Who Are The Real Advocates For Oil?

If the world’s climate were not changing as a result of the greenhouse gases we’re adding to the atmosphere, there would still be several strong arguments against the use of fossil fuels. Burning coal and oil pollutes the air, contributing to smog and acid rain. Coal mines are notoriously dangerous to the miners, who may die quickly in mine collapses, or slowly, from black lung disease or certain cancers. Oil spill disasters are frequently epic in scale, the BP event practically destroying the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet the fossil fuel industry, especially “Big Oil,” has its defenders, as well. The question is: does anyone support the industry without receiving massive personal gain for doing so? It seems like the apologists for oil are industry execs themselves, or conservative politicians receiving massive campaign contributions. Are there any independent, objective observers with an argument against transitioning away from non-renewable fuel sources?

Let’s run through the list. This Maclean’s article quotes some of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statements on the subject. The PM warned Canadian citizens as early as November that “significant American interests” were trying to screw up Enbridge’s Northern Pipeline Project. Harper knows that if there’s anyone Canadians are more suspicious of than the prime minister himself, it’s those damn Americans. His concerns seemed partly based on President Obama’s failure to commit to the Keystone XL project. (The president did indeed kill the project this month, but the reasoning was hardly based on environmental considerations.)

Harper has argued time and again that he is looking out for Canadian interests. With the power of the entire government of Canada behind him, he’s “stood up” against small environmental groups, declaring them enemies of the country when they haven’t fallen in line. But do most Canadians want more and more drilling, more and more tar sands, more and more pipelines? No!

The PM has tried to marginalize critics of Canada’s oil projects, characterizing them as “environmental and other radical groups.” But is concern for the environmental and human health such a radical ideology? Especially in this day and age?

A major talking point with Harper and his ilk has been this odd new slogan, “ethical oil.” It started out with a book by Ezra Levant of the same title, which was focused on the further development of Alberta’s tar sands. Levant is a Sun News TV host. Sun Media is Canada’s major conservative media conglomerate.

Now there’s an advocacy group. Ethical Oil (with capital letters this time) has recently been attacking the BC not-for-profit, West Coast Environmental Law, unleashing a series of TV attack ads. But as West Coast writes in their response, Ethical Oil is the group that a) commands enormous funding that most not-for-profits could not dream of, b) refuses to provide the financial transparency most not-for-profits willingly provide, for example in disclosing its mysterious funding sources, c) won’t even reveal the identity of its board of directors.

Ethical Oil accuses West Coast Environmental Law of secretly working for American interests, because they (openly) receive some funding from American environmental organizations. Whose interest does Ethical Oil represent? They attack the critics of tar sands development, but on whose behalf? Would it surprise anyone to find they are completely funded by oil companies, have oil execs sitting on their board of directors, and disperse money for ad campaigns and political contributions under the identity of this third-party advocate?

And if the organization is indeed funded by oil companies for the ultimate purpose of promoting oil development, this isn’t really a non-profit in any meaningful sense of the word, is it? They don’t need to provide transparency; the situation is transparent enough as it is.

There are advocates for oil. But if you look closer, they’re really advocates for themselves.

Related stories:

Forest Ethics Declared “Enemy of the People of Canada”

Half of Canadians Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline

Big Oil Attacks Chiquita for Denouncing Tar Sands

Photo credit: Daniel Schwen


W. C
W. C11 months ago

Thank you.

William C
William C11 months ago

Thanks for the information.

Duane B.
.6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Michael O.
Michael O6 years ago

"Ethical Oil" is nothing more than a public relations smokescreen. Oil extracted on Canadian soil is no less polluting than oil extracted from Saudi Arabian soil. "Ethics" do not magically cleanse oil of its intrinsic filthiness. "Ethics" will not reduce the amount of pollutants that refined oil products emit when they are burned. The laws of physics and chemistry are not affected by "ethics".

Tobacco is grown on Canadian soil as well. Perhaps we should start marketing Export A, Du Maurier, and Peter Jackson as "ethical" cigarettes. Why worry about lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, strokes, etc. when you've got "ethics" on your side?

If anyone is interesting in knowing why no oil is "ethical", I recommend the radio interview at the following link: The Current: Ethical Oil with Kathryn Marshall / Andrew Crane. Ethical Oil spokesperson Kathryn Marshall is clearly overmatched and stumbling to find answers when posed difficult questions by host Anna-Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio.

Wes Giesbrecht
Past Member 6 years ago

"Once again the rich and powerful use their power for their own ends with no thought to the planet, the future of our children and grandchildren and the rest of us."

If WE weren't buying the product, THEY wouldn't be producing it.
Every time WE travel in a motorized vehicle, (including electric) WE....... are destroying the planet and the future.

Lesley Currie
Lesley Currie6 years ago

Once again the rich and powerful use their power for their own ends with no thought to the planet, the future of our children and grandchildren and the rest of us. We have a prime minister who is totally lacking in compassion, who cannot and doesn't want to see beyond the almighty dollar and the influence of powerful lobbyist. Its his way or the highway and we are going to pay the price.

Wes Giesbrecht
Past Member 6 years ago

Politicians have no power whatsoever. Politics has become a public relations department for the oil companies. Their job is to keep the people busy arguing while business goes on as usual.
There are still trillions of barrels of oil in the ground and it WILL come out, one way or another, regardless of who the voters pick, from amongst those who play the game of politics.

leonard. H.
Len Harrison6 years ago

You know it all comes down to who we vote into power - The voters have the power and yet we as Canadians do not get out and vote - so - Bush minime (steve Harper) Rules the roost. I don't know why anyone in their right mind would have voted for him.,unless they are somehow employed by an oil company,liked what he promised in reference to the gun registry or employed in the Armed Forces.
He does not care about our environment or our children - All he cares about are the smiling faces of his Corporate Backers.,knowing that he is setting himself up for a nice retirement...I have some pretty intelligent friends (or so I thought),that I grew up with (sort a speak), whom sit quietly in the corner counting their money and days to retirement. I ask myself WHY do they not speak to the atrocities that have, through our lack of speaking up, been dealt to our Environment.,our Children.
I am completely dumbfounded.


Colum N.
Colum N6 years ago

We need to stop using fossil fuels NOW
Everyone should buy renewable energy devices (Wind turbines, solar power...) and stop the oil companies cash flow for good.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran6 years ago