"Ethical Oil" – an argument that make no sense

CAPE TOWN – …”Oil from the tar sands of Alberta is the dirtiest in the world, and its extraction is already causing problems…

“Opposition to the [Keystone XL] pipeline throughout the US is growing in intensity… The outpouring of opposition surprised the oil industry, its highly paid lobbyists, and especially TransCanada Corporation, which would build the pipeline. So, like many huge corporations facing public criticism, they and their allies are responding with a dubious new marketing effort.

“The pipeline’s defenders proclaim that Canadian oil is “ethical,” whereas oil from suspect countries is “unethical.” …

“The situation of women in Saudi Arabia is obviously unacceptable, but it is deeply disturbing that the oil industry is exploiting the issue of women’s rights in order to shift the discussion away from fossil fuel and climate change. Neither their tactics nor their tar sands are ethical.

“The claim that Alberta’s fossil fuels are “ethical” because Canada is a friend is a specious ploy aimed at perpetuating the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. There is no such thing as ethical fossil fuel, regardless of geographical origin. The ethical choice is to move as quickly as possible away from fossil fuels, period.

“Time, research, and money must be devoted to finding clean, renewable, and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. But it takes consistent and committed leadership to make that happen….”

December 6, CBC The Current broadcast Anna Maria Tremonti’s interview with Nobel laureate Jody Williams of Vermont. Above is a short clip of the Williams interview but you should listen to the entire 24 minute segment linked here. It includes oil industry flack Kathryn Marshall, a Fraser Institute alum, and York University business ethics Professor Andrew Crane.

Quotes from the segment with Jody Williams :

“[Ethical Oil] is just playing with words to ignore the reality of what the tar sands oil does to the climate. There’s nothing ethical about continuing to destroy our climate…

“I find it quite remarkable that suddenly the oil industry is worrying about women in Saudi Arabia. They didn’t worry about them before.

“It’s a specious argument in order to avoid looking at what the tar sands do to our environment

“Canada should be leading by finding renewable sources of energy, not by trying to convince the world that its oil, which is destroying our planet, is somehow better than other countries’ oil which is also destroying the planet

“I believe real leadership is going to mean looking at alternative sources of energy

“Leadership doesn’t mean finding a new clever argument so that you can continue to pollute.”

Ms. Williams also mentioned an Edmonton Journal editorial from November 29. Excerpts:

“As a debating point on Alberta’s oilsands industry, the notion of “ethical oil” is both politically clever and intellectually seductive….

“What a shame clever, seductive debating points have no influence over whether the extraction, refining and transportation processes for bitumen actually contribute to climate change…

“Out in the real world, the ethical-oil argument makes no sense whatever … except as a principle for defending our heavy-oil resource at international conferences and in public relations campaigns…”

Categories: CBC, Ethics, Tar Sands

3 replies »

  1. We are very fortunate here to have BC Hydro, with its large reservoirs. Soon, when the oil age is over, BC Hydro's electricity system will become staggeringly important as an energy source.

    We need to be extremely vigilant to keep BC Hydro as a BC-owned entity, run for the benefit of BC.


  2. This post, and that over on The Real Story, have made anything I have to say on the subject redundant. Thank you for the eloquence and directness. More debasement of language in the interest of sequestering resources for the narrow benefit of a few…


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