The resolution calls for the creation of guidelines and purchasing standards to help mayors understand the greenhouse gas emissions of the fuels they purchase through their entire lifecycle from production through consumption.
"We don't want to spend taxpayer dollars on fuels that make global warming worse," said Mayor Kitty Piercy, of Eugene, Oregon, who submitted the resolution.
"Tar sands oil emits up to three times the greenhouse gases in the production process per barrel as conventional oil production," Piercy said. "Our cities are asking for environmentally sustainable energy and not fuels from dirty sources such as tar sands."
Tar sands are deposits of natural bitumen, a viscous oil that must be treated to convert it into an upgraded crude oil so that it can be used in refineries to produce gasoline and other fuels. Extracting oil from these sands uses more water and requires larger amounts of energy than conventional oil extraction, even though many conventional oil fields also require large amounts of water and energy and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Many countries have large deposits of tar sands, including the United States, Russia, and countries in the Middle East. The world's largest deposits are in Canada and Venezuela, both of which have tar sands reserves equal to the world's total reserves of conventional crude oil.
Tar oil production at Athabasca Tar Sands, Alberta, Canada. (Photo courtesy Encyclopedia of Earth)
Currently, only Canada has a large-scale commercial tar sands industry, developing the Athabasca Tar Sands in Alberta.
The resolution approved by the mayors expresses concern for Canada's environment, stating, "... the production of tar sands oil from Canada emits approximately three times the carbon dioxide pollution per barrel as does conventional oil production and significantly damages Canada's Boreal forest ecosystem - the world's largest carbon storehouse ..."
"The mayors have once again confirmed that they're serious about combating climate change," said Mayor Marty Blum of Santa Barbara, California. "Not only will we give preference to clean, renewable energy sources, we are standing our ground when it comes to synthetic petroleum-based fuels that exacerbate global warming."
"Global warming is the one of the most critical issues facing our cities," said Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines, Iowa. "This resolution shows our willingness to take action to move forward - not backwards which is where fuels such as tar sands oil will take us."
Environmentalists praised the mayors' challenge to fuel derived from tar sands. "In the last few years, U.S. mayors have come out as leaders on environmental initiatives, specifically in the fight to stop global warming," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC. "This resolution will help implement their commitment to fight global warming by giving mayors the information they need about dirty fuels such as tar sands oil."
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors. (Photo courtesy USCM)
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama addressed the mayors, earning applause for his promise to create "a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years, and create nearly two million new jobs."
The bank will be funded by the $10 billion a month saved by bringing the war in Iraq to "a responsible close," Obama said.
The bank would fund upgrades to levees across the Midwest that gave way under drenching rains earlier this month, flooding vast tracts of crop land, destroying roads and bridges and forcing evacuations from flooded communities.
"Let's invest that money in a world-class transit system," Obama told the mayors, promising them "a partner in the White House."
"Let's re-commit federal dollars to strengthen mass transit and reform our tax code to give folks a reason to take the bus instead of driving to work – because investing in mass transit helps make metro areas more livable and can help our regional economies grow."
"And while we're at it, we'll partner with our mayors to invest in green energy technology and ensure that your buses and buildings are energy efficient," said Obama. "And we'll also invest in our ports, roads, and high-speed rails – because I don't want to see the fastest train in the world built halfway around the world in Shanghai, I want to see it built right here in the United States of America."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors took care to make this year's session the "greenest" to date. The hotel, evening events and some of the mayors' transportation used energy efficient practices with the goal of reducing carbon emissions.
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz hosted the annual meeting. (Photo courtesy Office of Mayor Diaz)
Mayors are already leading on the issue of climate protection with more than 850 mayors agreeing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their respective cities and pushing funding for an energy block grant in Congress to further their efforts.
Mayors Jerry Abramson of Louisville, Kentucky, and Roy Buol of Dubuque, Iowa, were awarded first place in the 2008 City Livability Awards Program.
For the past 29 years, cities have competed for this award, which recognizes mayoral leadership for developing and implementing programs that improve the quality of life in America's cities. The winning cities were selected by former mayors from a pool of over 200 applicants.
Louisville won the Livability Award for a large city for the mayor's Healthy Hometown Program is a highly visible, a longterm program designed to create a community-wide effort which encourages and supports physical activity, healthy eating and lifestyles and hosts popular worksite wellness conferences.
Dubuque won the Livability Award for a small city for its America's River Project. This $188 million revitalization effort to will transform 90 acres at the Port of Dubuque from brownfields into a destination that showcases the historical, environmental, educational and recreational assets of the Mississippi River.
As the meeting closed on Tuesday, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz was elevated from his position as vice president to serve as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the official bipartisan organization of the 1,139 U.S. cities with populations larger than 30,000.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.