sands and renewable energy have something in common. When energy is cheap, neither stands much of a chance.

Oil sands are full of bitumen, a form of oil so thick that it’s more like tar (hence the term “tar sands”). There’s nothing new about oil sands—geologists and oil companies have known about them for a century. In fact, Canada

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