Dealing with Big Oil Temper Tantrums as Companies Move Away from Tar Sands

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I’m a banana-a-day kind of person and this morning my Chiquita tasted extra sweet knowing that the company has joined thousands of others who are speaking out against tar sands oil. Yesterday, Chiquita publicly confirmed that they want to see their fuel come from another source than the higher-carbon and more polluting Canadian tar sands. Business groups in the Canadian province of Alberta are already hitting back, calling for a boycott of Chiquita. But yet another call for a boycott just because a company is doing the right thing to fight climate change comes across as little more than a temper tantrum.  As people feel the impacts of extreme weather from climate change in their everyday lives, they are rightly asking questions about why the oil industry is continuing to go after ever dirtier sources of fossil fuels that make it impossible to fight climate changeWorld opinion is drawing the line at tar sands. Chiquita is joining a growing, civic-minded movement that is saying no to dirty fuels. Alberta businesses should be promoting, not undermining clean energy – this is in their best economic interest. Tar sands oil is not compatible with fighting climate change and having a healthy and prosperous future.

Chiquita reached its decision after a year of discussions with ForestEthics. In a letter to ForestEthics, the company wrote: “We are committed to directing our transportation providers to avoid, where possible, fuels from tar sands refineries and to adopt a strategy of continuous improvement towards the elimination of those fuels. We have recently confirmed this policy with our Company’s providers through an RFP process to ensure that this fuel is not being used for ground trucking transportation.” What this means is that the trucks moving bananas to our breakfast table will be tar sands free as much as possible. It also means that Chiquita and its trucking companies are sending a strong message to refineries and others along the fuel supply chain that they do not want tar sands in their fuel mix. ForestEthics has identified the U.S. refineries that take tar sands to help out companies trying to avoid this higher carbon and more polluting source of oil and Mother Jones just pulled together a map of tar sands refiners based on the ForestEthics research.

Chiquita joins Walgreens, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Quiksilver, Gap Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., Timberland, Bed Bath & Beyond, FedEx, Avon, American Eagle Outfitters, LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, and Liz Claiborne Inc. in making a commitment to avoid higher carbon fuels. These companies are showing courage in stepping up their efforts to fight climate change by dealing directly with their own fuel use. Chiquita also joins mayors, farmers, religious leaders, business leaders, scientists, veterans, workers and many others across North America is saying no to tar sands.

So what gives tar sands industry supporters the right to call for a boycott of Chiquita and other companies that make the right choice to avoid tar sands? Nothing. What we are seeing is part of a broader and desperate effort to stop any type of clean fuels policy. This despite the fact that by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer’s own numbers tar sands greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise and tar sands is getting dirtier, not cleaner. Yet, tar sands supporters are attacking Chiquita today as they attacked each of the other companies that made a similar commitment to fight climate change and dirty fuels. Tar sands supporters are also fighting the low carbon fuel standard in California. They are fighting the clean fuels standard in the U.S. Northeast. They are fighting the fuel quality directive in Europe. And they are the main cause for Canada dumping their global climate commitments even though doing so will not be good for the Canadian economy according to a Pembina Institute analysis.   

Chiquita’s decision is courageous and it is part of a turning of the tide against tar sands. The costs of climate change are already high and growing. Chiquita is taking an important step to help protect us against the dangers of climate change and destructive oil extraction.

About the Authors

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

Chief Program Officer

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