Dear Oil Sands Boosters;
You know who you are: Ezra Levant, Cody Battershill, Gwyn Morgan, Brett Wilson, Vivian Krause, Patrick Moore, Claudia Cattaneo, and the legion of Albertans who agree with you. I regularly read your blog posts and columns and social media rants. There are a lot of you and you need to listen up.
Stop whining about the eco-activists and First Nations who oppose the Alberta oil sands and the pipelines projects intended to support them.
Stop sniveling about funding from American charities that supports groups like Greenpeace and Forest Ethics Advocacy that fight hard to destroy the legitimacy and social license of the oil sands.
Stop thinking that the oil sands have some special dispensation that exempts them from criticism or opposition. They don’t.
Your attitude is very un-Canadian. Canadians should never write tweets like this one I received from an Alberta reader: “If oilsands producers developed halos and angel’s wings our opponents would shoot us from the sky.”
Canadians are a tough and hardy people. Our ancestors survived forbidding Prairie winters for thousands of years, hacked farms out of northern forests with nothing but an axe, fought valiantly in foreign wars for democratic principles we held passionately, became the first nation of a sport that requires both incredible skill and toughness – and developed the technologies to extract crude oil from tar found in abundance in northern Alberta.
Canadians don’t whine. So cut it out.
Here’s what you can do:
One, accept that eco-activists (whatever their nationality) and Canadian First Nations have a right to oppose oil sands development. They can’t be banned from Canada or criminally prosecuted, as Patrick Moore has suggested. That’s just silly.
In fact, walk a mile in their mukluks. These folks accept the scientific consensus that climate change is driven in part by human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, and they believe passionately in a quick transition to clean energy technologies. We may disagree with them on many points, but they have a valid argument.
Two, fight back. Don’t demonize oil sands opponents – debate better, organize better, communicate better. The argument for oil sands development and the construction of pipelines is stronger, in my opinion, than the argument against.
Three, demand more of industry associations, oil sands producers, and pipeline operators. Industry’s timidity in the face of such ferocious opposition is a mystery to observers like me. More often than not, after some outrageous claim by an eco-activist spokesperson, industry refuses to respond to media or delivers mealy-mouthed drivel that gets buried at the end of a news story.
That’s not nearly good enough.
Literally hundreds of billions of capital, tens of thousands of job, whole communities, a sizable chunk of the Alberta and Canadian economies, and significant tax revenue depend upon the oil sands.
With so much on the line, can industry not mount a better defense than the pathetic efforts to date? Oil and gas is the richest business on the planet, are we seriously to believe the Canadian sector can’t outspend American environmental charities, as is sometimes suggested?
At the end of an interview, I once asked Greg Stringham, a VP with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (and an engineer, not coincidentally), why CAPP didn’t do more outreach with the wealth of information on its website. I’ll never forget his answer: “If people are interested, they’ll search out the information.”
Lord t’undering jaysus, readers, what a weak-kneed, spineless, pusillanimous embarrassment that response is.
This is a call to arms. Educate yourself with facts and science and join the fray. Fight the good fight for the industry that needs your support.
But respect your opponent, particularly First Nations folks. We’re asking them to run pipelines through their backyard. Not only should they have a voice in the review process, more than that required by law, but they should also enjoy the economic benefits that accrue from oil sands development. And we should remember that many First Nations support pipelines and the oil sands.
Don’t be Greg Stringham. Fight, don’t whine.