Information is power, and as Edward Bernays, the founder of the modern public relations industry knew all too well 100 years ago, it can be used to persuade consumers and citizens to believe in a reality that simply doesn't exist.
Canada's federal government launched its latest attack on the truth behind the oil sands, a multi-media extravaganza of billboards and print and online advertisements. Click on the web ad and you'll end up at the government's “Go with Canada” website, a collection of well-crafted messages that play fast and loose with the facts about the oil sands, particularly the significant social, economic and environmental impacts the world's largest industrial project imposes on Albertans, Canadians and the rest of the world.
There's no room here to respond to all of the half-truths and misinformation you'll find there, but suffice to say they're the same tall tales the oil sands industry and Alberta and Canadian politicians have been using to try and persuade Canadians, Americans and Europeans that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the oil sands are an environmentally benign bonanza of energy riches managed through responsible environmental policy.
Last week Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources in Canada, Joe Oliver claimed that “some scientists” say action on climate change is “not urgent” and that “there is no problem”.
His statements stand in stark contrast to the agreement President Obama signed this week with China to scale up cooperation on climate action in which it is acknowledged “the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action.” In reporting on the agreement even Canada’s far right newspaper the National Post notes that it could impact the Canadian governments plans to triple the growth of the oilsands which will triple greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 as, “the expansion is largely dependent on building pipelines such as the Keystone XL.”
The fact is that filling Keystone XL with tarsands will cause a 36 percent increase from current tar sands production. The emissions from production alone (ie that doesn't count burning the oil) would be equivalent to more than 6 new coal-fired power plants or over 4.6 million cars. If you count burning the oil, the climate impact is equivalent to the emissions from 46 coal fired power plants, or 34 million cars.