The Big Picture: Keystone XL from Above

Giant dump trucks carry 400-ton loads of ore are dwarfed by the huge scale of a tar sands mine in Alberta. Image by Alex MacLean. Canada, 2014.

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The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is said to be the “fuse of the Alberta carbon bomb.”

It would tap the world’s third largest oil reserve, buried under the vast boreal forest of Alberta. The deposit contains approximately 200 billion barrels of accessible oil, worth more than ten trillion dollars.

Though only 36 inches in diameter, the pipeline will, if built, carry nearly a million barrels of oil a day to U.S. refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast — the equivalent of about three supertankers a week.

Funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, my week-long expedition to Alberta with science journalist Dan Grossman allowed us the opportunity to photograph tar sands operations from the air as well as interview the people involved in, affected by, and studying tar sands activities from the ground.