DEBATE: Does Sebastian Vettel’s Oil Sands Rhetoric Hurt or Help Us?

Debate - Does Sebastian Vettel's Anti Oil Sands Comments Hurt or Help

Sebastian Vettel, a professional Formula One race car driver, pulled an anti-oil sands stunt upon visiting the F1 Canadian Grand Prix 2022 in Montreal. The Saudi Aramco-sponsored world champ accused Alberta's oil sands of being Canada's "climate crime" and that the operation should be shut down immediately.

Does this anti-oil sands rhetoric hurt or help Canadians, global energy security or the environment? Those are good questions explored on The Mike Smyth Show's debate between Canada Action and the Wilderness Committee, airing in June 2022.

LISTEN TO THE DEBATE NOW

Or, keep on reading for everything said between Cody Battershill, CEO and Founder of Canada Action, and Peter McCartney, Climate Change Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee:

Are the Oil Sands Canada's "Climate Crime?"

DEBATE TRANSCRIPT:

Sebastian Vettel Anti-Oil Sands Stunt Doesn't Help Energy Security or the Environment

Mike: Okay, welcome back to the show. Here we go with our oil sands debate on the show today.

Sebastian Vettel, the Formula One race car driver, really putting this in the spotlight on the weekend at the Canadian Grand Prix race in Montreal.

He's a former four-time world champion in F1,and he arrived at the race track in Montreal riding a bicycle and wearing a t shirt that had a picture of a pipeline on the shirt, and it said, "Stop mining tar sands" "Canada's climate crime." He also competed in the race on Sunday wearing a special helmet with a similar message on it accusing Canada of "climate crime."

All right, there's been a lot of criticism directed at him as well. The obvious is that he races in a race car circuit that burns a lot of fossil fuels. One of his primary sponsors on the F1 circuit is Aramco, which is one of the world's largest oil producers.

Have a listen to this. We got a great panel standing by on this. Have a listen to this report from Global News. You'll hear Sebastian Vettel here commenting on the oil sands. Have a listen.

Global News: His helmet also reads "Stop mining tar sands." Also on the German driver's helmet, the logo for one of his sponsors, Saudi Aramco, an oil company that has been the single largest contributor to global carbon emissions.

Sebastian Vettel: What happens in Alberta is a crime. I think, as I said, there's so much science around the topic that fossil fuels are going to end and living in a time that we do now, these things shouldn't be allowed anymore and they shouldn't happen.

Mike: Okay, Sebastian Vettel, there the race car driver at the Canadian Grand Prix on the weekend. Let's discuss it now with our panel. We got both sides of it for you. Cody Battershill is the founder of Canada Action. It's an advocacy group supports oil and gas production in Alberta. Hi Cody.

Cody: Hey, Mike, thanks for having me.

Mike: Thanks for coming on again.

Peter McCartney is a climate change campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, and I'm very pleased to welcome Peter back as well. Hi, Peter. Thank you for coming on.

Peter: Hey, thanks for having me. All right, guys.

Mike: Thank you to both of you for coming on.

Peter McCartney, let me go to you first. Sebastian Vettel, the F1 race car driver, very outspoken on the weekend at the Canadian Grand Prix on Alberta oil production. Do you agree with his stand?

Peter: Absolutely, I agree with his stand. I mean, I think the tar sands  are the single largest polluting industry. The oil and gas industry creates more pollution than all transportation in all of Canada. And this is our climate crime.

Maybe he's not the best poster child for this issue, but the message is louder and clearer than ever that we need to stop the carbon pollution that is coming from the tar sands that is causing the climate disasters that we are seeing in Canada and all over the world.

Mike: Do you think that a guy like Sebastian Vettel, who's a race car driver, when he speaks out like this, do you think he helps the cause or do you think he sets it back because a lot of people are pointing a finger at him saying, wait a second, you drive around in a race car that burns tons of fossil fuel, so you're a hypocrite.

But do you think he helps the cause?

Peter: I do think he helps the cause. I'm here talking to you today because of what he did and it forces the issue and the solution to  climate change isn't that everybody who works in a job that relies on fossil fuels quits their job. It's that we advocate for collective action to reduce our fossil fuel use and wind down this industry in a way that supports the workers and communities who rely on it.

Mike: Okay, Cody, Battershill, your thoughts?

Cody: I think it's funny that Peter doesn't want Sebastian to quit the F1. I mean, Sebastian said he loves racing. That's just why he knows and he's admitted he's a hypocrite.

But look, he's sponsored by Saudi Aramco and the reality is all these anti-pipeline, anti-Canadian oil and gas activities in the last decade and Sebastian Vettel's comments, the hypocrisy. And the reality is that it's only helped other producers.

