Monday, November 21, 2011


Ezra Levant penned the term Ethical Oil to sell the idea that the Alberta oil sands provides a product somehow more acceptable than what we import from the Middle East or elsewhere. Prime Minister Harper and Environment Minister Kent have adopted this label and need someone like Ezra Levant to sell the oil sands publicly. So what has derailed the combined plans of the Prime Minister and TransCanada?

The Keystone XL pipeline was planned to carry the crude oil from Alberta cutting through six states across the US to Texas refineries. It is claimed that this oil from a good and stable neighbour would allow the US to cut its umbilical chord of dependance on oil imports from less stable and nasty foreign imports. An environmental assessment report prepared for the State Department said that there would be little environmental impact. Hilary Clinton and the State Department were preparing to label the Keystone XL pipeline in the national interest of America and its future. Everything seemed to be progressing as planned. TransCanada had even been allowed to impose Eminent Domain action against landowners who refused access onto their properties for the pipeline.

Environmentalists and activists across the country raised their voices in opposition and the truth began to surface. What was touted as a clear environmental assessment became suspect as it was made public that the company that prepared the report for the State Department had strong financial ties to TransCanada. Questions surrounding the impact of the pipeline on the largest freshwater supply in the mid west could no longer be ignored. With an election leering ever closer the pressure on the White House grew. So on November 10th 2011 it was announced officially that the decision by the State Department to approve the Keystone XL pipeline will be postponed till after the 2012 election. There are requests now that TransCanada re-route a portion of the planned pipeline as questions of potential impact on the Ogallala Aquifer had been raised. Most important a new environmental assessment is now planned one that would be far less bias towards the project.

A great victory has been won by environmentalists and ordinary people willing to stand up against what seemed to be insurmountable odds. It is perhaps the first time that environment and its concerns has won over not only the oil industry, but over big business as a whole. I will never accept the comment posted by Mark Mattson of the Ontario Waterkeeper on Facebook that the US has become our Canadian conscience. As an environmentalist I am proud to have witnessed this victory. As a realist I also am aware that if not for an election nearing, where tens of millions of dollars will be spent to keep Obama in office, this victory would most likely not of been possible. That statement that the US has become the Canadian conscience is insulting and obscene, though I am sad to say our federal government under the helm of Prime Minister Harper has no care for the environment for the impact we have on the future. Perhaps that is why Ezra Levant was able to give birth to Ethical Oil here in Canada.

Ezra Levant hails from Alberta and Ethical Oil is his baby. True it has been accepted with open arms by Prime Minister Harper, Environment Minister Kent and Natural Resources Minister Oliver. Canada clearly wants to become a super exporter of oil at any cost. The stage was set for Ezra Levant and Ethical Oil, though the argument put forward by Levant is based on little fact other than Canada is a stable country, oh and friendly, very friendly to business partners.

As you read the biography available on Wikipedia about Ezra Levant one point comes across loud and clear, he is a hell of a salesman. I think Ezra Levant could sell ice to an Eskimo and make him believe that it is the one thing he cannot live without. His Ethical Oil claims that the oil produced from Alberta sold to our neighbours the Americans, or for that matter anyone else, is better than the oil imported form nasty parts of the world such as the Middle East or elsewhere. After all Canada is a clean cut country concerned with human rights, freedom of speech and a democracy worth emulating. As a proud Canadian that is the only part that I agree with in the argument put forward by Levant and Ethical Oil. The rest is a farce and an insult.

Ezra Levant's connection to Prime Minister Harper is documented well enough. It was Levant who stepped aside to allow Harper a seat and begin his trek for power. Harper needed to sell the Alberta oil sands to the public and Ezra Levant stepped forward with his Ethical Oil. How is any oil ethical?

I don't think any of us, in any part of the world, would argue the point that smog is becoming a serious health hazard in our cities. Air quality is not something that has been devised as a sinister plot by environmentalists or radicals. It is a frightening reality we have to deal with each year. Ontario's Ministry of the Environment states:

the contaminates that create smog are released during the combustion of fossil fuels in our vehicles, power plants, factory boilers and homes. More than half of our smog problems comes from south of the border.”

Ministry of the Environment continues its advice to drive less, far more car-pooling and avoiding gas lawnmowers. Environment America it its 2010 Smog Rankings labelled California as the smoggiest state in the US with 418 smog days, 53 red-alert days and 2 purple-alert days. Red-alert days are when an individual could experience adverse health affects due to the extremely poor air quality. Purple-alert days are when the air is deemed so unhealthy that citizens were alerted to limit outdoor exposure. In Toronto we did far better with only 8 smog alert days in 2010 according to Environment Canada. Though poor air quality has been a contributor to 1700 early deaths and 6000 hospital visits each year. How do we ignore these facts? Is it possible to listen to Ezra Levant and his insane analogies of fictitious Zoes? Our addiction to fossil fuels, to oil, is no less in Canada as it is in the US. Here in St. Catharines we do not have highways stacked on stilts. Though I have a neighbour across the road in his seventies who gets into his red truck at least four times a day, every day to drive several blocks to the local corner store to buy his little peel away lottery tickets! His neighbour from early spring through to autumn wheels out his lawn mower every other week. We cannot see past our addiction yet it is no less lethal than that of a heroin user. And Ezra I am not Zoe, I have been past West Hamilton and nor am I a vegetarian.

