Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver set off a loud, but poorly informed debate as environmental hearings began into the Enbridge proposal to pipe Alberta oil to the seaport at Kitimat.
Oliver’s open letter blasted foreign-funded environmental groups that “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”
This letter was seized upon by critics and the media, and misrepresented as an attack on anyone who opposes the pipeline or further expansion of the Alberta oil sands.
Of course, all opponents aren’t foreign or radicals. That was made clear when the Enbridge hearings opened in the Haisla village near Kitimat. Haisla members told the throng of out-of-town professional protesters to sit down and shut up. They don’t need self-appointed urbanites to speak for them.
The fact of foreign funding is no longer questioned, thanks to research by B.C. blogger Vivian Krause, primarily from U.S. tax returns. Three years after I first wrote about her work, it is finally part of the national conversation.
What is the foreign-funded agenda? Oliver put it this way: “No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydroelectric dams.”
Here are three notions that have become entrenched in the urban mind in recent years: Clear-cut logging is by definition bad. Alaska salmon is wild, and thus superior to farmed. Run-of-river hydro destroys rivers.
All are aggressively promoted by certain environmental groups. And all are false.
On forestry, B.C. media have been spoon-fed by U.S.-backed environmental organizers since Clayoquot Sound in the 1980s, when wealthy Americans first decided to save B.C. from itself.
Greenpeace founder-turned-critic Patrick Moore was in Victoria last week to speak to the Truck Loggers’ Association. He pointed out that North American “green building” standards reward locally sourced concrete and steel, but not wood. Why? Because big international organizations like Greenpeace and Sierra Club are so invested in opposition to logging, they end up backing environmentally destructive policies.
On oil, the debate has been dumbed down to the point where even movie stars can participate.
Protesting a pipeline from Alberta to the U.S., Hollywood darling Robert Redford recited the usual talking points about the “tar sands scourge.”
Alberta oil sands can be seen from space, Redford moaned. So can Venezuela oil sands, a major U.S. source. So can Redford’s vast Utah ranch and ski resort development.
Redford parrots the claim that oil sands extraction produces three times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil. This is the big lie of “tar sands” campaigners. Three-quarters of emissions from all crude are generated when the refined fuel is burned by things like Redford’s limo, or the airline for which he voiced TV commercials.
The Alberta government reports that average emissions from oil sands crude are 107 grams per megajoule, slightly more than U.S. Gulf Coast crude at 104. California heavy crude comes in higher, at 114.
And if carbon is the issue, what about U.S. coal mines that tear the tops off mountains and run the longest trains in world history to feed the country’s 600-plus coal-fired power plants? Where is Redford on that?
And hijacking the regulatory process? Look no further than the Dogwood Initiative, an obscure Victoria outfit that admits to taking about 40 per cent of its funding from U.S. sources.
Its “mob the mic” campaign signed up 1,600 people to speak at the Enbridge pipeline hearings. Among the signatories are “Cave Man” and “Jonathan Seagull.”
But wait, aren’t oil, power and aquaculture companies foreign funded? Certainly some are. The difference is, they create jobs. Professional protesters destroy them.
Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com