Most Canadians have never seen it, but the American Petroleum Institute (API) has been running ads in the U.S. promoting Alberta's oil sands as a tool for creating American jobs. The ad features actors of various age groups and ethnicities in the role of plain-folk Americans expressing surprise—and delight—at the fact that Canada is America's top supplier of imported oil.
“Makes sense -- Canada's about the best friend we have,” a young man comments, while an older man adds approvingly, “Canada is a very good neighbour.”
“More oil from Canada means more energy,” a woman enthuses. “More energy means more jobs,” she says, as the words “support 600,000 American jobs by 2035” (figures from the Canadian Energy Research Institute) float across the screen.
Canada is America's best friend and neighbour, and the two countries get along. So presumably, all will be hunky dory if Canada can simply hurry up and deliver on their "promise" of Albertan oil sands, the ads suggest. And although the commercials don't explain how Canada's oil sands will create jobs for Americans, they promise 600,000 new American jobs will flow down from Canada, along with the oil.
Who are the real foreign puppets?
For some time, now, the Conservative rhetoric has been that "foreign", usually American, billionaires have been funneling money to environmental organizations to fight the oil sands. They claim it's all because the U.S. wants to protect its own economic interests.
Yet by this account, Americans are fine – eager, in fact -- to allow Canada to develop Alberta's oil sands. As the woman in the ad succinctly put it, more Canadian oil equals American jobs. After she promises the nameless jobs, the ad ends.
U.S. oil giants have a huge stake in Albertan oil. On the American Petroleum Industry website, the second item reads "Canadian oil sands". The vital importance of this issue to American Petroleum is made clear. The words "Oil Sands" appear again to the left beneath a picture of Capitol Hill and a plea to "take action".
Despite the Harper government's propaganda campaign, demonizing environmental foundations for accepting "foreign funds", American corporate interests have been funding oil advocacy on both sides of the border to make sure that the pipeline gets built no matter what.
Sustainable energy vs. oil and gas = no contest
The oil industry in North America (as worldwide) is a political and economic behemoth. Its political connections run deep: corporations pay heavily for that influence. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips and Chevron together paid $42 billion in income tax in 2010, and $54 billion last year.
In 2009, alternative energy organizations spent an “unprecedented” $22 million to push their interests on Capitol Hill. The effort went nowhere. The oil and gas lobby outspent them eight to one, putting $175 million into lobbying.
President Obama tried to end the government's $4 billion annual subsidies to the oil industry, and his bid got squashed by the Senate in March—not just by Republicans, but by his fellow Democrats. And why was it rejected? ExxonMobil (which pays more taxes than any other US corporation) forked over $8 billion in income taxes in the first quarter of 2011, according to its own reports. That's something like $1 million per hour, and nothing in the environmental industry comes even close to touching this.
Even comparing oil to a heavyweight champion beating the crap out of a clean energy featherweight is too generous. To be fair, the sustainable energy movement has some powerful backers: "socialist" billionaire George Soros, for example. But given the small scale and the newness of sustainable energy, it's more like Mike Tyson versus a kindergartener in the ring. There's simply no comparison.
Do charities in Canada that fight the oil sands receive funding from the U.S.? Sure they do. But as it turns out, so do the pro-oil sands charities in Canada.
The Fraser Institute, which has actively been promoting the development of Canada's “ethical” oil, has received over half a million dollars from the Tea Party billionaire Koch brothers in the last few years. They've also received funds from ExxonMobil and the oil-rich Scaife Foundation, but no one wants to bring those up.
Conservatives have smeared Tides Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation and other environmental groups, yet somehow missed or chose to remain silent about U.S. money coming in to advocate for and empower the pro-oil side.
If Harper's Tory government is genuinely concerned about foreign interests inappropriately meddling in Canadian politics, why don't they ask Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to uncover which oil companies and Republican funders are pouring their money into Canadian charities that advocate for Tory agendas, like expanding production for Alberta's oil sands?