bp-tarLast month a group of pension funds and asset managers filed a resolution asking Royal Dutch Shell to reconsider its controversial involvement in the dirty tar sands.

And now the investors are targeting BP asking it not to invest a massive $10 billion in its Sunrise tar sands development.

A group of British investors, co-ordinated by FairPensions, question whether the tar sands projects will be profitable due to rising carbon dioxide levels. They are also raising concerns about “legal and reputational risks arising from environmental damage and indigenous community impacts”.

The reputational risks hardly need spelling out: BP that once branded itself Beyond Petroleum, is now threatening to spend billions on the dirtiest petroleum of them all.

For years BP prided itself of not being involved in the tar sands development.  Niall O’Shea, head of responsible investing at the Co-operative Asset Management said: “BP, which previously made a virtue of its lack of exposure to oil sands, is now gearing up to exploit them.”

O’ Shea added: “We believe that environmental costs may make an expensive business prohibitively so – without fundamentally addressing the issue of a large net rise in emissions. BP should reassure shareholders that what they’re embarking on is fully costed, prudent and can withstand a more carbon-constrained world.”

However there is now an interesting difference between BP and Shell over the tar sands. Whereas Shell’s relatively new chief executive, Peter Voser, has indicated that the company will slow its plans for growth in Alberta, Tony Hayward, his opposite number at BP, last week suggested that the company is gearing up to press ahead with tar sands development big time.

Also in contrast, Hayward’s predecessor Lord Browne was an outspoken critic of the tar sands. He sold off BP’s interests in Alberta in 1999.

Just over a decade later, BP says it will make a final decision on Sunrise later this year.

Although the company it already trying to greenwash its proposed operations:

“This development is needed to meet the world’s growing demand for energy and we believe BP can do it in an environmentally sustainable way,” Toby Odone, a spokesperson for BP said today.

“Environmentally sustainable” and the “tar sands” are a contradiction in terms. Will be interesting to see how BP spins this one..