There’s a smear campaign being run against the Canadian energy sector by environmental activist groups who receive a large part of their funding from non-Canadian sources. These groups do not oppose other energy exporters the way they have Canada where every single pipeline has been obstructed for over a decade.
Tar Sands Campaign: Original Mission Statement
This mission statement and even some of the campaign’s accomplishments have now been changed after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), in January of 2019, reported on U.S. funding to environmental activist groups in Canada who oppose energy infrastructure projects and development.
The CBC corroborated much of the work done by researcher Vivian Krause, which formed the basis of the CBC’s reporting.
Here’s the campaign’s original mission statement (zoom in):
“From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their [Canada] crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel. This meant national and grassroots organizing to block all proposed pipelines.”
Tar Sands Campaign: Changed Mission Statement
Now here's the webpage after it was changed:
Notice how significantly the language was changed from before. Key points that were removed:
- Goal to land-lock Alberta oil sands
- Success in blocking all pipelines to date
- Helped to unseat current provincial and federal governments
Unfortunately for Canada, by no means do these changes suggest the campaign against ONLY Canadian oil and gas is over. In fact, after accomplishing its goals to block all new Canadian pipelines to date (as stated on the original CorpEthics webpage above), the organization appears to be just gearing up for the next stage of the campaign.
They certainly were when this job posting by Jason Mogus, one of the campaign's main leaders, was posted back in 2014. Notice the job description which mentions more than 60 groups are part of the "Tar Sands Solutions Network," and how the ending on oil sands development that is without constraint or regulation is a complete fallacy of its own.
A recent National Observer article titled “Foreign-Funded Environmentalists and other red herrings,” suggests the influence this campaign has had on politics and the natural resource sector in Canada is a myth. But Canadians aren’t buying it. This article is just one of many published weekly attacking Canada’s world-class energy industry.
The reality is this campaign by "environmental activist" groups against ONLY Canadian energy infrastructure and development is fact, not falsehood. Moreover, it’s so alarming that every Canadian should be aware of the goals behind these funds. Let’s take a look:
Q - Did environmental groups in Canada accept US funds?
Yes. Tens of millions of dollars on record, if not more. And it hasn’t stopped. Since 2009, U.S. tax returns show that the Tides Foundation and Tides Canada Foundation alone have made more than 400 payments to 100 different First Nations and “environmental organizations" in Canada who are part of the Tar Sands Campaign.
Most of these payments were recently corroborated by the CBC in a report by Wendy Mesley on The Weekly.
Q - Why does this funding from foreign sources matter?
The argument that investment from foreign sources is analogous to environmental groups being funded by foreign sources is itself what you would call a “red herring.” Let’s compare the two concepts.
Investment from foreign sources into the oil sands:
- Stimulates economic activity by creating well-paying jobs not only in the oil sands, but indirectly in several other industries across the country
- Develops human capital resources by boosting education and training opportunities while increasing the competence and overall knowledge of the work force
- Increases government revenues through taxes and royalties
- Imports foreign capital, technology and expertise
- Takes on the risks associated with such investments
Environmentalist groups receiving funds from non-Canadian sources:
- Assist in halting and decreasing economic activity through blockades, court challenges and other tactics that stall and / or cancel energy infrastructure projects and development of natural resources
As a result of stalled or cancelled projects, prevent various levels of Canadian governments from collecting billions worth of tax revenues that could be spent on
- building hospitals, schools, roads
- investing into new clean technology and renewable energy
- employing nurses, teachers, doctors and other public sector workers
- funding social progress
- Help drive off foreign investment by influencing public opinion and government policy, sometimes with misleading articles and outright false claims while failing to recognize that Canada is already an environmental leader among the world’s top oil-rich nations
- Help create uncertainty in the industry, driving skilled professionals in Canada to look for work in other countries, and companies to divest while shifting capital to other jurisdictions (look at Shell, Encana, TransCanada, Enbridge and many more in recent months / years)
- Contribute to massive layoffs and high unemployment rates as a result of all the above
"Environmental activists" ignore the fact that Canada is already a world leader in renewables and environmental stewardship (link is NRC PDF).
For example, Canada is a world leader in non-emitting power generation with 80 percent of Canada’s electricity coming from hydro, nuclear, wind and solar. Canada is also the only top 10 oil-exporting nation with carbon pricing initiatives (since 2007), but you never hear about such facts because it doesn’t fit the anti-Canadian pipeline, anti-Canadian energy narrative of the Tar Sands Campaign and its members.
Truth is that Canadians benefit from foreign investment into the oil sands. As a matter of fact, foreign investment is such a positive in many instances that it’s included as a ranking factor by U.S. News when determining its “Best Countries in the World” list. Canada does not benefit from the activities of these various activist organizations who protest and block the development of ONLY Canadian natural resources.
Q - But these "environmental groups" are protecting the environment?
Are they? It’s an important question to ask, but if the statement were true, efforts would be made to stop energy infrastructure and development of resources in other jurisdictions as well – not just in Canada.
For example, in Texas there’s currently 8 or more new pipeline projects that have been recently completed, are underway or proposed with completion by 2021. Together, they will bring more than 6.5 million barrels of crude per day to global markets via the Gulf Coast.
Where are the protestors?
Where are the U.S.-based divisions of these Canadian “environmental activist” groups in Texas? Why are only Canada’s pipelines attacked? Is it because new pipelines to Canada’s coast will help Canadian producers fetch a higher price per barrel by diversifying their markets and selling to nations other than their only current customer, the United States?
