Foreign interests attack oil sands – by Diane Francis (National Post – September 24, 2011)

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I believe foreign countries are behind some of the noise and mischief in the United States to try to shut down Canada’s oil sands and block construction of the proposed pipeline to bring 700,000 more barrels day to Texas refineries.

The new global reality, since the UN Copenhagen failure to come to any workable agreement to reduce pollution or population worldwide, is that powerful, transnational nonstate players are roaming the world, in the environmental space, replacing smaller and local activists. They are run by faceless persons, they cross borders, they have planetary mandates to attack fossil fuel or any energy development and are armed with funds, media smarts and political influence. They prey on countries where there is an open and transparent system of environmental management even though they often are not transparent themselves in terms of their backers, financing sources and agenda.

They swarm around chosen causes and one of their biggest targets has been Canada’s oil sands. This has made no sense because emissions from the oil sands are a fraction of the emissions from coal and equivalent to California heavy crude oils or ethanol. None of these has been getting the same attention as the oil sands and this pipeline.

But here’s one example of the transnational environmentalism:

A few months ago, the shipment of oversized equipment from South Korea for use in the oil sands was stopped at the border. The equipment was being imported by U.S. oil giants ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil via the United States, which is when the problem arose.

The cheapest way to transport this cargo to land-locked Alberta was to barge the equipment up the Columbia River to get as close as possible to the U.S.-Canada border at Lewiston, Idaho. The equipment was to be loaded onto trucks and driven, at night, through Idaho and Montana across the border to their oil sands projects.

The two companies were asked to put up, and spent, $25-million to provide road “turnouts” or places where these wide loads could pull aside to make room for other traffic.

“Somehow some entities got mobilized about the extra-size equipment and got organize to stop the shipment on the basis of highway safety,” Matt Morrison, executive director of Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, said in an interview at the Global Business Forum held in Banff every year and sponsored by the oil industry and Alberta government.

The issue became politicized in Idaho and Montana. Letters and other communications opposing the transport streamed into the Department of Highways in Montana, Morrison said.

“We were shocked that only 37% of those who wrote complaining [about the equipment going to the oil sands] lived in the state and the rest were from places like Nigeria, Venezuela. Most were international,” he said. “The equipment was held up for quite some time and some is still held up awaiting permits.”

This was hardly surprising.

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