CBC: The National - Rebranding the Oil Sands 

On April 21, 2010, CBC: The National aired this story about oil sands performance and communication: (http://www.cbc.ca/thenational/indepthanalysis/wendymesley/2010/04/can-you-re-brand-the-oil-sands.html)

Re: Rebranding the oil sands

April 21, 2010

Reporter: Wendy Mesley

Canada’s oil and gas industry strives to be open in our communications. We welcome the CBC’s considered feedback on our efforts and watched with interest Wendy Mesley’s April 21, 2010 The National story that contrasted the environmental activist and the oil sands industry’s approach to communication. However, the story contained several factual errors – all in the environmental activist materials you broadcast. As such, we must respond.

Greenpeace: Canada’s oil sands are the "Largest and most destructive project on earth" and "Toxic sacrifice zone the size of England"

In fact, the area currently disturbed by oil sands surface mining is approximately 600 square kilometres which is less than the size of the City of Edmonton (670 square kilometres).

The majority of surface land that covers Canada’s oil sands deposits will NOT be impacted by mining. Only three per cent of the oil sands surface area (that’s about three per cent of the area the size of England) can ever be mined.

Furthermore, reclamation of mined areas continues across the life of an operation. Today approximately 12 per cent of area disturbed since mining began in the 1960s has been reclaimed. O’Reilly points out one of these reclaimed areas featured in CAPP’s video, Canada’s Oil Sands: Come see for yourself, referring to it as “nature photography.”

World Wildlife Fund: Calls the oil sands industry Canada’s “biggest single polluter"

Canada’s oil sands industry is not the single largest polluter in Canada. Environment Canada tracks trends in GHG emissions and breaks that down further to identify “single” emitters. Passenger transport, electricity utility generation, and forest land management practices far exceed emissions from oil sands.

In a North American context, Natural Resources Canada released a map of GHG emissions from Canadian and U.S. coal fired power plants (utility generation) and oil sands operations in 2007. The image provides powerful context to the pollution discussion http://www.capp.ca/getdoc.aspx?DocID=162173 

Further, Canada’s oil sands account for:

  • Five per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions.
  • 1/1000th of global GHG emissions.  

Do we need to do better? Yes. A recently released report from Environment Canada shows that oil sands emissions per barrel in 2008 are down 39 per cent from 1990 to 2008.

Tar Sands versus Oil Sands: Industry uses both.

Oil Sands or Tar Sands?

In closing, it’s disappointing that truthfulness was not a criterion of your critique. The Canadian Public Relations Society’s Code of Ethics indicates, “A member shall practice the highest standards of honesty, accuracy, integrity and truth, and shall not knowingly disseminate false or misleading information.” By this professional truth test alone, in their rush to be “edgy,” many environmental activists fail.


Janet Annesley

Vice President, Communications

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers