November 15, 2011

Expat-Canadian-turned-DC-insider David Frum writes:

The true locus of opposition to the pipeline is not Nebraska, but California, where big liberal environmentalist donors have seized on the pipeline as a talismanic cause….What will curtailing oilsands accomplish for the environment? Nothing. This is a big planet full of oil, and if the United States does not buy its oil from Canada, it will buy its oil from somebody else.

“Somebody else,” as oil-sands defenders point out, includes Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and other nations of dubious repute. For all my country’s faults (sorry about Nickelback, OK?), we’re a saner, more reliable ally than any of America other oil suppliers.

It’s a point pro-Keystone Canadians are making by rebranding Alberta’s output as “ethical oil.” Leading the campaign is professional troublemaker Ezra Levant, most famous beyond our borders as “that guy who got charged with printing the Muhammad cartoons.” His latest cause is to undo years of anti-tar-sands propaganda churned out by US-funded environmentalists.

He seeks to do so by appealing to their “progressive” sympathies, pointing out that Alberta’s oil sands account for “just over one-hundredth of one percent of all the greenhouse gases going up into the atmosphere, or 0.015%. Farts emitted from all the cows and pigs on Canada’s farms emit more than that.”

And while it’s true that the air around Fort McMurray, Alberta—oil sands’ ground zero—smells like sulfur and the water tastes awful, diaries of the area’s early pioneers record identical phenomena because, well, there’s oil under the soil. (The local Indians used the plentiful tar bubbling up through the ground to waterproof their canoes.) In other words, the landscape was never postcard-pristine. Even today, Levant claims, only 2% of the area is marred by those undeniably ugly pits left behind after extraction—the pits that provide Greenpeace and others with some of their best fundraising materials.

The area’s “cancer cluster” turned out to be a hoax. The oil sands allow hundreds of the nation’s poorest people—Aboriginals—to earn six-figure salaries. By the way, Fort McMurray’s mayor is female, whereas Saudi women can’t even vote.

That last poke got under the Saudis’ skin. After an “ethical oil” NGO started running TV commercials that contrasted the lives of women in the Kingdom with those in Canada, the Saudis sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Canadian bureau that approves broadcast advertisements. All but one of the nation’s networks quickly dropped the ad.

This week, the commercial begins airing where it most needs to be seen: the United States. Alas, it doesn’t star any celebrities. And the NGO’s mock “counterdemo” outside the White House in September consisted mainly of two performance artists wearing burqas and claiming to be from “Americans4OPEC.”

Maybe we really do need to revisit that “no rioting” thing.



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