Environmental Performance AND Communication Equals Earned Reputation for Canada's Oil & Gas Industry

Contributed to The Calgary Herald
Greg Stringham
Vice President of Oil Sands
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
February 13, 2010

Canada's oil and gas industry is firmly committed to improving its environmental performance and communications with stakeholders and the public, both in North America and internationally. We strive to be open and transparent in our communications and we welcome considered and well-informed feedback on our efforts. Unfortunately, the Herald's recent article over-simplified the issue and largely ignored efforts being made by industry and government to address concerns related to oil sands development.

CAPP and the individual companies involved in oil sands have been proactive in communicating about the oil sands with a broad diversity of stakeholders in Canada, the U.S. and internationally. We are engaged in this dialogue through a variety of channels - including mainstream media, publications, alliances with third parties, speaking engagements, facility tours, and social media (www.twitter.com/OilGasCanada).

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We have directed thousands of informational packages to governments and businesses across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, into schools and through the web. Specifically, we sent material (See CAPP's Guiding Principles for Oil Sands Development) to many Fortune 500 companies, including Whole Foods and Bed Bath & Beyond, several months ago that included an invitation to come and see the oil sands. It's worth noting that when companies faced with a critical business decision choose to visit the oil sands they typically come away with a more positive and complete perspective on the development of this important energy resource.

When Greenpeace approached Virgin Group (yes, that's Virgin as in Virgin Records, Virgin Airways, and Sir Richard Branson) and asked them to stop using "Dirty oil" from Canada's "Tar Sands" Virgin did something very reasonable and responsible. They sent Alan Knight, Virgin's Sustainable Development Advisor, over to take a look for himself. Though Mr. Knight cited the need for improvement, he also saw potential and came to understand our ability and drive to apply new technology and sustainably develop the resource. Virgin decided it would not boycott fuel from Canada's oil sands.

We continue to pursue a dialogue with Fortune 500 companies (including Whole Foods and Bed Bath & Beyond). Additionally, last year industry toured hundreds of people in the oil sands and appeared in thousands of media stories across North America and around world. In so far as the good work done by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), CAPP has been engaged with them as well and played a significant role in making factual information available to them (www.capp.ca).

Communicating the environmental performance and context of Canada's oil and gas industry is a challenge considering the many agendas and distracting noise that surrounds the conversation. Canada's oil and gas industry wakes up with a stiff breeze in its face every morning. That's no excuse, and by and large, it forces us to strive for better, more credible communication with media and all stakeholders. We can't afford to distort the truth. Nor can we afford to back away when challenged. We are engaged in an important national and international dialogue on the oil sands.

This is much more than a battle of media releases or soapbox sloganeering. Canadians want and deserve a considered and balanced dialogue and that is what we remain committed to delivering.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers