Today is Kyla Mandel’s final day working for DeSmog UK, and the whole team would like to express our heartfelt thanks for her incredible work over the past three years....
Ethical Oil Institute
“Like any other tool, language can be abused, used not to build but to destroy, not to communicate but to confuse, not to clarify but to obscure, not to lead but to mislead.”
- William Lutz
Retired American linguist Dr. William Lutz spent much of his career at Rutgers University studying how language is abused in public conversations. He pointed to government and industry as the worst offenders in a practice known as Doublespeak, which Lutz described as “language designed to evade responsibility, to make the unpleasant appear pleasant … language that pretends to communicate but really doesn’t. Language designed to mislead while pretending it doesn’t.”
Dr. Lutz worried that doublespeak has invaded public discourse about important issues. When killing innocent men, women and children is called 'collateral damage', torture becomes 'enhanced interrogation' and the dirtiest fossil fuel becomes 'Clean Coal', public conversations lose meaning. We struggle to make sense of things. These euphemisms sanitize language and steer important issues below the public’s radar.
In January, during the week before Canada’s federal hearing on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Harper government and Ethical Oil Institute launched an unprecedented attack on environmental organizations opposed to the pipeline and accelerated expansion of the tar sands. Resurrecting Cold War-style ‘terrorist’ rhetoric, conservative politicians like Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver referred to prominent environmental organizations as “radical groups” threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” while using “funding from foreign special interests groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”
On March 25, 2012, the Compliance Division of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) received a letter from Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes LLP (aka JSS Barristers). In 11 detailed pages, JSS Barristers lodged a complaint against Environmental Defence, a charity registered with the CRA, on behalf of Ezra Levant’s brainchild, the Ethical Oil Institute. A month later, on April 24, the JSS-Ethical Oil team sent the CRA a second, similar letter, this one a 44-page imputation that the David Suzuki Foundation, like Environmental Defence, was “in contravention of the CRA rules surrounding registered charities and political activity.”
According to the CRA, and as echoed in the Ethical Oil Institute’s complaints against Environmental Defence and the Suzuki Foundation, a charity may not be created for a political purpose, and it can't “take part in an illegal activity or a partisan political activity.” Specifically, the CRA states that charitable organizations must devote “substantially all” (i.e. 90%) of their resources to charitable activities, and that any political activity is “subordinate” to its stated purpose.
That's not to say that charities can't promote their work and educate the public about issues that have political implications. But in doing so they must ensure that public awareness campaigns aren't their “primary activity, and their information must be “well-reasoned.” It goes without saying that they don't connect their views to specific political parties or candidates.
As an example, the CRA states that “a purpose such as improving the environment by reducing the sulphur content of gasoline would very likely require changes in government regulations. Generally, any purpose that suggests convincing or needing people to act in a certain way and which is contingent upon a change to law or government policy (e.g., “the abolition of” or “the total suppression of animal experimentation”) is a political purpose.”
Given all of this, and given the Ethical Oil Institute’s obvious concern about registered charities flouting CRA rules — namely, engaging in partisan political activity, or spending too much time and money influencing public opinion about laws, policies, or government decisions — it’s surprising that Ethical Oil didn’t send a third letter complaining about perhaps the most politically partisan of all Canadian charities — the infamous Fraser Institute.
ForestEthics Advocacy released a game-changing research brief today documenting the massive foreign control of Alberta's tar sands oil industry. Publicly traded oil companies with active tar sands operations have a very high level of foreign ownership – 71 per cent.
Some supposedly “Canadian” oil companies including Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Imperial Oil and Husky are predominantly owned by foreign interests. More than half of Canada’s oil and gas revenue goes to companies under foreign control.
This revelation stands in stark contrast to the talking points of the Harper administration and its media echo chamber, which insist that there is too much foreign influence over Canada's resource decisions from environmental groups. In fact, the evidence shows overwhelmingly that foreign interests are influencing tar sands and other resource decisions - chiefly Chinese and other foreign oil companies.
Cue Ezra Levant's outrage at this foreign influence in Canadian interests! Where's Vivian Krause when you need her? Surely the Ethical Oil Institute will agree that this level of foreign intervention is a dangerous threat to Canada's future?
Recall that when the Ethical Oil Institute launched its allegedly “100% Canadian” OurDecision.ca website, this was the statement by spokesperson Kathryn Marshall: “We’ll never take foreign money to undermine our country’s national interests.”
The group admits that it receives funding from companies active in the tar sands. Now that it's been revealed that all these companies are predominently foreign-owned, the group's claims to be 100% Canadian are highly misleading. We await their statement correcting the record.
Anticipating that someone, perhaps from the 'ethical oil' team, will quickly attempt to do damage control by claiming that this is just some ginned up report by ForestEthics, let's be crystal clear that the data underlying the report are all from independent sources including Bloomberg Professional and industry journals.
Authored by Jenny Uechi, originally published at Vancouver Observer. Re-posted with permisison.
U.S. libertarian oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have poured at least half a million dollars into The Fraser Institute over the last few years. In case you haven't been following their trail, here's a bit about them:
If the Koch brothers didn't exist, the left would have to invent them. They're the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.
The Koch brothers are the funders of the Americans for Prosperity group that just launched a $6.1 million television ad targeting President Barack Obama in eight states. Based in Witchita, Kansas, they own the second largest privately held company in America. Their father, Fred Koch, was a member of the radical right-wing John Birch Society.
According to The New Yorker, “The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.”
DeSmog recently sent a team to the tar sands region of Alberta to investigate the proposed government plan to systematically kill off the province’s wild wolf population in a supposed effort to recover dwindling caribou herds. The proposed cull has been widely criticized internationally for placing the interests of industry above the interests of the public and the public’s stake in the responsible management of Alberta’s resources, environment and wildlife.
Along our journey we discovered the proposed wolf cull bears a striking resemblance to another ploy designed to protect the interests of the oil and gas industry: the “ethical oil” campaign.
1. The Bait-and-Switch: Both the wolf cull and the ethical oil campaign share a deceptive bait-and-switch strategy.
For the wolf cull the bait comes in the form of the euphemistic catchall term, ‘wildlife management,’ used to discuss caribou recovery in Alberta. Sure, most people want caribou to survive and will favor a wildlife management plan designed to save the province’s caribou. Nobody likes wild species going extinct, right?
And the switch: in order for this management plan to work, we’ll have to sacrifice another of the province’s wild species, the wolf. And, as a hidden cost, we’ll be choosing to ignore more effective alternative remedies to caribou declines, like habitat protection, for instance.
Over the last several years, Alberta has killed more than 500 wolves using aerial sharpshooters and poisoned bait in order to conceal the impact of rapid industrial development on Canada’s iconic woodland caribou.
Independent scientists say that declining caribou health stems chiefly from habitat destruction caused by the encroachment of the tar sands and timber industries. But in a perverse attempt to cover industry’s tracks, the Alberta government is ignoring the science and shifting the blame to a hapless scapegoat: the wolf.
It's time for Friday funnies, and the top hit today is Ethical Oil: the Puppet Rap, which first popped up over at The Tyee.
It's a foul-mouthed, satirical music video remix of Kathryn Marshall's ridiculous PR gymnastics to avoid answering a basic question from CBC's Evan Solomon whether Enbridge funds the Ethical Oil Institute. The second half features “Easy-E” Ezra Levant, the founder of the Ethical Oil Institute and creator of the 'ethical oil' talking point.
Check it out: