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Some good news for a change:

More major U.S. corporations join boycott of Alberta oil sands fuels

EDMONTON - Another four major U.S. companies are joining the move to either avoid or completely boycott fuel produced from Alberta's oilsands.

Walgreens, which has 7,500 drugstores across America, is switching fuel suppliers for its delivery trucks to those that don't make gas from oil sands crude.

The Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss have all told their transportation contractors that they will either give preference to those who avoid the oilsands or have asked them what they're doing to eliminate those fuels.

The move adds to growing international economic pressure on the oilsands industry and the Alberta government to reduce its environmental impact.

"What this signals is the beginning in earnest of the financial war over the tar sands," said Todd Paglia of the environmental group Forest Ethics, which is organizing the campaign.

The U.S. is currently the top importer of upgraded bitumen coming from Alberta's tar sands.  U.S. refineries have made major capital investments in new technology in order to refine gasoline from tar sands crude, and the impacts to the environment and human health are transboundary in nature.  Under the guise of fair trade, many of the health and environmental costs of tar sands are being transferred from Canada to the United States.

Now what's interesting is this: Chapter 11 of NAFTA, which would allow Canadian tar sands producers to sue the U.S. government if the U.S. created market barriers to the entry of tar crude, is now being circumvented by the market itself.  The organizers of the corporate boycott are now targeting the demand side of the equation and working with end users to pressure the producers themselves.

These companies deserve some praise for acting as more environmentally responsible corporate "citizens."  It is easy to be cynical and say "Oh, they're just greenwashing."  But these companies are putting their money where their mouths are and looking at their supply chains to eliminate oil coming from the tar sands.  Hopefully others will follow.

If we are lucky this trend will continue and the Conservative provincial government in Alberta will actually begin to regulate the industry in a meaningful way.

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Originally posted to geodemographics on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 05:55 PM PDT.

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