'Worst case scenario' for tar sands coming to life, leaked documents show
In the Austin, Texas-based office of global intelligence firm Stratfor, the "Shadow CIA", a curious string of names from BC were being mentioned as part of an oil sands presentation. West Coast Environmental Law. Dogwood Initiative. The presentation was ostensibly for Suncor, although the company denies having ever seen the document despite the company's name being mentioned 11 times.
Dogwood and WCEL were among 24 groups identified by Stratfor as leaders in the anti-tar sands push.
The PowerPoint presentation was prepared by Stratfor in 2010, when North America's oil industry was mulling over how to deal with the growing anti-tar sands movement. It was leaked by WikiLeaks, the same group that published emails from Stratfor last year suggesting that the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline could end up costing $15 billion instead of the proposed $5.5 billion.
Stratfor lays out several engagement options for companies in dealing with them. One option is to simply ignore them, since activists "have no power in Alberta or Ottawa" and have little chance of success with U.S. government.
In the best case scenario, the activists give up and move on to other causes. But in the worst case, the opposition could get out of hand, Stratfor warns.
"Campaign becomes the most significant environmental campaign of the decade as activists on both sides of the border come to view the industry as arrogant. Code of conduct demands strengthen, downstream activism intensifies."
"This worst-case scenario is exactly what has happened," Greenpeace senior investigator Mark Floegel said in an interview with Inside Climate. "The more people in America see Superstorm Sandys or tornadoes in Chicago, the more they are waking up and joining the fight."
Slide from 'Oil Sands Market Campaigns'
The presentation pointed to past activist campaigns, and highlighted the "real demand" underlying a "public demand" made by activist groups. In the case of tar sands opponents, Stratfor said the "real demand" was to introduce a code of conduct for the industry, which is now the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
In one of the slides, Stratfor suggests that Suncor develops its own strong environmental initiatives to overcome activists' criticism.
The presentation divided groups into categories of "radicals" "idealists" "realists" and "opportunists" and outlined how to engage with them. Rising Tide North America, Oil Change International and the Indigenous Environmental Network were labeled as radicals. Sierra Club and Amnesty International were among groups called idealists, while groups including Pembina and the World Wildlife Fund were called realists.
Some of the groups mentioned have recently been the targets of surveillance in Canada coordinated by the federal energy regulation board, the National Energy Board.
Stratfor would not respond to questions about the presentation due to its policy not to comment on WikiLeaks documents.
"If their worst case scenario is people coming together to stand up for our province in the face of reckless oil tanker expansion plans, then yes, that's where we are today," Dogwood Initiative director Will Horter said.
"But the fact that these energy companies view peaceful organizing and use of the democratic process as a 'worst-case scenario' is telling. These companies are out of touch with everyday Canadians, and they're not addressing the real and legitimate concerns people have about their projects."