Appearances, goes the saying, can be deceptive. One of the tactics the oil industry has used over the years is the use of “front-groups” to promote its cause.  Often these names are deliberately designed to confuse people or hide their real intention.

So the Global Climate Coalition was not a coalition of NGOs attempting to save the climate, it was an oil front group trying its hardest to undermine any international efforts to confront climate change.

The Coalition for Vehicle Choice was not a consumer coalition fighting for different vehicle types it was created by the motor industry to fight against higher fuel efficiency standards.

So when you see the Center for North American Energy Security (CNAES) you know that it is not what it seems. It is not a consumer lobbying organisation promoting energy-efficiency it is in fact an oil industry front group promoting the use of Canadian tar sands. In fact it used to be called the Center for Unconventional Fuels, before someone decided that that was obviously too honest a description and it needed to be changed.

CNAES has nothing to do with energy efficiency or renewables. It is a organisation, in their own words, which is “dedicated to advancing the common interests of all five unconventional-fuels segments, wherever and however that can be accomplished, in both governmental and private sectors.”

CNAES is one of the organisations featured in an illuminating article in the Canadian Financial Post yesterday, entitled “Washington big guns take up oil sands cause.”

The article stated that “As Alberta’s oil sands industry struggles with depressed oil prices and opposition from the environmental movement, a new front is emerging to support it — in Washington.”

“From the recently formed Center for North American Energy Security (CNAES), headed by former Republican Congressman Tom Corcoran, to the American Petroleum Institute (API), some of the world’s major oil  companies and former U.S. ambassadors to Canada like Gordon Giffin, some big guns in Washington’s lobby community are taking up the oil sands cause.”

Representing CNAES is the lobbyist Michael Whatley, a partner with HBW Resources in Washington  and former chief of staff to former Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole. Defeated in the 2008 elections, Dole accepted $318,346 from oil companies from 2000 to 2008, making her one of the top recipients of oil money.

Whatley told the Financial Post that “his group is  borrowing from the playbook of the environmental lobby, which does  five things really well: It uses consistent messages — no oil, no coal, clean water and clean air; it is aggressive and loud; it builds support outside Washington, working state governments and foreign  governments; it rewards good political behaviour and punishes bad behaviour to the point of taking down opponents in election campaigns;  and it recruits good allies, such as organized labour or educators.”

Tar sands is now one of the priorities for the American Petroleum Industry too. The API’s oil sands message is, according to Jim Ford, vice-president of regulatory affairs, “Canada’s our very nearby neighbour, we have the most cordial relations that one can have, they are already our  largest source of imported oil, and the potential for being able to  increase our level of energy security by increasing the amount of oil  that we receive from Canada, from our point of view, is an attractive prospect”.

Well it is attractive, only if you forget about the ecological and cultural devastation caused by its extraction. Not forgetting climate change. But watch out for the nice glossy photos of Alberta that hide the dirty truth of the tar sands. But then, don’t forget, appearances can be deceptive.

One Comment

  • So what will the Big Oil Company’s last stand be – burning the La Brea Tar Pit in Los Angeles for fuel. We needed cleaner fuels not dirtier petroleum fuels. Tar sands for fuel have us moving in the wrong direction.

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