After a series of delays the company was expected to announce its final decision on Thursday and environmental campaigners concerned about the implications of the carbon-intensive exploitation of the tar sands are claiming this latest postponement as a victory.

Campaigners had lobbied shareholders to pass a resolution demanding BP disclose more information on plans for its controversial Sunrise project which would tap into the Canadian tar sands.

But before the vote, BP announced no decision would be made on the project until 2011.

Greenpeace Executive Director John Sauven said: “By delaying a major investment decision on tar sands on the day of its own AGM, BP has completely vindicated the shareholder resolution it has worked so hard to oppose.

“With US climate legislation in the pipeline and a growing coalition of powerful groups gearing up to fight the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands, BP executives are beginning to have second thoughts.

“The risks involved in this project are enormous, and shareholders are entirely justified in asking for more transparency from a company that clearly now shares their concerns.”

Despite the objections, it seems optimistic that the tar sands will not be exploited at some point in the future.

The sands in Alberta – a mix of bitumen, sand, clay and water – effectively give Canada the second largest proven oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia.

Getting to the oil is not without environmental problems, however, and has most of the problems associated with any other extraction industry coupled with much higher greenhouse gas emissions than those that would arise from extracting the equivalent amount of crude oil from ‘normal’ oil deposits.

The tar sand industry is Canada’s largest contributor to growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sam Bond

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