The Alberta government’s multi-million dollar public relations campaign to spin dirty tar sands production in a positive light has received quite a bit of flack from those who see through efforts to tout the tar sands as green, or as a “national treasure”.
They haven’t just been investing in $56,000 advertisements and op-ed pieces. The governments of Canada and Alberta are also engaged in something much more insidious: a concerted effort to weaken climate policies in other countries, with the aim of ensuring that no impediments exist to Canada’s filthy tar sands.
The shocking report released by Climate Action Network Canada shows that the Alberta and Canadian governments have been complicit with industry in efforts to undermine climate legislation in the EU and U.S. The report highlights three devious efforts by industry and government to oppose or weaken energy policy abroad: California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which encourages cleaner fuels and discourages burning dirty fuels; Section 526 of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, which stops departments from buying the dirtiest kinds of fuels and the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, an effort to lower CO2 emissions and move toward cleaner-burning fuels.
Government and industry are behind “a concerted effort to weaken climate policies outside our borders, with the aim of ensuring that no doors are closed to Canada’s highly polluting tar sands,” the report’s authors write. This is the heart of corporate-government complicity, with the secret oilsands advocacy strategy being led by the Foreign Affairs Department, with officials working in both the U.S. and the European Union. The report’s authors fear that these examples appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.
In the U.S., the Alberta government and industry have worked tirelessly to fight the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act — particularly the contested Section 526 — which requires the government buy fuels that meet an environmental performance standard. Essentially, the measure makes it tougher to find markets for fuel derived from dirty tar sands.
The Alberta government sees Section 526 as a threat to their bottom line, and has as such been paying lobbyists handsomely to fiercely debate the provision. According to lobbying disclosure records that Climate Action Network accessed, former Michigan governor and U.S. ambassador to Canada (1993, 1996) James Blanchard, along with others at his firm, DLA Piper, participated in over 80 interactions with U.S. officials and politicians in the year beginning March 1, 2009, on behalf of the Government of Alberta.
In exchange, he billed over $300,000 US in fees.
Blanchard, conveniently, sits on the board of Enbridge, who is responsible for the recent Michigan Kalamazoo spill in which over three million litres of tar sands crude was spilled into Michigan waterways (nearly 4 million litres, according to the EPA). Enbridge tried to hide the fact that the spill was tar sands crude because the mixture is a real toxic headache infused with more heavy metals, sulfur and other pollutants than typical oil products. It’s Enbridge’s pipelines that import the lion’s share of filthy tar sands crude into the U.S. Curious that Blanchard is simultaneously on the payroll of the Alberta government whilst sitting on the board of an energy company making huge profits off of tar sands oil.
Enbridge is also part of the reason why tar sands proponents want to lobby against the EU Fuel Quality directive. They fear a nasty precedent being set for clean energy legislation in the European Union. So why is that a threat to tar sands development? One of the reasons is Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
The report decries Alberta and Canadian government’s shameful efforts to pull other counties away from clean energy futures. Canada and Alberta are stacking their chips up on the tar sands, while stacking the deck to ensure that nothing gets in their way - including the pesky climate. In that gamble, we all lose.
Download the full text of the Climate Action Fund report [PDF] to learn more about the Alberta and Canadian government’s devious efforts to kill clean energy policy in the EU and U.S.