We know right now, energy security, protecting the environment go hand in hand. And Canada is a leader. You cannot talk about Canada and the climate without talking about how we have been leading in renewables, in responsible oil and gas development, Indigenous partnerships, reducing emissions, collaborating to get to net zero, carbon capture, and so many other ways.

It's ridiculous rhetoric that is not rooted in fact or reality. And it only helps his sponsor Aramco, which is the same for all of these pipeline protests in Canada.

Mike: What do you say, Peter, what do you say to that?

Peter: Well, the difference between Canada's oil and Saudi oil and Saudi Arabia's oil is that Saudi Arabia just has to stick a pipe in the ground and oil comes up, whereas we actually have to boil oil out of sand. And that makes us have one of the most carbon intensive oils in the world.

And so talking as if we have any sort of responsibly produced product here in Canada is just not acknowledging the facts about what is contributing to climate change, which is the carbon pollution. And our oil is some of the worst in the world. It's the first that has to go.

Mike: Cody.

Cody: I'm not shocked to hear Peter defend and praise Saudi Arabia. The reality is there are several other countries with higher emissions, that is Stanford and California studies done since 2014.

These groups, Peter's group, Peter himself never blocked Saudi Arabian oil tankers coming to Canada and coming to California, coming to Europe.

The reality is the climate is global. We have been reducing emissions. We're a leader in reducing emissions. We are also a leader in wind and solar and hydro. But we're going to need all energy sources for decades to come.

That's pragmatic, that's reality. And Canadian resources like oil and gas supports Canadian families. Period. Full stop. I'm behind that every day of the week, as opposed to a multimillionaire F1 driver. And all these groups who continue to ignore the Alaskan oil tankers on the West Coast, the Saudi oil tankers on the east coast, they have only hurt the global environment by getting less regulated, less transparent, less climate friendly oil and gas around the world that doesn't have to compete with Canada. It is absolutely ridiculous.

Mike: Peter McCartney, your response to that?

Peter: It is simply not true that the Canadian oil and gas industry has reduced emissions. Emissions have continued to go up along with production. And that needs to change in order for us to have a safe climate on this planet for the next decades to come.

And so Canada's oil has to be reduced. Every other country in the world has to reduce their oil production. And here in Canada, we can focus on the oil that we are producing. We are the fifth-largest producer of fossil fuels on the planet. The very fossil fuels that are causing climate change. They're destroying communities and that are killing people here in this province and around the world.

And so, you know, when we figured out that asbestos was actually causing harm to people, we stopped producing asbestos. And we need to do the same with oil. We need to take the moral position here, which is not continue to produce a product that we know endangers life on this planet as we know it.

Mike: We're debating oil and gas production in Canada. My guests are Cody Battershill, he's from Canada Action. It's a pro-oil and gas advocacy group. Peter McCartney from the Wilderness Committee, he's a climate change campaigner there.

And Sebastian Vettel his comments at the Formula One race on the weekend in Montreal. He's an F1 driver, former champ who wore a helmet in the race criticizing Canada's oil and gas industry, especially in Alberta.

Hey, Cody, when you hear Peter talk about the production methods that are required to extract the oil from Alberta and the carbon intensity there, how do you respond to that? Because it's certainly difficult to deny that the carbon intensity that's required to get that oil out of the ground in the oil sands in Alberta creates a lot more pollution, doesn't it?

Cody: Over the last 20 years, emissions intensity per barrel has decreased by 44%, that's since 1995. Oil sands mining specifically is less than 20% of reserves, less than 50% of production.

The oil and gas industry, I support research and development. I support innovation, collaboration and local prosperity. So I'm proud to support the Canadian oil sands mining industry, which is collaborating and investing more than $9 billion in research and development since 2009, higher than other global producers on a per barrel basis. To continue to tackle the environmental challenges.

Let's talk reality. Every single thing human beings do on this planet has an environmental impact. In the oil sands, every acre of land disturbed must be reclaimed. Are we going to reclaim our cities? Are we going to reclaim our farmland? Everything we do has an impact.

We cannot shut down Canadian oil and gas. All it simply does is help other producers. We need to be pragmatic and be inclusive, supporting all energy. Sebastian and Peter are not adding to that balanced conversation at all.

Mike: Peter, Peter McCartney, what do you say to that?

Peter: The reclamation argument is just hilarious to me because they have reclaimed about a tea towel on a football field worth of the tar sands. They are an absolute stain on this country. They will be there for the taxpayers to clean up when all of these oil and gas companies fail because the world doesn't want their products anymore.

