Taking aim at oilsands

Those Greenpeace people are at it again. This time they’re not chasing down whalers and draping themselves over their harpoons.


Those Greenpeace people are at it again. This time they’re not chasing down whalers and draping themselves over their harpoons.

This time they’re taking it straight to Canada’s engine of economic growth, that driver of the petro-loonie, the oilsands.

This week, just in time for today’s meeting between Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, Greenpeace issued a report called Dirty — How The Tarsands Are Fuelling Global Climate Change, which claims the oilsands produce more greenhouse gases than some countries. And as an added distraction, activists chained themselves to a giant dump truck yesterday at Shell’s Albian Sands site in northern Alberta.

First National Geographic, now Greenpeace. The oilsands’ image is so bad that one professor at the University of Calgary thinks the Alberta government should hire a PR firm to fight back in case all this bad publicity eventually hurts foreign investment in Alberta, especially from Europe, which has no seals left to club or oil to extract and is therefore concentrating on exporting sanctimoniousness.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a great deal of respect for Andrew Nikiforuk, the great Canadian journalist who wrote the report, certainly more than I have for fearless front-line eco-warriors and their apparently endless supply of chains. And if you don’t think the oilsands have environmental consequences, tell that to the 1,600 dead ducks who went for their last swim in a Syncrude tailings pond on their flight south last spring.

But while it makes a good headline, the countries cited by Nikiforuk are Estonia and Lithuania, two industrial micro-states, while Canada is one of the world’s largest — and by far its friendliest — supplier of energy.


So if Osama bin Laden declares himself king of the OPEC states, the oilsands will be there to keep the lights on, something both Europe and Greenpeace should meditate on when they can take a moment from all that declaring.

For those who think it’s unfair or cynical to plead a geopolitical case, there’s always the fact that coal-fired energy generation is far and away the largest producer of greenhouse gases, but for some reason, Greenpeace has failed to chain itself around a coal-fired generating plant.

That’s probably because they can’t get into the U.S. thanks to the ceaseless vigilance of Homeland Security.

Maybe Greenpeace should chain itself to the Netherlands instead, which is one of the top five greenhouse gas producers on the planet, despite those picturesque windmills. Plus, unlike the U.S., it’s a real pushover, homeland security-wise.

Greenpeace is certainly not likely to pick another fight with France, despite its addiction to nuclear power, an environmental non-non. As I recall, the last time Greenpeace tried to get in the way of l’épreuve nucléair, the French employed a memorably explosive brand of public relations.

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