It was inevitable that some sections of the Canadian press would defend tar sands, but the arguments they are using are fundamentally flawed.

In an editorial entitled “’Dirty oil’ beats bloody oil” today, the Calgary Herald tries to hit back at recent moves (see blog here) that highlight the financial risks of oil sands. The paper argues that those in the ethical investment community who are worried about oil sands are “misguided.” 

The Herald also tries to undermine highly important arguments about the financial risk of oil sands.  As a classic PR tactic, the paper tries to belittle tar sands contribution to global CO2.  “First, there’s the matter of scale. Canada produces two per cent of the world’s CO2. Of that modest amount, a mere 4.6 per cent comes from the oilsands. This is not melting the snows of Kilimanjaro and to focus upon it as environmentalists do, is simply fearmongering.”

The real evil, argues the Herald is not tar sands, but “China’s coal-fired electrical power generation industry.”

Not to mention the evils of Saudi oil: “Apart from presiding over a misogynistic, medieval, and tyrannical society, the House of Saud quietly finances an extreme form of Islam around the world — Wahabbism — that considers the West infidel, and less militant forms of Islam to be heretical. It is the intellectual seedbed of terrorism.”

“We have no wish to mock the good intentions of ethical investors. Yet, this single-minded antagonism to the oilsands on environmental grounds is simply misguided”, argues the Herald. “It is not wrong to be concerned with what might happen in 100 years’ time, but it’s like standing on a beach: The danger of gazing intently at the horizon is that one may not notice one’s feet are about to get wet.”

This is such as flawed argument that it becomes nonsensical. It is not a question of Saudi or Canadian oil, it is not a question of Chinese coal versus Canadian oil. It is a question of coming up with a pathway to a clean-energy future, from a diverse array of renewable technologies. Otherwise in an hundred years from now its not just you feet that will be getting wet.