And so to talk about the tar sands as if they are anything other than the most polluting project that this country has ever undertaken is just laughable and it's PR spin that people are not buying anymore.

Mike: Okay, Cody, I know you want to respond to that. Let me fit in a quick break here first though, as we must do, and then we will come back with more.

My guests are Cody Battershill Canada Action. It's a pro oil and gas group in Alberta. Peter McCartney, climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.

Take a break, come back.

Open the phone lines on this one too. Which side are you on on this one? Sebastian Vettel, the F1 race car driver at the Canadian Grand Prix, slamming the Alberta oil sands on a T-shirt on his helmet during the race, he accuses Canada of a "climate change crime."

Do you agree with them?

Caller: Perhaps that helmet is a little too tight and it's constricting circulation to the part of the brain that detects hypocrisy because that's what our friend Sebastian is. He is a high carbon hypocrite.

Mike: Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative MP, of course, running for the Conservative leadership, going after Sebastian Vettel, the F1 driver there, yes. He's got a lot of people in the Conservative ranks just hopping mad here with his stand at the Canadian Grand Prix on the weekend.

We're talking about it with my guest, Cody Battershill, Peter McCartney, tons of phone calls, James in White Rock. Hi, James, go ahead.

James: Hi, thanks for taking my call. I think the first thing being in Alberta, me taking any kind of moral standing from a race car driver, is it going to happen? And if he was so high and mighty and why did he raise the race and why didn't he boycott it? And if he said anything about any other oil companies around the world except for Alberta and if he hasn't, who paid him to do it? Because these guys don't do anything for free.

Mike: Well, he's got a giant oil company as one of his main sponsors. I don't know if he's ever criticized them. Peter, do you know, what do you say to obviously the guy is taking a lot of heat for being a hypocrite on the file, but can you say anything to defend him? Peter McCartney.

Peter: Yeah, I mean, I think he doesn't get to choose his sponsors. I think it would be a moral stand for him to say, I'm not driving under the Aramco banner.

I think if you want to talk about oil company sponsorships, we can certainly talk about how oil companies sponsor just about every university, every sports team in Canada. But what we should be talking about is his message that Canada is committing a climate crime here.

Is one that rings true. It's a simple reality. It's physics that we cannot continue to pump carbon pollution into the atmosphere while at the same time getting these climate disasters accelerating all the time.

Mike: Hey, Cody, quick response. Fit some more calls in here, go ahead.

Cody: Yeah, I mean, we need to talk about morality. We don't follow Peter and Sebastian by supporting Aramco, the oil and gas and resource sector in Canada is a massive contributor to our communities, supporting our social programs, a half-trillion dollars to government since the year 2000.

And over the last ten years, while Peter has been against every pipeline project, global oil demand has increased more than 10 million barrels per day and it's still growing. I support Canada where we're focused on reducing emissions and we protect and value human rights, equality and transparency.

Mike: Okay, squeeze in some more calls here Sharon in Burnaby. Hi, Sharon, go ahead.

Sharon: Well, I'm sorry, but it seems to me that this all or nothing approach is not going to work either. I support Canada too, and I think that we're always getting a bad rap and look what's going to happen in Europe here as Russia shuts off its oil and gas production to the EU.

I just saw a headline this morning say the EU is now looking at replacing that with coal. So as far as I'm concerned, that's going way back. And that's because it's been cut off completely. We can't cut it off completely. We continue to work to make it cleaner, more environmentally friendly and supportive of Canada and the Canadian. Okay.

Mike: Peter, what do you say? Thank you for the call. Peter, what do you say to her?

Peter: We get a bad rep because we're a bad actor. We are the fifth largest producer of the product that is driving storms and wildfires and droughts all over the world. Listen, this is just a matter of fact that we cannot continue to do this.

And as electric car demand grows around the world, they're displacing oil. And we are going to continue to see oil demand peak and go down for decades to come.

Mike: Squeeze another call. And Brian in Coquitlam, go ahead.

Bryan: I got two points. Why is the supply and demand issue as long as people demand oil We need it to save the world, make it so people don't demand oil, change our cities, change how we work and select that. Second, we need oil for the roads, for the electric cars to drive on and all the other products that we have.

So oil demand is not going to change. Why are we going to fund terrorist groups and people that beat gays and women and like that when we can do it here? It might not be more environmentally friendly, but definitely better on all other fronts.

Mike: I want to thank both of you for being here. Cody Battershill from Canada Action. Thank you, Cody. Peter McCartney, climate campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.

This script has been edited for length.

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