"Toxic Alberta" is Mean-Spirited & Agenda-Driven

Contributed to The Edmonton Journal
Janet Annesley
Vice President of Communications
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
June 17, 2010

RE: Alberta takes environmental hit in quest for oil
By Eddy Moretti, Vice President, VICE Media
on CNN World - cnn.com

The Canadian oil sands industry is constantly bombarded with mean-spirited, one-sided info-tainment cobbled together by agenda-driven environmentalists masquerading as journalists who present their "work" to the world as the truth.

These days, the big target seems to be oil sands development in the province of Alberta. And there's seemingly no end to the nonsense foisted on an unsuspecting world in the guise of protecting the public good.

We are the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, CAPP represents member companies that produce about 90 per cent of Canada's natural gas and crude oil. Together CAPP's members and associate members are an important part of a $110-billion-a-year Canadian industry that provides essential energy products.

Among many other things, it's our job to raise awareness about our industry. While we respect and value the right of everybody in society to share their views on any topic, we seek to provide balance and perspective so reasonable people have all the information they need to form their own opinions about this complicated industry.

But it's quite another issue when credible, responsible mainstream communicators like cnn.com inexplicably take it upon themselves to "report" some of this stuff, shrouding it with credibility it does not deserve.

"Toxic Alberta", a report produced by an independent media company and website based in New York City, is today's case in point.

On June 16, 2010, cnn.com chose to publicize this report (copyright 2007). In an introduction, cnn.com says "we believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our cnn.com readers."

"Toxic Alberta" is so far beneath a reasonable standard for fair-minded journalism that one has to wonder how it managed to slip under cnn.com's radar.

It's old. It's outdated. It's full of errors. It makes no effort to speak with the governments or companies it attacks. To call it misguided would be a compliment.

Oil Sands Facts

Oil sands development is far from new. Companies have been producing oil for more than 40 years. It is a large, industrial operation and it's not perfect. To be sure, along with safe, reliable energy supplies, it comes with challenges. The goal is to develop these resources safely and responsibly, using the latest technology to improve the process and reduce the environmental footprint.

If the people who put together "Toxic Alberta" had made any true efforts towards journalism, their work would have included these facts:

- Canada's oil sands are viable and competitive both economically and environmentally with other options.

- Surface mining is used to develop about 20 per cent of the resource. In more than 40 years, oil sands development has disturbed about 600 square kilometers of land. This is equivalent to 4.8 per cent of Los Angeles County or 0.2 per cent of Canada's Boreal Forest. The other 80 per cent of the resource (which actually covers 97.5% of the oil sands landscape) would potentially be developed using advanced in situ drilling technology, similar to conventional oil production.

- Canadians have no view to slating all the oil sands areas we have for development. We do need the land for other things -- e.g. our communities, agriculture, recreation, conservation.

- All lands disturbed by oil sands development must be fully reclaimed under both federal and provincial laws.

- Oil sands development is five to 15 per cent more carbon intensive on a lifecycle basis than the average barrel imported into the U.S. today. (Source: Cambridge Energy Research Associates). What's more, oil sands producers have reduced CO2 per barrel by 39 per centfrom 1990 to 2008and continue to reduce emissions intensity or pay a carbon levy under law. The next top four sources of oil for the US - Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria -- have no such requirement.

- The Athabasca River is one of most stringently regulated northern rivers in the world. Currently, oil sands production draws less than one per cent of the Athabasca's average total flow. Going forward, all oil sands mining projects, including current and approved projects, are forecast to use about 2.2 per cent of the natural flow of the river. More than 80 per cent of process water is recycled. Over several decades of monitoring there has been no significant change in water quality.

The Canadian oil and gas industry wants what research says people want - an appropriate balance of environmental protection, economic growth and safe, reliable energy supplies.

Anyone interested in getting the real story about the oil sands - including the editors of cnn.com and the people who produced "Toxic Alberta" - should visit our website at www.capp.ca.

Janet Annesley
VP - Communications
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers