"Re-Branding" the Alberta Tar Sands

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It’s always nice to get feedback on your work. That’s why we were heartened to see a comment from the Alberta Government on our post yesterday about the appointment of a tar sands executive as a “clean energy” envoy to the US:

David Sands of the Government of Alberta, here.

Mr. Anderson you certainly bring a lot of energy to your writing. While we can’t agree with most of your assertions, we certainly applaud you and desmogblog for promoting the discussion.

If any of your readers want a quick (12 mins, I think) look at what we are doing to address environmental impacts of oil sands development, we’ve got a new video. Real people, real pictures, no script. (“Conversation”) up at this site: http://oilsands.alberta.ca/

Thanks David. I did take the time to view the video yet failed to come away with any new information or insights that undermined my strongly held belief that the tar sands are an ecological nightmare, or that the Alberta government is doing much more than trying to massage their public image.

In fact, it is odd that the Alberta taxpayer is funding a team of on-line writers to troll the blogosphere for potentially damaging posts, at the same time as the government of Premier Stelmach just slashed $12 million from provincial environment programs.

These sophisticated PR efforts instead seem part the much-maligned $25 million “rebranding” campaign bankrolled by the Alberta taxpayer. Mr. Sands himself is on record as saying a “fair amount” of this money is being spent in Washington because “the oilsands are a large part of Alberta’s story.”

No doubt. Stelmach himself called their expensive Washington lobbying effort a “full court press”. Clearly he is worried that cap and trade legislation moving through the US Congress will hammer the tar sands by dragging Canadian climate policy (or lack thereof) into the 21st century.

Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice fessed up as much in an interview today in the Globe and Mail:

There are clearly measures [being planned in the United States] that would have trade-related consequences for Canada if we don’t have equivalent environmental legislation in place.”

According to the Globe:

Mr. Prentice acknowledged that Canada would have to adopt regulations and enforcement standards “comparable” to whatever the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress eventually pass.”

It is humiliating that Canada, which used to be a world leader on matters of principle, will finally have to develop a coherent climate policy only because the US is forcing us to under threat of trade sanctions.

Mind you Premier Stelmach has his own humiliation to deal with. After years of demanding that the rest of the country get off their backs during the recently crashed oil boom, Alberta must now plead for $700 million in transfer payments from the Canadian taxpayer.

The bottom line is that “rebranding” can be a painful process. The Alberta government might have less headaches if they focused on substance rather than spin, and diverisfying their economy rather than waiting for the next oil boom.

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