Tar sands oil lobby revolving door

Many people think of Canada as large tracts of pristine forests and a strong environmental ethic. Indeed, the Canadian people and provincial governments such as Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia are working hard to fight climate change. Yet, the Canadian federal government and Alberta are undermining U.S. efforts to build a clean energy economy. Why? The answer can be found in extraction of a tar-like substance (bitumen) that can be upgraded to a synthetic crude oil at the cost of millions of acres of Boreal forests and wetlands and vast quantities of water and natural gas. Once oil prices went high enough, this expensive and destructive source of fuel for our cars and trucks became a boom for the oil industry.  A New York Times article today shows that once the hunger for oil profits started driving Canada’s actions, the government became shameless in pushing the United States backwards towards an oil addiction that comes at a great price to our environment and our health.  With oil prices going down in recent times, the pace of development has slowed, but big oil and Canada want to see profits again – despite the fact that tar sands mean a step back from a clean energy economy and a step towards high oil prices.

Oil companies have long been known for their big lobby presence in Washington. Tar sands oil operators include oil majors such as BP, ConcoPhillips, and ExxonMobil. Big oil lobbyists now not only work for the oil companies, they also are diplomats from Canada and the tar sands province of Alberta. There is an active and dishonest lobby seemingly connected to the oil industry that is targeting climate legislation and state low carbon fuel standards. Less well known perhaps is the amount of lobbying that Canadian taxpayers are underwriting to undermine U.S. low carbon fuel standards and efforts to build a clean energy economy nation-wide. Legally, foreign agents and lobbyists are required to register. Their reports tell a tale of the governments of Canada and Alberta hiring lobbyists to sell tar sands oil despite the environmental, health and economic costs. The province of Alberta also has its own diplomatic office in the Canadian embassy in D.C. – from which it pushes a rosy view of tar sands oil. I don’t think that Canadian taxpayers would be happy to see their money going towards helping big oil and hurting our climate.

In the meantime, the revolving door of Canadian pro-tar sands politicians visiting Washington, D.C. continues. Recently it was Canada’s Environment Minister – an apologist for tar sands - and later this week, Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development Minister comes for an energy conference where he will undoubtedly tout tar sands oil.