Today’s guest blog comes courtesy of Janet Annesley, Vice-President Communications at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.This post ran as an op-ed in the Calgary Herald on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013.
Silver screen star Robert Redford is a successful and respected actor for a good reason. For an hour or two, his films allow the audience to escape into a world of fiction, a world that’s removed from reality, a world that’s entertainment. His latest movie, a short film on the Canadian oil sands, is no different: it has little grounding in reality. In fact, it makes a number of false claims in a script whose only outstanding quality is a lack of facts. To my knowledge, Redford has never visited the Canadian oil sands. Had he done so, he would have seen an industrial operation that, like any other industrial operation, does have an impact on the environment. But he would also have seen that this important resource – important not only to Canada but also to Redford’s home country – is being developed with a major focus on reducing environmental impacts on land, air and water.
Had Redford done any research other than borrow speaking points from environmental activists, he would have come across a number of facts that would have told a different story.
We did this basic research for him.
Redford says Canadian oil sands crude “is the dirtiest oil on the plant.”
Fact is that Californian and Venezuelan heavy oils are as or more greenhouse gas intensive than Canadian oil sands crude. Oil sands crude is nine per cent more intensive than the U.S. crude supply average on a wells-to-wheels basis, according to IHS CERA, and our industry is working to further reduce these numbers. For example, crude oil produced from the most recent oil sands mining operations, on a life-cycle basis, is two per cent more GHG intensive than the average barrel refined in the U.S.
Redford says that developing the Canadian oil sands “is destroying our great northern forest at a terrifying rate.”
Fact is that only 0.02 per cent of Canada’s boreal forest has been disturbed by oil sands mining operations over the past 40 years. Since the 1960s, about 10 per cent of the active mining footprint has been or is being reclaimed by industry. In addition, all lands disturbed by oil sands development must be fully reclaimed under Canada’s laws. Industry understands the need to hasten reclamation and we are focused on delivering on these expectations.
Redford says the Canadian oil sands are “producing enough carbon pollution to wreak havoc with our climate for decades to come.”
Fact is that oil sands account for 0.14 per cent of global GHG emissions. Producers have reduced carbon dioxide emissions per barrel by 26 per cent since 1990 and continue to reduce emissions intensity. They are required by Alberta law to do so, or contribute in other ways to reduce emissions such as paying a carbon levy of $15 per tonne into a technology fund aimed at innovation to further reduce emissions. Many other oil exporting countries have no such requirements.
Redford says “pipelines that carry this toxic tar sands fuel are a direct threat to our own drinking water supplies.”
Fact is that a 2013 report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded that oil sands crude is no more corrosive than comparable heavy crudes, which are already transported by pipeline in the U.S., and in many cases may be less corrosive.
Redford says the Canadian oil sands “is exactly the kind of energy we can no longer afford.”
Fact is that global demand for all forms of energy is expected to increase 35 per cent by 2035 because of economic growth and improving quality of life in developed and developing countries, according to the International Energy Agency. While the share of renewable sources of energy is growing, most economists agree that the lion’s share of growing global energy demand will be met by fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.
These are the facts that never made it into Redford’s script. We respect his right to his opinion, a right that’s fundamental to our society. At the same time, we believe reasonable people recognize these anti-fossil fuel arguments are unrealistic or, in some cases, just plain false – the world needs all forms of energy, developed responsibly, to meet its demand.
We are doing our part to help meet this demand. And in doing so, our industry is guided by monitoring, sound science and ongoing research.
For the real story, please visit www.capp.ca.