Big Oil and Canada thwarted U.S. carbon standards

Salon reports: When President Barack Obama decided in early November to delay a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline until after the next election, America’s environmental movement celebrated one of its biggest victories in recent memory. And no doubt the news came as a blow to Alberta’s tar sands industry, and to Canada’s oft-stated dream of becoming the next global energy superpower.

But behind activists’ jubilation lurked a somber reality, an untold story with much wider implications. The broader fight to reform Alberta’s tar sands, the one which actually stood a chance of breaking America’s addiction to the continent’s most polluting road fuel, has been quietly abandoned over the past several years. For that we can thank the planet’s richest oil companies and their Canadian government allies, who’ve together waged a stealthy war against President Obama’s climate change ambitions.

Their battle-plan is revealed in more 300 pages of personal emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the Alberta government. The story in the emails, reported for the first time here in Salon and The Tyee, Canada’s leading independent online news site, traces a year in the relationship of Michael Whatley, a GOP-connected oil industry lobbyist and his friend, Gary Mar, a smooth-talking and ambitious diplomat at the Canadian embassy in the Washington, DC.

The messages lay bare a sophisticated and stealthy public relations offensive, one designed to manipulate the U.S. political system; to deluge the media with messages favorable to the tar-sands industry; to sway key legislators at state and federal levels; and most importantly, to defeat any attempt to make the gasoline and diesel pumped everyday into U.S. vehicles less damaging to the climate. The goal of it all? “Defeat” Obama’s effort to reduce carbon consumption and keep America hooked on Canada’s $441 billion tar sands industry, no matter what the cost to our planet’s future.

That campaign has largely succeeded too, with only a small group of players any the wiser.

Reuters reports: Environmental opponents of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline aimed to deluge the White House and Congress with phone calls on Friday, slamming a Republican plan to speed approval of the project in exchange for extending a payroll tax cut.

“Red alert – call the White House and tell them not to back down to big oil on Keystone,” environmental activist Bill McKibben said in a tweet. McKibben mobilized some 10,000 demonstrators outside the White House earlier this year to protest the pipeline.

A spokesman for Friends of the Earth said a call for grassroots opposition to the deal generated more than 10,000 phone calls to U.S. senators on Friday.

“We are surprised at the extent to which the Republicans have decided to go to bat for Big Oil here,” said Nick Berning, a spokesman for the group. “We’re urging the Democrats to stand strong with the position they’ve articulated and not to cave.”

House Republicans warned last week they planned to include approval of the Keystone pipeline to a payroll tax cut bill, a challenge to President Barack Obama, who has said he would veto such a bill if the pipeline deal is part of it.

But on Friday, a White House spokesman left open the possibility that Obama might consider approving the legislation to get the extended tax cut.

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1 thought on “Big Oil and Canada thwarted U.S. carbon standards

  1. Christopher Hoare

    Let’s look at Canada’s dirty laundry here. The (largely American) oil industry has run the Province of Alberta, location of the larger part of the tar sands, with its political donations and bribes ever since Leduc #One, near Edmonton, came in 1947. The strongest evidence? Only two political parties, both rightist and in bed with the industry, have ruled the legislature with massive majorities ever since. The present Conservative government has ruled for 41 years. Alberta is Canada’s Texas & Oklahoma in its politics, wealth worship, and good-old-boy methods of rule.

    (Personal disclosure: I worked in oil exploration in the Province for most of forty years…deploring the industry’s dishonesty and anti-democratic actions, and working for opposition parties at the same time. A very depressing row to hoe.)

    This nexus of capitalist greed was largely under control while the Canadian Federal governments were Liberal and only slightly right of centre in most of their policies. However the dead wood controlling the party since Jean Chretien (the last Liberal PM; who refused to join George Bush in Iraq) resigned has been indulging in the destructive in-fighting (which has resulted in developing no— to negative, political vision) that resulted in a series of electoral defeats to the right wing Conservative Party, and culminating in the majority rightist government we now suffer under. Stephen Harper, the one-man-band controlling the Conservative agenda is embarked upon a project to wipe out all traces of the centrism that gave Canada its friendly face and the admiration of the world for the past 90+ years. When people deplore Canada’s politics today, they are deploring Stephen Harper’s politics.

    Harper originates from Ontario but long ago migrated to Alberta where the political atmosphere was much more to his liking. This means that this elected version of the Koch brothers is so deeply allied with the oil and Tar Sands industry that the boardrooms of Calgary have an inside seat at the government table. There are political opponents here but they are so fragmented by centre-left splits that although they theoretically are the parties of choice for 60% of the electorate, the Conservatives in both Canada and Alberta with only 40% support rule the roost. Most of their political capital is thrown away over a manufactured argument about whether they might campaign as an alliance to form a coalition government (the kind that works successfully in UK, Germany, and many many more democracies around the world) in some mythical future when the mental midgets of the suburbs (country wide) might be weaned from their acid-trip with rightist extremism.

    Remember, when you justifiably denigrate the actions of the Canadian government, that there are people here every bit as disgusted with them as you are. If the present situation was not a prime reason for progressives across national borders to unite in their efforts to bring down the ultra-rightist neo-liberal oligarchies then there never could be one. We need the best theorists, teachers, and politicians from every country to lead their supporters to unite in a grand world-coalition against the present destructive political structure driving the 99% of the world to poverty and environmenta destruction. We need them now.

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