Friday, January 13, 2012

Are Foreigners Trying to Block Canada's New Pipeline?

There was a disturbing article in our local paper "The Record" about non-Canadians trying to block a new oil pipeline that the government wants to build.

The article is written by Kathryn Marshall of In it she blasts "foreign" money being used to sway Canadian decision making about oil pipelines.

In her article, she quotes an anonymous environmental radical saying that they would accept money from Mars.

"An organizer from the foreign-backed, anti-pipeline group, Dogwood Initiative, recently declared: “If I got duffel bags of money delivered from Martians from outer space I would still take that money.”"
Obviously, this is a hypothetical situation, but if (some) environmentalists would accept money from Mars, then you would obviously take money from Al Quaida, the Taliban, Socialists sources, and other unCanadian and unwholesome people.

The main tactic of this article is to sidetrack the argument away from "Is this pipeline good for Canada" to "Foreigners are trying to block a pipeline that Canadians obviously want, and need, and a pipeline that would be good for them".

Should I play along with this debating tactic, or should I take the high ground and refuse to get into "where does the money come from" and "who is more Canadian, you or me?".

We have had many debates about the environment in the last 50 years. This pipeline is a sub-debate about global warming, and is also about pollution from oil spills and destruction of habitat. So it is another environment vs. profits debate. In the past, these debates ended up being the little guy (environmentalists) mounting a grass roots opposition to giant, wealthy multinational corporations. In those debates, the government often sided with the corporations in the early stages before public opinion became unstoppable.

So up till now, it was always big corporate money vs. private individuals sending in small donations. If it was just about money, no environmental cause would ever win. But now it seems things have turned around. Now the big money, according to Kathryn, is behind the environmentalists. And if Martians had money, that would also go to the environmentalists.

Now it's time to stop and think. A reality check in other words. If Martians existed, their support would not go to the environmentalists on Earth. And if anybody has a lot of money, it is not environmentalists, it is Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Suncor and the like.

Exxon Mobil's Market Capitalization is 412,016.05M (I normally cannot count that high, is that 412 billion dollars?)
BP's Market Cap is only 139,661.83M (And that is AFTER the money spent in the Gulf oil spill.)

"Dogwood Initiative" as a non-profit organization is not listed on the stock exchange. It is based in Victoria B.C., and apparently its most recent campaign was to put stickers on loonies to oppose oil tankers in British Columbia waters. If you want a ballpark estimate of their financial resources, I would think under $100,000. (Or as they say in the oil business 0.01M) That means Exxon alone has about four million times as much money as Dogwood Initiative. (if my guess is right).

It looks to me like not much has changed in the environmental debates. It is still the local people pooling their puny resources against giant mega rich multinational corporations and their puppet governments (like Canada and the US governments for a start Yes Obama that means you.). Now if by chance some money should come to Dogwood Initiative from a "foreign" source like Greenpeace, let's remember that Greenpeace got its start in BC and became a worldwide organization later. And that fundamentally, it is still supported by small contributors around the world.

But even more important is that the global warming debate is a world wide concern, and it is natural that world wide support should be available for decisions that have a world wide impact.

I believe that by framing this debate as a purely Canadian internal matter, Kathryn Marshall is attempting to dismiss the global warming issue entirely.

I looked up the funding for "", Kathryn's organization and found out that it does NOT accept foreign funding. (Greenpeace is specifically mentioned as a foreign source that they (or she) will not accept money from). She does accept donations from "individuals and companies, including those working to produce ethical oil". Kathryn does not list the companies producing "ethical oil" but Exxon and BP would probably be acceptable according to her own definition.

So, to summarize. Despite the conservatives and oil company propaganda to the contrary, the big foreign money is still 99.9% on their side. And no matter what Harper or bloggers like Kathryn say, some Canadians (including me) are still in favour of limiting corporate damage to planet Earth. Now let's get back to a sensible debate about things that matter before I start asking questions like "Is Kathryn a Canadian?".

Picture: Some random pipeline I got off the internet, I think our new pipeline is still on the drawing board.
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  1. 'Ethical Oil' is a neologism coined by the notorious tobacco lobbyist Ezra Levant.

    As far as I'm concerned is just another astroturf outfit for the oil industry. One should note that the 'About' page on their website states, 'The median size of our donations to date is $38.'

    Now, for those whose recollection of stats is a bit rusty, median is defined as, 'the numeric value separating the higher half of a sample. Thus, if five oil companies each contributed $100,000 and six private individuals each contributed $38, the median size of contributions would be $38. In other words, the median is not the average.

    If the average contribution was $38, I'm sure they would be bragging about it. Thus, I'm inclined to give more weight to the preceeding sentence, which states, 'We do accept donations from ... companies, including those working to produce ethical oil.' And when it comes to the oil companies, who can really tell what is 'domestic' and what is 'foreign.' Kathryn Marshall's point is sophistry.

    It's abundantly clear that the Northern Gateway Project debate is not really about a pipeline to Kitimat, but about further and extensive development of the Tar Sands.

    If Enbridge spends $7-10 billion (along with unspecified massive subsidies from Canadian taxpayers) on this pipeline, we can count on massive ongoing and increasing exploitation of the Tar Sands in an attempt to recover those costs.

    On the other hand, an investment of $7-10 billion on renewable and sustainable energy would result in a real and massive reduction in Canadian green house gas emissions.

    'Ethical Oil'? Not. It's an oxymoron, just like 'Clean Coal.'

    Approval of the Gateway would be just another critical step in Canada's deterioration into yet another corrupt petrostate: disasterous for our future, for our democracy and for our economy ...

  2. Neologism, according to Wikipedia

    "In psychiatry, the term neologism is used to describe the use of words that have meaning only to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning.[2] This is considered normal in children, but a symptom of thought disorder (indicative of a psychotic mental illness, such as schizophrenia) in adults"

    Of course, with enough corporate backing and the attendant media exposure, you can invent words and make them become part of the common language.

    Speaking of corporate backing, you're right that medians are commonly used by statisticians who are trying to hide a few very large (or small) numbers. I learned about that many years ago when I took a statistics course, but my excuse for missing it is that it's hard to keep up when so many misleading statements made at the same time.

  3. LOL!

    ne·ol·o·gism (n-l-jzm) n.
    1. A new word, expression, or usage.
    2. The creation or use of new words or senses.

    But your psychiatric reference does have merit!

    Yes - whenever the 'median' is used to support an argument, alarm bells should go off. The 'mean' is much more 'mean'ingful ;-)

    (Very slick updated layout, BTW)

  4. Interesting submission to the Review Panel from David Hughes, a former senior petroleum geologist wth the Geological Survey of Canada: The Gateway Pipeline is not required, jeopardizes Canada's energy security and presents 'dangerous social and environmental impacts.'

  5. Ezra Levant at it again ...