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A Dirty Oil Fight

A Dirty Oil Fight

I came in here this morning to blog about an anti-oilsands environmental campaign by Corporate Ethics International called “Rethink Alberta”. But it seems the story has become much more nasty than before.

On Wednesday (July 14), the campaign launched with billboards, TV spots and online video urging Americans in key western markets not to spend their tourist dollars in the Canadian province of Alberta until the controversial oil sands (AKA “tar sands”) project is halted. While a huge money-maker for Canada, as it contains up to 1.7 trillion barrels worth of petroleum, the project has drawn much international criticism for the broad environmental impacts on the land, indigenous people, and wildlife of the area.

Corporate Ethics International’s stand is that the oil sands project is a comparable environmental disaster to the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Image from Calgary Herald)

Not surprisingly, this has led to outrage in places like Edmonton:

Indeed, billboards targeting Alberta as the “other oil disaster” are so bizarrely unfair and hypocritical, they verge on comical parody. Does Michael Marx, director of the ironically named Corporate Ethics, truly believe that the “oilsands” are much worse than the Deep Horizon catastrophe that has now spewed millions of barrels of crude into the economically and ecologically vulnerable Gulf of Mexico?

Where this all took a strange turn was that Corporate Ethics International pulled their original video from YouTube, and reposted the one you see above, just yesterday. From what I can gather, this was to mitigate some of their claims, like downgrading the affected area from twice the size of England to “just” one England. And according to an unsympathetic media blog, The Shotgun, this was preceded by deleting the comments section on their web site.

At the same time, Alberta politicians like Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith are calling for an emergency all-party meeting to respond to the bad publicity:

“We seem to be putting ourselves into this cycle now where we get lobbed grenades and then we react and they lob another grenade,” she said.

“I think it would be far more powerful if we all come together in a joint press conference, shoulder-to-shoulder, saying we defend the industry, we recognize there are some problems and we’re working on them.”

This plea was dismissed by Premier Ed Stelmach, despite mounting pressure from groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, and Syncrude’s recent conviction on poisoning some 1,600 wild ducks through their operations.

Whatever your stand on the environmental, economic and social justice complexities of the issue, it seems that (on the Internet at least) the fight over the Alberta oil sands has become dirtier than ever.


Corporate Ethics International

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more