The company had shied away from involvement oil sands, until recently regarded as economically unviable and environmentally unpleasant.Lord Browne of Madingley, who was BP's chief executive until May, sold its remaining Canadian tar sands interests in 1999 and declared as recently as 2004 that there were "tons of opportunities" beyond the sector.Producing crude oil from the tar sands a heavy mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay found beneath more than 54,000 square miles of prime forest in northern Alberta an area the size of England and Wales combined generates up to four times more carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, than conventional drilling.
BP insists it will use a less damaging extraction method, but it accepts that its investment will increase its carbon footprint.
Mike Hudema, the climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace in Canada, told The Independent: "BP has done a very good job in recent years of promoting its green objectives.
I wouldn't be surprised if you could see these pits from a satellite 1,000 years from now." Have your say How can BP be stopped from perpetrating this environmental 'crime'?
The website, which has so far focused on its European market, is currently launching in the UK and with 2,600 British members already, it is particularly popular among lonely businessmen forced to spend more time than they would like in international hotel rooms.
By jumping into tar sands extraction it is taking part in the biggest global warming crime ever seen and BP's green sheen is gone.
"It takes about 29kg of CO2 to produce a barrel of oil conventionally.
The oil rush is also scarring a wilderness landscape: millions of tonnes of plant life and top soil is scooped away in vast open-pit mines and millions of litres of water are diverted from rivers up to five barrels of water are needed to produce a single barrel of crude and the process requires huge amounts of natural gas.
The industry, which now includes all the major oil multinationals, including the Anglo-Dutch Shell and American combine Exxon-Mobil, boasts that it takes two tonnes of the raw sands to produce a single barrel of oil.
For BP to be involved in this trade not only flies in the face of their rhetoric but in the era of climate change it should not be being developed at all.