Ethical oil

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There’s no such thing as ethical oil. There’s only dirty oil and dirtier oil.
Al Gore

"Ethical oil" is an attempt to re-brand the Athabasca tar sands into more palatable terms, along with the Alberta oil industry in general.

The term is used in Canada and was originally coined by right-wing hack Ezra Levant[1] in an effort to mitigate the negative publicity that development of the tar sands had gathered due to its massive ecological destructiveness.[note 1] It has since been adopted, unsurprisingly, by the oil industry itself.[note 2]

The argument runs something like this: "Sure, developing the tar sands means tearing-up the landscape and dumping billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere... but at least when oil is coming from Canada there's no money going towards supporting them godless Mooslims with their terrorism and shariah and all that. If we become the US's main provider, they'll never have to go to war again! And global warming is probably a lie anyway!"

It made a convenient shield for then-prime minister Stephen Harper's aggressive expansion of the oil sands (which is unsurprising, given his connections to the movement), to the point where the government has repeatedly accused Canadian environmental groups of being agents of sinister foreign powers.[2]

They also successfully lobbied the Canada Revenue AgencyWikipedia to harass audit various environmental charities.[3] We're going to smack our heads into desks remember the Harper years quite well in the next few decades.[4]


At this point, the most adequate "ethical" justification for increasing crude production in Canada is to use it as emergency funding during a recession and/or funnel the cash made into developing technology that will make the extraction process more carbon neutral. Indeed, Canuckistan had its recovery after 2008 sweetened thanks to resource industries in Western Canada picking up the slack from struggling manufacturing in the East.

This, of course, is a double-edged sword that could mean dangerous politics. There are growing signs that the economy is becoming over-reliant on the energy sector;[5][6] while this wouldn't be a problem in, say, Saudi Arabia, the petroleum in Alberta is extremely unconventional bitumen.[7][8] China and other world powers are only lining up for it now in the fear of peak oil, and when the effects of AGW reach a breaking point, demand for the stuff will plummet. No allegory to the Yukon Gold Rush needed.[9]

It didn't have to be this way: the province had a Heritage Fund specifically designed to prepare for a post-oil economy, progressively squandered over the last 30 years due to the boom and bust of oil prices and anti-tax rhetoric (it's Alberta we're talking about here, remember).[10][11][12] Norway, on the other hand, is pointing and laughing.[13]

Ethical Oil Institute[edit]

The Ethical Oil Institute is an astroturf organization that was founded by Ezra Levant and Alykhan Velshi.[14] It was created in order to harass advocate against "foreign special interests" meddling in Canada's Tar Sands debate, and to run intimidation public outreach and media campaigns at various points during the Canadian election cycle.

Branding itself as a "small grassroots organization"[15], Ethical Oil Institute deer caught in the headlights "spokesperson" Kathryn Marshall (married to Hamish I. Marshall, currently President of Touch Media, which runs digital strategy for Ezra Levant's Rebel Media[16] and is also currently running the campaign of Brian Jean[17] for the leadership of Alberta's new United Conservative Party as of Aug 2017) had a spectacular meltdown on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in early 2012 when presented with simple counter questioning about Ethical Oil's funding sources. At one point, she could barely get a sentence out of her mouth and continually referred to environmental groups such as the Sierra Club of Canada as "puppets" of "foreign interests".[18] This led to a number of parody articles and videos, one of the most notable being "Ethical Oil: the Puppet Rap", which has 33K views on YouTube.[19] Astonishingly, but hardly surprising given his thin skin ability to take criticism, Levant is still so "stung" by this public rebuke that he actually tweeted about it 5 years later.[20]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Google "Alberta oil spill." Have at Captain Picard's ultimate facepalm when ready.
  2. Through the aptly-named Ethical Oil Institute, in fact.