The New York Times reported on research efforts by several start-up companies to reduce the environmental damage caused by oil (or tar) sands extraction. There is a good reason for this. Either of the two primary means to extract petroleum from the bitumen--the sticky, heavy oil that is mixed in with sand and clay--results in heavy environmental damage.
There is enormous consumption of water using one extraction method--three to four times the oil that is extracted. The other method burns enormous natural gas that causes greenhouse gas emissions to be several times higher than that of producing conventional oil. Yet, as with the coal industry, the major oil companies with oil sands operations are claiming that these processes do not harm the environment.
This dirty fuel, like coal, causes health and environmental damage far worse than the energy benefit. There may be short-term profit opportunities from the tar sands, but it is not asustainable source of energy. I'd avoid companies that operate in this sector because there are less risky ways to produce energy.