So Mordor is getting a makeover. Big-time.
There is a concerted, multi-faceted public relations campaign going on to greenwash the tar sands. Dirty black is trying to become virgin white, or so that’s what they want.
According to three Albertan cabinet ministers, the tar sands are a “Canadian jewel” that should be celebrated and exploited.
Environment Minister Rob Renner, Energy Minister Ron Liepert and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Iris Evans have been in Toronto to spread their disinformation campaign, called “Alberta’s story.”
Meanwhile right-wing author, Ezra Levant, who is apparently known for his humour and wit, is stretching everyone’s sense of humour with a book called “Ethical Oil”.
Yes you guessed it, the tar sands are ethical, according to Levant. They are the equivalent of “fair trade coffee” and one of the country’s “greatest assets” argues Levant.
Levant’s argument is that Canada’s tar sands are by far the most ethical source of oil. Other oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq and Venezuela have long track records of human rights abuses, bad labour practices and corruption, and their environmental records are worse than Canada’s, he argues.
Levant says: “I don’t know how it happened that God put the oil industry all in the hands of the bad guys. We need to stop being defensive and start being proud,” he argues. “The oilsands are the most ethical source of oil in the world, and we need to start producing as much of it as possible to replace all the oil from the bad guys.”
The flaws in this argument are so large you could drive a tar sands lorry right through the middle of it, not least on the fuel being far more energy intensive; not least on climate change, water usage, or pollution causing health impacts in the local indigenous population. Not least every dollar invested in this dirty fuel could be going to fund the clean energy revolution.
As one Canadian reviewer said: “Levant is a good writer and a better debater. He is witty, provocative and relentless in his sense of certainty …. He is also a master of logical fallacy and half-truth …. Just remember that being witty, provocative and relentless is not the same as being right.”
When it comes to climate change, Levant argues that “The (GHG) difference between the oil sands and the average barrel’s cocktail of non-sands oil is already down to 10 per cent, according to independent studies.”
He footnotes his source as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which is no surprise really.
He conveniently forgets all the other great work done on the subject by the Pembina Institute and other NGOs like Platform.
Mind you he will be furious that another study has just come out that it’s too late for his book that supposedly backs up his argument. This is a new study that “supposedly” suggests that tar sands emissions are only 6 per cent above normal oil.
Once again, the reality is somewhat different. Sheila McNulty has written a great blog about it in the FT:
“Is oil sands (or tar sands, as environmentalists like to call the fuel from Canada’s tar-like bitumen) really not as bad for the environment as traditional crude oil?” writes McNulty, “ At first brush, the latest report on the controversial subject, this time from the well-respected IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, might have left me with that impression.”
CERA draws on 13 publicly available studies from government, academic and industry sources that found that total emissions from refined products from tar sands is five to 15 percent higher than the average crude consumed in the United States.
But then here comes the trick. CERA concludes that emissions for tar sands products processed in the US are on average only 6 per cent higher, because those products are often blends of lower carbon products.
As McNulty writes: “So it is not that oil sands’ crude is a lower carbon emitting source – it is just that, because US oil refiners combine the oil sands’ crude with traditional crude, the end product is not as carbon intensive as some might think.”
She makes argues that CERA’s argument “does not change the carbon intensity of producing crude oil from oil sands. That is like saying marijuana or transfats (pick your poison here) are not as bad for you as some might think if you mix them with water (or anything else) and dilute them.”
Its abit like Tony Hayward saying that the Deepwater disaster wasn’t a disaster at all because it was only a drop in the ocean.
Indeed the NRDC has criticized the report, saying its own studies, examining many of the same sources, showed life-cycle emissions to be 8 percent to 37 percent higher than other crudes processed in the United States.
So you can argue that black can become white, but the figures or the evidence just don’t back it up.