Tag Archives: Ezra Levant

The Ethical Oil Institute on oil sands emissions

The illogical (not to mention deceitful) framing of Alberta oil sands development as a supposed choice between “ethical oil” and “conflict oil” continues to fall apart. In the latest fiasco playing out at Huffington Post Canada, Ben Amunwa, a prominent critic of Shell Oil’s environmental  record in Nigeria and the Alberta oil sands, has shredded EthicalOil.org spokesperson Kathryn Marshall’s ridiculous assertion that he is on the “same page” regarding the ethics of oil production (h/t Holly Stick).

So far, however, controversy has centred overwhelmingly on the distracting “ethical vs conflict oil” arguments and less on the equally misleading statements on the real environmental issues in the oil sands from EthicalOil.org (a.k.a. the Ethical Oil Institute). So today I’ll take a detailed look at the Ethical Oil position on the oil sands carbon footprint, as seen in former spokesperson Alykhan Velshi’s error-filled and confused post entitled Mythbusting: Are the Oilsands Major greenhouse Gas Emitters?, part of his “Myths and Lies” series.

I’ll focus on the two most significant problems in Velshi’s piece:

  • Velshi’s original premise was that not only are oil sands greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relatively insignificant, but that they are actually declining. This has been partially corrected, presumably in response to my initial commentary on this issue, but in such a way as to render his argument completely illogical. And Velshi’s conclusion still repeats the utterly mistaken assertion that oil emissions “are falling”, whereas in fact they are rising at a rapid rate.
  • Ethical Oil’s credibility is further damaged by misleading statements concerning the supposedly tiny contribution of oil sands emissions when compared to total global human and natural emissions. This echoes barely veiled climate “skeptic” arguments in Ezra Levant’s 2009 book that started the whole “ethical oil” rebranding effort. And an examination of Levant’s previous statements on climate science would appear to confirm that a strong anti-science stance is not far from the surface, despite the efforts of Ethical Oil spokespersons to hide it.

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The Institute

Here is part of a high-minded statement of purpose from a Canadian non-profit organization; see if you can guess which one.

The objects for which the Company is established are:
(a) To support and encourage research and education respecting the following:
(i) the use and development of natural resources including, without limitation, the extraction, production, development, conservation, protection, and distribution of natural resources, and other related matters, throughout Canada and the World;
(ii) conservation and protection of the environment;
(iii) ethical issues and considerations in respect of the items described in subparagraphs (i) and (ii) including, without limitation, issues and
considerations of environmental responsibility, peace, treatment of workers, democratic rights, and human rights;   ….

Suzuki Foundation? Nope. Well then, how about the energy think tank Pembina Institute? Wrong again, although this newer organization is also based in oil rich Alberta.

Say hello to – wait for it – the Ethical Oil Institute. Today I’ll take a first look at the hitherto unknown entity behind the latest push to defend the Alberta oil sands (a.k.a. tar sands). I’ll review the emerging roles of the Conservative-linked masterminds behind the initiative, namely pundit and author Ezra Levant and government spokesperson turned blogger Alykhan Velshi. And I’ll introduce Levant’s silent partner in the Institute: Calgary lawyer Thomas Ross,who also happens to be a partner at oil patch law firm McLellan Ross and one of the leaders of the firm’s OilSandsLaw.com initiative. All of this belies the studiously cultivated image of Ethical.org as a “grassroots” organizational effort; indeed, it looks more and more like industry sponsored  astroturf.

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