Foreign-Funded Attacks on Canada’s Energy Industry

Millions of dollars from foreign interests have been funneled into Canada to fund campaigns to stop the country’s oil and natural gas development and related infrastructure.

Recently, the Alberta government launched an energy think tank, the Canadian Energy Centre, to address the inaccurate, foreign-funded campaigns that derail new energy projects and unjustly defame the Alberta energy industry, educate the public in energy literacy, and creating and storing more data and research for investors, researchers and policy-makers. As Energy Minister Sonya Savage said:

“To those who make such biased, slanted and prejudicial statements about Alberta’s energy sector, you’ve been put on notice. This type of activity is going to stop now.”

The center will have a tall order ahead of it. Foreign funders have targeted Canada’s energy industry, particularly Alberta, with false and hysterical claims, which have detracted from the industry’s growth and have cost Canadians dearly in terms of jobs and their economy.

One of the most notorious campaigns against Alberta’s energy industry targeted tar sands projects. In 2010, Corporate Ethics International, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization began a campaign called “Rethink Alberta.” Complete with post-cards sent to American travel agents and billboards, posted in the United Kingdom and the United States, the campaign urged travelers to rethink visiting Alberta, insinuating that Alberta’s natural beauty was being harmed by the energy industry.

To fund this campaign, Corporate Ethics International received $1.4 million from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Michael Marx, executive director of Corporate Ethics explained,

“From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.”

The strategy to block pipeline construction had significant ramifications. Because Albertan oil could not reach foreign markets, it was discounted as much as $52 per barrel. This tremendous devaluation of Canadian resources cost the Canadian economy between $80 million to $100 million per day.

The campaign against Alberta’s tar sands is sadly just one example of foreign funds targeting Canada’s energy industry. The Climate Breakthrough Project, based in San Francisco, recently awarded environmental activist Tzeporah Berman with $2 million “to engineer a large reduction in new oil and gas development that will ensure huge amounts of carbon stay uncombusted and out of the atmosphere.”

The Climate Breakthrough Project was formed through a partnership between the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Oak Foundation, a Swiss non-profit which has given more than $20 million to Canadian environmental organizations.

Alberta is taking steps to protect itself from false attacks against an industry that is critical to its economy. These donors, and the campaigns they have been funding, deserve questioning, especially when they harm Canada’s economy by targeting an industry which provides jobs and energy around the country.

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