April 29, 2008

[Synopsis] Imagining the Green Tar Sands

It's a Tuesday Morning, and I'm listending to Sounds Like Canada, a CBC radio show hosted by Shelagh Rogers. She's talking to a guy named Murray who's involved in some program at the University of Alberta, and a guy named Simon from the Pembina Institute in Calgary. The show is about "greening" the Tar Sands. Murray is an environmental consultant for tar sands corporations, trying to find a way to make operations more green. Simon, for the most part advocates against the tar sands, since it is such an environmental disaster for which no amount of "greening" can do the trick.

Simon takes the lead. We hear how the tar sands are visible from space and the total mining area is the size of three cities of Calgary. We learn about the tailing "ponds", which are more actually like tailing "lakes" that hold dangerous contaminants that we don't know what to do with. We learn how the Athabasca River has approximately 16% of its volume diverted at Fort Mac, simply for use in the energy industry. We learn how despite a major lack of environmental assessment, both the provincial and federal governments are pushing through with approval of new projects as quickly as possible....

But Murray counters. One of the things he says resonates: He explains how the companies he works with (the same ones that just this morning reported world record profits) are very concerned about their environmental image (note that they are not necessarily concerned about the environment). And then he says it more clearly: "They are very concerned about how the company looks with their shareholders - the people who own the company." Murray's comment confirmed a long held suspicion of mine: The companies that operate within the tar sands, and their cronies within the Alberta Government DON'T CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT. What they do care about is making it LOOK like they care about the environment.

Image is everything in the corporate world. This is something Naomi Klein taught us. If the operators at Syncrude really cared about the 500 ducks that died in their toxic lake of death, they would have closed up shop, or at least found an alternative way of dealing with toxic waste water. Instead, they spent who knows how much to publish "apology letters" in the major papers of the country. It's all about image.

If Stelmach really cared about greening up the tar sands, he would put a moratorium on bitumen extraction today. After all, we're talking about one of the dirtiest known industrial practices known to (wo)man: It involves stealing water from fresh resources, using extraordinary amounts of heat and energy, burning up precious natural gas supplies, all for the purpose of removing sand from of a deep underground source of tar, so that you can pump out synthetic heavy crude oil, so that people can keep driving their cars. This is as DIRTY AS IT GETS folks. But Stelmach DOES care about his environmental image. That's why he is wasting $25 Million worth of Alberta's tax-payer money to brand the tar sands as being environmentally friendly. What a joke.

It's all image I tell you... Branding yourself the right way allows you to keep bringing in the big bucks. It's not what you sell (read dirty oil), it's how you sell it (read $25 green oil sands project).

1 comment:

  1. I'm really interested at to where you are located.