As the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project Joint Review Panel begins hearing over 4,000 comments submitted by community members, First Nations, governments, and environmental groups, the tar sands front group EthicalOil.org has launched its latest PR offensive in support of the pipeline. OurDecision.ca, the new astroturf ad campaign, is another dirty PR attempt to undermine the real and growing grassroots opposition to Big Oil’s plans to ram through this destructive pipeline.
The controversial Northern Gateway project is opposed by 70 First Nations and a majority of British Columbians, who fear the inevitable oil spills that will accompany tar sands expansion, and in particular the threat of offshore tanker accidents on BC’s coast.
Viewers of Ethical Oil’s disingenuous new ad campaign aren’t being told about the intricate web of industry influence peddlers behind the effort and their connections to the Harper government and oil interests. In the middle of this web is Hamish Marshall, a Conservative strategist deeply connected to oil interests as well as both the Conservatives and ultra-right wing Wildrose Alliance Party. In this case, the lines between politics and big business interests are so blurred, it is nearly impossible to distinguish them.
OurDecision.ca is the Ethical Oil Institute’s attempt to dupe northern BC citizens into supporting the Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker infrastructure, claiming that it’s “our choice” as Canadians to exploit the tar sands and pipe it to foreign export terminals. The fact that the oil boom will actually enrich foreign investors from China, Europe and the multinational oil companies with a major stake in Alberta oil patch is nowhere to be seen in Ethical Oil’s propaganda. (The hypocrisy of their arguments here is reminiscent of their previous attempt to claim the mantle of women’s rights to greenwash the tar sands.)
Since the overwhelming public opposition to the project is hard to argue with directly, Ethical Oil decided to change the subject entirely by claiming a foreign conspiracy because some of the environmental organizations working to oppose tar sands expansion receive funding from U.S. foundations
Stephen Harper was quick to echo EthicalOil.org’s talking points by decrying the foreign influence that is “overloading” the Northern Gateway review process. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver took a page from Harper’s playbook, writing that environmental groups “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda,” using funding from “foreign special interest groups.”
The “foreign special interests” in question are progressive American foundations that fund a wide range of initiatives: from education and infrastructure in developing countries, to the performing arts and urban poverty in North America and around the world.
Since climate change recognizes no political borders, the foundations have supported the efforts of a wide range of Canadian and American groups to raise awareness about the consequences of expanding tar sands development. This is a global issue, no doubt about it, and that’s why people from all over the world are watching Canada and weighing in on this. Tyler Mccreary covers this point well today at Rabble.
Yet, Ethical Oil’s OurDecision.ca website refers to these foundations and environmental groups as “foreigners and their local puppets.”
Read more at desmogblog.com
In the ongoing campaign to put a positive spin on Alberta’s Tar Sands, proponents have deployed a new rhetorical attack: women’s rights. If you support women’s rights, say conservative pundits Ezra Levant and Alykhan Velshi, choose “ethical oil” over “conflict oil”. The phrase is now standard prose for the Harper government, eager to save the reputation of the much maligned “Tar Sands”.
Their website, EthicalOil.org, says those who oppose the expansion of Alberta’s Tar Sands are implicitly supporting petrocracies, like the government of Saudi Arabia, that oppress women. Getting oil from the Tar Sands is the ethical alternative, they claim, because unlike them, Canada supports free speech and women’s rights.
It is worth noting that Levant and Velshi have extensive ties to the Harper government, who themselves have considerable interest in the accelerated expansion of the Tar Sands. Levant is a former campaigner for the Reform Party and former communications director to Stockwell Day. He stepped aside in a 2002 by-election to let Stephen Harper be elected. Velshi is former Director of Communications under Jason Kenney and former Director of Parliamentary Affairs under John Baird.
I’ll hand it to them – Levant and Velshi offer a compelling bait: the opportunity to support women’s rights. But then comes their switch: we must support Tar Sands expansion and the Keystone XL pipeline, a $13 billion 2,673-kilometre pipeline that would carry half a million barrels a day (in addition to the half million already carried by its sister line, the original Keystone) of crude to Gulf coast refineries.
Their bait and switch is actually a logical fallacy that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. In reality, if we actually want to take on Saudi sheiks, the best way to do that is to use less of the stuff and transition the economies of the world from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. Expanding the Tar Sands will have a negligible impact on Saudi oil profits because their oil remains cheaper to produce, and global demand for oil keeps going up. On the other hand, if we invest our creativity into breaking our addiction to fossil fuels then we would shake their power to its core. It’s that simple.
Read more at thecanadian.org
Right now, the oil and gas industry is holding its breath as the approval of two major tar sands pipelines hang in the balance. The $13 billion Keystone XL pipeline would significantly increase the Canadian export of of dirty tar sands bitumen to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day. And, on this side of the border, the ferociously debated $5.5 billion, 1,170 kilometre Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.
As the decisions near, a series of major oil spills in the last year have highlighted the dangers these two pipelines pose, particularly given the major expansion of tar sands production they would enable.
This week, a pump-station equipment failure at a TransCanada pipeline caused 80,000 litres of oil to spill in North Dakota. The Keystone system has suffered 12 leaks since it opened last June, all of them related to equipment failures at pump stations. Despite the frequent spill record, the pipeline is due to resume operations on Saturday.
The pipeline currently carries up to 591,000 barrels a day of crude from northern Alberta to the oil-storage crossroads in Oklahoma and refineries in Illinois. TransCanada is seeking approval from the U.S. State Department to expand the Keystone system to 1.1 million barrels a day and to extend it from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries on the U.S. Gulf coast. A decision is expected this year.
In addition to the North Dakota leak, Enbridge announced yesterday that it discovered a small leak on its Norman Wells line in the Northwest Territories. The spill’s effects were likely mitigated because the line had already been shut down due to a major spill in Alberta on April 29th, when 28,000 barrels of oil spilled from the rupture of a Plains All American Pipeline. The spill is Alberta’s worst in 35 years, and was more than a third larger than the spill that rocked Michigan in 2010.
On April 30th, Plains Midstream Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of Plains All American, quietly issued a press release informing the public of the crude spill from the Rainbow Pipeline in northern Alberta near Little Buffalo, AB. The spill was thought to be small, and it took a full four days for Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) to issue an announcement that a major spill had occurred.
Read more at desmogblog.com