Al­berta oil is ‘ eth­i­cal’

Vancouver Sun - - THE EDITORIAL PAGE -

We have long called on gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try to fight ac­tivists’ false claims with the facts. Now, two prom­i­nent lead­ers have joined the cho­rus — one from in­dus­try, the other an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist.

Jeff Im­melt, CEO of GE Corp., had harsh words for his au­di­ence of oil and gas pro­duc­ers at a cham­ber of com­merce lun­cheon.

“ You guys have a col­lec­tive prob­lem that you have done a ter­ri­ble job of mar­ket­ing the tech­nol­ogy, and that is on you,” he said in a speech last Fri­day. “ The fact that you’ve al­lowed your­self to be painted into this cor­ner is ridicu­lous.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and Green­peace founder Pa­trick Moore hit all the salient points that need to be made when telling the nar­ra­tive of the oil­sands.

In a meet­ing with the Cal­gary Her­ald editorial board to dis­cuss his new book, Con­fes­sions of a Green­peace Dropout, Moore says it sim­ply comes down to pro­vid­ing the world with se­cure oil.

“ The eth­i­cal oil ar­gu­ment is wa­ter­tight,” said Moore, who has a PhD in ecol­ogy from the Univer­sity of B. C. “ There is no­body with a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment or hu­man rights record sell­ing oil in this world.”

Part of Moore’s work in Cal­gary will in­clude meet­ing with mem­bers of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Pe­tro­leum Pro­duc­ers, who can use all the help they can get in coun­ter­ing the loud-mouthed ac­tivists op­posed to the de­vel­op­ment of car­bon-in­ten­sive re­sources. They’re gain­ing ground by dis­sem­i­nat­ing in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion.

Take the term Dirty Oil, which has gained tremen­dous trac­tion as a catchall phrase for the evils of the oil­sands.

Moore, who left Green­peace when it put ide­o­log­i­cal be­liefs over science, rightly ques­tions the term.

Oil is not dirty, it’s oily. It’s also toxic. But so is all oil, not just oil from the oil­sands. The oil­sands is a piece of toxic real es­tate the size of Florida. Just be­cause it’s nat­u­ral, doesn’t make it any less toxic than an oil spill un­der a gas sta­tion, he ar­gues. The dif­fer­ence is com­pa­nies forced to clean up spills, spend mil­lions to do so, while those ex­tract­ing the oil from the sand make a profit. What’s more, they’re leav­ing the soil cleaner than they found it be­cause they’re re­mov­ing the oil from it. Moore, who does be­lieve there are “ se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues in­volv­ing oil,” sim­ply wants a more truth­ful de­bate around the sub­ject.

He ex­plains the dif­fi­culty in mea­sur­ing con­tam­i­nants in the Athabasca River to de­ter­mine what’s nat­u­ral and what comes from in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity. There is a lack of base­line data be­cause to­day’s tech­nol­ogy now al­lows us to mea­sure parts per bil­lion.

The anti-oil­sands cam­paign is a grow­ing threat, with sev­eral Amer­i­can states man­dat­ing low-car­bon fuel stan­dards for trans­porta­tion fu­els. Lobby groups have suc­ceeded in de­lay­ing a key pipe­line ex­pan­sion to Texas, on hold since July be­cause of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns. The Key­stone ex­pan­sion would pro­vide the first ma­jor ac­cess to a deep­wa­ter sea­port for the oil­sands, open­ing ex­port to world­wide mar­kets.

“ I think it’s pretty cut and dried,” says Moore, of his de­fence of the oil­sands. “ We are the United State’s most im­por­tant trad­ing part­ner. They need the oil to run their econ­omy and they’re go­ing to need it for a long time to come. We are a friendly sup­plier of that oil.”

A friendly sup­plier, who needs to stop play­ing nice when it comes to coun­ter­ing smear cam­paigns that spread false in­for­ma­tion about Al­berta oil.

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