Canadian Mining Journal

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Clouds of doubt still hang over the oilsands

"Brand Risks" are a couple of words that have appeared in the news lately thanks to the questionable antics of certain television and sports' celebrities. To my surprise, however, those same two words...


“Brand Risks” are a couple of words that have appeared in the news lately thanks to the questionable antics of certain television and sports’ celebrities. To my surprise, however, those same two words have also been used recently by a couple of U.S. retailers to describe their association with Alberta’s oilsands.

It seems that Whole Foods Markets Ltd and Bed Bath and Beyond are now thinking of asking their fuel suppliers to stop providing them with gasoline refined in Canada for their fleets of vehicles. They apparently disapprove of the process we use to refine our oil because it emits more carbon dioxide than other processes they’ve read or been told about.

True, perhaps, and granted some of what they’ve read or heard is quite convincing, but in defense of those in charge of producing oil from heavy sand-laden bitumen, I don’t think these two retailers know what they’ll be getting into should they go ahead and ‘boycott’ Alberta oil.

And evidently they’re not alone because there’s another 30 or so other large U.S. brands seriously considering following suit and taking action to address the ‘brand risk’ of being associated with our oilsands.

All I can say is good luck to them should they bail on Alberta oil.

Even U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, disagrees with those retailers making headlines (and getting free publicity) by threatening to boycott our fuel “because it is too important to the United States to simply snub the controversial resource.”

Besides being a politician and knowing the right things to say to us (his Canadian comrades for the next three years at least) Ambassador Jacobson is also informed enough to know that Canada is home to the second largest proven reserves of petroleum in the world, just behind Saudi Arabia.

He also knows there are 11 other countries around the world with significant reserves but not too many of them are what you’d call “close friends of the United States.” And furthermore, of the proven reserves of petroleum in the world that are not owned by a government, half of them are in Alberta. A close neighbour and good buddy!

So basically, what the Ambassador would probably like to tell his fellow U.S. retailers is “dummy up” because the United States simply can’t afford to demonize the oil coming from Alberta.

With that said, I will however agree somewhat with those concerned by emissions coming from the refineries in Alberta. I know the producers are making huge investments in a concerted effort to improve the quality of air, soils and waters in and around their plants but even they will admit there’s still a long ways to go.

I know on a flight down from Yellowknife to Edmonton recently, the pilot could have shut off his instruments and simply followed the yellow streak from the south. As much as I was fascinated by its sight, I was also disgusted as I looked over my shoulder and saw that same streak slowly dissipate into a yellowish cloud heading north and gently floating off into someone else’s backyard.

And that makes me think that perhaps the food and linen people in the States are right for not wanting their brands associated in even the remotest of ways with Alberta’s oilsands.

It’s a cloudy issue indeed!


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1 Comment » for Clouds of doubt still hang over the oilsands
  1. clint martindale says:

    Russ , You have been spending to much time in the clear northern air, the yellow cloud you mention , can be seen over almost every city in the lower 48, and Canada .Some call it smog, others call it money. I would think, you you could spend more time explaining the origons of the oil sands. A huge oil spill that welled up under the glaciers and was soaked up by the sands uner Lake Agg. When the glaciers melted and the water drained into hudson bay the oil soaked sands were left behind so by cleaning the sand we are actually doing the enviroment a huge favor. Clint Martindale, Old Prospector

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