Notice how any pipeline from Canada to the United States – Enbridge Line 3 replacement, Keystone XL expansion - are also savagely attacked, while national pipelines from inner Texas to the coast are given a free pass by these “environmental” groups?
If these "environmental activists" genuinely cared about the environment, they wouldn’t be selectively targeting Canada’s natural resource industries to the exclusion of all others. What they would do is champion Canadian oil and gas because it’s produced to the highest environmental standards in the world.
Global demand for both oil and natural gas is growing, so why is Canada the only top oil producer / exporter being blocked from moving its resources to other international markets than the US by this focused and persistent effort known as the Tar Sands Campaign?
These are fair questions, and they need to be considered by all Canadians.
Q - How does blocking Canadian oil production help the environment?
It doesn’t. Of the top 10 oil-exporting nations, Canada is the only one with carbon pricing initiatives. It also produces oil and gas to the highest environmental, human rights and labour standards in the world while also being leader in energy innovation and technology.
Ok, we know we’re repeating ourselves about Canada’s environmental leadership, but it needs to be said – and recognized.
Global oil demand is growing, which means that if Canada doesn't meet that demand, another oil-exporting country will.
The chances of that country being an OPEC producer is very high. Let's just say that they don't uphold the same environmental, regulatory and labour standards that Canadian producers do.
Latest oil demand projections:
- According to the IEA, Global demand for oil grew by 1.3 million barrels per day in 2018 and will grow by another 1.4 million in 2019
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) raised its world oil demand forecast for 2019 while projecting that global oil demand would rise by 1.53 million barrels per day in 2020 to a total of 103.07 million per day worldwide
- IEA also predicts natural gas demand will rise 45% by 2040
Q - I heard peak oil will happen soon. Is that true?
Truth is, no one really knows for sure. Peak oil (the point in time when the maximum rate of extraction of crude oil is reached) has been projected by various organizations to be anywhere between 2023 (Forbes) and 2040 (IEA).
It’s important to remember that when peak oil hits, the world will by no means stop using oil. In fact, oil use could continue for many decades after peak consumption, and Canada, because of its environmental leadership on the world stage, should be the last producer to be out of the pool.
Q - But I thought oil sands GHG emissions per barrel were 3 to 4 times higher than conventional oil sources?
This is one of the worst fallacies that has been spread about Canada’s oil sands. Oil sands emissions per barrel are within the same range as many other crude oils produced worldwide (Natural Resources Canada, Government of Alberta). See the Alberta Government's emissions intensity per barrel of oil sands versus other world jurisdictions yourself.
As a matter of fact, industry / business leaders are now saying that Canada is actually producing its heavy oil with GHG emissions per barrel that are lower than many other oil-exporting nations worldwide (look below for more evidence of this).
Canada’s made an incredible effort to decrease its environmental footprint over the years:
- In 2014, GHG emissions per barrel of production were 31% lower than 1990 levels.
- Between 2009 and 2017, emissions intensity per barrel was measured at a 21% reduction.
- A recent report by IHS Markit in 2018 projected that the intensity of oil sands emissions would improve by 16% to 23% by 2030.
Furthermore, the individual efforts of major Canadian producers need to be recognized. Many Canadian oil producers don’t take credit for where it’s due and are more than guilty of not sharing their progress with the world. But now they’re starting to speak up.
GHG Reductions: Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.
For example, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) said that it’s reduced its GHG emissions intensity by 37%. That’s equivalent to taking 665,000 cars of the road (at 2018 production levels).
GHG Reductions: Imperial Oil
Imperial Oil is another major Canadian producer that has reduced its GHG intensity per barrel produced in its in-situ oil sands facilities by 20% between 2013 and 2017.
With further research and development, the company said it could reduce both GHG emissions intensity and water use intensity by up to 25% at its new Aspen project.
Imperial also mentioned the possibility of eventually eliminating the need for steam all together at some of its operations, reducing GHG intensity per barrel by up to 90%.
Canada is 1.6% of World GHG
Canada’s environmental stewardship and leadership is apparent, resulting from new technology and innovation coming from within the energy sector itself. But can the same be said for other world oil producers, of whom that don’t have the same high standards of environmental regulation and transparency that Canada does?
Canada is responsible for only 1.6% of the world’s total GHGs. The amount of funding towards attacking Canada’s oil and gas sector simply does not match up to the total GHGs we emit as a country!
Q - Why would Canada spend $23 million on pro-energy ads in 2018?
As Tzeporah Berman would say, “it’s a drop in the bucket” compared to the economic benefit the oil and gas sector has for Canada.
In 2018, Canada’s oil and gas sector accounted for $117 billion of the national gross domestic product (GDP). This cost of $23 million to promote an industry which is the backbone of Canadian prosperity is money well spent, especially considering the years of misinformation and fear-mongering that are now being countered with the truth and facts about Canada’s world-leading oil and gas sector.
Enough is Enough! Canada’s Future is at Stake!
Would Texas put up with Canadian funds helping to stop and delay pipelines under construction within its state boundaries? If wealthy Canadian companies were running a well-organized campaign to block the millions of barrels of new oil pipeline capacity that’s been recently completed, underway or proposed to export crude from the Gulf Coast to world markets, would Americans allow it?
The answer is obviously NO.
So why do we Canadians allow it here? As this campaign to block Canadian energy development continues, we must ask ourselves whether our very national sovereignty is at risk. What nation in its right mind would allow a foreign country to have so much influence on projects that are in the national interest?