The arguments put forward for Ethical Oil regardless which one chooses are not based on fact. Ezra Levant, TransCanada, US Republicans and even Harper and his crew all say that Alberta's oil sands will make the US non reliant on oil imports. Yet the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicts that even if Canadian oil imports double by 2020 that still only accounts for less than 25% of America's consumption needs. Most of the oil needed by the US will still have to be imported from somewhere else. In response to Levant's Ethical Oil and attacks on imports form Saudi Arabia or other areas, The Petroleum Economist, an international oil industry journal that has monitored the oil industry since the 1930's stated that Levant's book was filled with “strange arguments...” The journal also explained how producers of Middle Eastern oil had “deployed their wealth to prop up western financial institutions during the recession preventing a complete economic collapse” (

As one dissects all that has been brought forward by Levant and his Ethical Oil, and by those who support the Alberta oil sands it becomes clear that facts are missing or totally ignored. Levant calls Canada an ethical country and attacks the Middle Eastern countries on various grounds, even bringing in a new face to continue the attack. Ethical Oil's new spokesperson Kathryn Marshall authored on Huffington Post a piece titled “Care About Women's Rights? Support Ethical Oil.” Who at Ethical Oil really cares for anyone's rights? Levant attacks everyone: homosexuals, human rights advocates and environmentalists. Using a woman's face to sing the song about woman's rights is simply another crass salesman's trick. Although Canada can be proud of its system of government and way of life we hang our heads in shame over the horrors of the G20 Summit in Toronto of 2010. On a more basic and local level in St. Catharines Ontario discussions of a massive expenditure proposal for the city and its taxpayers brought this response from its mayor, Mayor Brian McMullan as reported by a local newspaper Niagara this Week, October 27 Mayor Brian McMullan said, “...that using public opinion has never been a policy of this council.” How ethical is that? Didn't the public vote Mayor McMullan and council in?

Levant represents Sun Media and extolls the ethical values of oil from such an ethical neighbour as Canada. In St. Catharines the local newspaper The Standard owned by Sun Media, lied about evidence of a corrupt act by the incumbent mayoral candidate in the municipal elections of 2010. Reporters, Marlene Bergsma and Peter Downs lied and had their lies printed so as to influence the result of an election, all the information available on Mayorgate. I guess that's real ethics at work.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper had this to say: “Canada will be looking for a buyer, we're a resource-based, energy-based country and we'll be looking at all opportunities.” (National Post, Kelly McParland, Nov. 11.11) So we are now preparing for pipelines form Alberta to the BC Coast to ship the oil sands crude to China. At the Mexico Climate Change Summit of 2010 two countries were the loudest voices against any concrete initiative, one of them was China. China now ranks as the world's largest emitter of carbon sending over 6.5 million metric tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere a year. Canada's ethics are simply based in dollars nothing else.

Canada's 'ethics' are not only concerned with pipelines to BC to supply China and Asian markets but also efforts to convince the European Union not to label oil sands crude as inherently polluting under a new fuel quality directive. Quoting directly from the European Commission Transport & Environment, Fuel Quality Monitoring report:

In April 2009, Directive 2009/30/EC was adopted which revises the Fuel Quality Directive (Directive 98/70/EC). It amends a number of elements of the petrol and diesel specifications as well as introducing in Article 7a a requirement on fuel supplies to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of energy supplied for road transport (Low Carbon Fuel Standard). In addition the Directive establishes sustainability criteria that must be met by biofuels if they are to count towards the greenhouse gas industry reduction obligation.”

Europeans are making serious attempts at controlling greenhouse gas emissions and are serious about climate change initiatives. Canada on the other hand has stated that we “will not bring out new rules for greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands in May” (National Post, John Ivison Sept. 19,2011). Minister Kent added that Prime Minister Harper has made it clear that the economy is his first concern. I guess the fact that producing and refining tar sands oil is energy-intensive, and releases 82% more greenhouse gas emissions, as well as more poisonous mercury and arsenic, compared to conventional oil, is not on Harper's or Kent's minds. It is simply dirty oil and using the end product in our vehicles will add more stress to an already dangerous situation.

The European Commission continues, The new standards will not only make petrol, diesel and gasoil 'cleaner' but will also allow the introduction of vehicles and machinery that pollute less. A key measure is that, to encourage the development of lower-carbon fuels and biofuels, suppliers will have to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production, transport and use of their fuels by 10% between 2011 and 2020. This will cut emissions by a cumulative total of 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020.”

Environment Minister Kent is quoted as saying “At Environment Canada our business is protecting the environment. We collaborate with our partners at home and abroad to realize concrete progress on initiatives that will protect the health of our people, our species and our planet...” (Ottawa Nov. 10, 2011/CNW-Canada News Wire). But the truth, well it tells a different story after all.

Canada's dirty oil has already damaged and polluted our neighbour's waters and communities. The oil sands spill into the Kalamazoo River will total a whopping $700 million dollar clean-up. The effect of nearly 4 million litres of toxic tar sands crude oil into the river has been devastating to local communities. It followed a rupture of the Lakehead Pipeline 6B belonging to Enbridge Energy Partners. Marshall a town near the Kalamazoo River has residents, many of them children with serious rashes on their bodies, vomiting and memory loss, others have had seizures, yet all were healthy before the spill. It is ironic to see the photo on Bernie Sanders' report 'Tar sands oil and Keystone XL's dirty little secret' ( Nov. 10 2011). This photo is of a Canada goose trying to fly out of the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan.

President Obama released this statement: “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed.” Yet in reality this has not been totally an environmental win but simply the power of politics. 'Tis the season of elections and tens of millions of dollars to be spent for a win. Nebraska senators who fought the pipeline have now seen the TransCanada 'light' and are true believers with a new route. After all TransCanada has spent millions of dollars already and has the full support of Canada's government. Prime Minister Harper and his ministers Kent and Oliver share the same ethical hypocrisy. They use stooges (or if you prefer muses) such as Ezra Levant and Kathryn Marshall to sell their ethics. In the end we're in for a buck and Canada's dirty oil will follow.

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