If Oprah Winfrey is willing to plug "Ethical Oil", why stop with the tar sands?

Canada is trying to hit one out of the ballpark with a brazen attempt to re-brand some of the world’s dirtiest and most dangerous oil as “ethical”. They've even got Oprah Winfrey's Network to feature their ads.   If we pull it off, there's no reason to stop there. If  an “ethical” brand make-over can make our tar sands smell sweet, just imagine how many other profitable, but deadly, industries it can pry open for us.

Ethical Oil

Talk about an image problem!

The Alberta tar sands are widely feared. Hundreds of people have been arrested in both the USA and Canada protesting the expansion of our tar sands. Europe and California are working to ban them. Climate activists have called the climate pollution from our tar sands the biggest “carbon bomb” on the continent.

The top climate scientist in the US, James Hansen of NASA, says that exploiting them means “game over” for our climate and that any government that allows infrastructure to be built to expand tar sands pollution “either they don't ‘get it’ or they simply do not care about the future of young people.”

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu along with seven other Nobel Peace Prize winners recently called on our Prime Minister “to use your power to halt the expansion of the tar sands. Further exploitation of the tar sands will … make turning the clock back on climate change impossible.” They specifically said that curbing climate pollution is a “profoundly moral decision, one that deserves to be placed alongside any other major struggle in human history.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says that turning “Alberta asphalt” into oil dumps 80% more climate destabilizing gases into our already whacked out weather system than developing other available oil sources would. The exploding scale of the tar sands is single-handedly preventing Canada from controlling our climate destabilizing pollution, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper promising the world that we would. And we haven’t even gotten to the part about ripping up the boreal forests, or duck-killing, toxic lakes, or cancer clusters, or oil fouled rivers.

Audacious marketing trick: the "Ethical Canada" brand

Here is where the miracle of marketing comes in.

Sure you are stuck with a product that by all accounts is more polluting and destructive than the exact same product from your competition. And sure your customers are starting to feel that all the extra damage caused by your product makes it a less ethical choice for them. Don't worry. Marketing magic says you just pretend your weakness is really your greatest strength. Voila: “ethical oil”. Wasn’t that slick?

You might have noticed that the “ethical” in “ethical oil” doesn’t actually refer to the oil. Nope. That battle is lost. The “ethical” instead refers to the general behaviour of the people that happen to live in the same nation as the multi-nationals’ carbon mines.

Neat trick, eh?

If you're having trouble marketing a dirtier and more dangerous product, just change the subject and market something completely different: like Canadian goodness.

Now the correct statement would be something like “unethical oil from a nation that also does some ethical things”. But seriously, we are talking marketing here, not boy scouts. To paraphrase that great green marketer, the Wizard of Oz: “pay no attention to that nasty product behind the curtain.”

Now if Big Oil and our Harper government can pull off this audacious “ethical” branding trick, why on earth would we stop at “oil”? There are a myriad of unethical products that we could re-habilitate and profit from just by masking their foul smell with the new pine-scented “ethical Canada” brand. If there are jobs on the line, we almost have to do it. Here are a few to consider:

Ethical Asbestos

I know what you're thinking: not even marketing can make a known carcinogenic product, like asbestos that you refuse to even put warning labels on, into an “ethical” product. Yes, yes, Canadians wouldn’t be caught alive using our own fibrous, cancer-causing, asbestos. We export it all.

Neat, eh?

And, yes, again, Canada spends millions of dollars a year to very carefully -- while wearing hazmat suits -- remove any asbestos we find in our own buildings. Seriously, who wants asbestos in their home? And sure Canada was the only nation willing to block an international treaty requiring warning labels on asbestos.

But all that negativity about our asbestos will melt away when our “ethical asbestos” brand hits the airwaves. You see, we have lots of Canadians who have nothing to do with our nasty asbestos products. Many play hockey. Even more vote. So we have plenty of warm fuzzy “ethical” out there in our big nation to strip mine and sell off.

Let’s take a look at our closest competitor in the offloading asbestos game: Kazakhstan. It just sounds “unethical”. But don’t just take our marketing panel’s word for it. Newsweek picks Canada as seventh “best” country and Kazakhstan as…wait for it…61st. Nuf said.

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 Good one Barry !your points

 Good one Barry !

your points reminded me Dr. Albert Barlett's Laws related to Sustainability, in particular laws # 16 and 17 that say:

16 - Starving people don't care about sustainability

17 - The addition of the word "sustainable" to our vocabulary, to our reports, programs and papers, to the names of our academic institutes and research programs, and to our community initiatives, is not sufficient to ensure that our society becomes sustainable.   

Just change in the above laws the word sustainable for ethical and we have the Canadian approach for being ethical. 



Thanks for this article, which alerts us to the fact that the world is going to end, although not necessarily by December, 2012. Knowing that the world is not going to STOP using fossil fuels NOW, and that humanity is rushing headlong into the abyss, only reaffirms my low opinion of humanity and that we don't deserve the oasis we call earth. But to think of us turning the earth into Venus so that no living thing survives only shows how utterly disgusting humanity is. 

I think the Ethical Oil

I think the Ethical Oil campaign is fooling exactly no one. Everyone in NA knows the Keystone XL pipeline would never be approved by the Obama admin if the US economy wasn't in the toilet. And I can't imagine the people of BC are especially eager to have their own pipe dream to China fufilled.

Let the man do his job, at least he's on our side.

If you ignore what the science says, then you are ignorant. The Alaskan pipeline has broke through natural shifting of our earth. Scares me. Being totally free from fuels is going to take alot of time and money, we will have if Obamas jobs bill gets passed to get the taxes comming in again. Then we can get the people back to work, Where the contractors buy only American products made in America to build these bridges, highways, lighting, gas, barriers, down to the cones that are used. What an America that would be.... than we could take all those taxes comming in by all those working people and do something really big with renewable energy....immagine if we bought only from union factories, and everything built union. OUR MIDDLE CLASS IS BACK. What a great America that would be.


My main objection to the distortions that the "environmentalists" are presenting, as compared to the distortions that the oil companies are presenting, is that eliminating the oil sands industry would reduce world wide GHG emissions by less that 0.5%. The focus needs to be on consumption of fossil fuels, especially coal fired power plants in the US and China. (The Taichung Power Plant in Taiwan emits about 42 megatonnes of CO2 per year, compared to 45 megatonnes for the entire oil sands industry).

coal-fired...what's that

Wisconsin coal-fired plants also produce more CO2 than all of the oil sands put together. That is only one tiny state too.


Give Your Head A Shake!

This is ridiculous, would you rather drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico where millions of creatures and people live? or extract oil using conventional mining techniques no different than coal, gold or potash as they do up in Northern Alberta's "Oil Sands".

I love how people have so much negativity on the subject when they have never seen the truth themselves. Go look at any other oil extraction process. Take Venezuela for example. Do you think they have the stringent environmental laws that Alberta does? Do you think that Texas thinks twice about putting another drilling operation in play months after the most devastating oil disaster in the world?

 Well written article I must say, but reality sinks in when you're a Canadian trying to put a halt to the Oil Sands, while letting billions of $ in potential exports be produced in other countries. 

Also if you knew anything about the oil and gas industry you would see that processing shale gas has a larger environmental impact then the oil sands.

Give your head a shake, if you want to spur change find an alternative solution.