John Robson: Does Canada oil industry really agree that it's destroying life as we know it?




We’ve all heard of companies who conceal or deny evidence that their product is harmful. It’s cunning, if dishonest. But what about companies that conceal or deny evidence that their product is safe? Welcome to the wacky world of climate change.

Last weekend at a Manning Centre conference in Red Deer, a senior Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers spokesperson was asked about challenging climate change alarmist science, as in my documentary The Environment: A True Story. And he replied, “We can be right or we can be happy but we can’t be both … the politics of climate change in this country are decided.”

The plain meaning of these words is “we can be right,” that is, challenge science we know is wrong, or “be happy,” that is, get pipelines built, sell oil and make money by accepting science we know is wrong. Especially as he continued bluntly, “If we spend time as an industry or as Western Canadians arguing about climate, I tell you, we’ll not get any more pipelines built…”

Talk about rallying round the white flag. Instead of arguing that they should be allowed to sell something they falsely insist is safe, as tobacco companies once did, CAPP is apparently arguing that they should be allowed to sell something they falsely insist is unspeakably dangerous.

Where cigarettes might kill people one at a time if they personally smoke, fossil fuels will allegedly overheat the Earth, wiping out species and ecosystems and damaging or destroying human civilization. Perhaps I could stand to learn a thing or two about PR. But I can’t think of a worse sales pitch than, “Our stuff destroys the planet. Get yours today!”

I disagree. And given the standard cheap shot that we “deniers” have sold our souls to Big Oil, perhaps I could also stand to learn a thing or two about bargaining, because in crowd-funding my documentary, I got far less than you might expect from people in the fossil fuel industry.

I’m proud of what I did get from a dynamic, innovative and responsible sector that produces what I agree is a “modern miracle” providing otherwise unimaginable comfort, safety and opportunities. If I didn’t feel that way, I would not take their money, argue for their pipelines or, crucially, use their products.

Surely it’s the critics who claim oil and natural gas are wrecking the planet, but put their money in pension fund investment pools and gas in their cars who are selling out their principles for material gain. And what are we to make of people who advocate for an industry they apparently agree should not exist?

It’s very important to grasp here that governments across Canada and the industrialized world intend to destroy the oil industry within your lifetime. Their stated goal of reducing human emissions of CO2 and “equivalents” by 80 per cent by 2050 means no heating, cooking or transport with fossil fuels. And hence, dawk, no pipelines in which not to transport them.

If the alarmist science is right, this response is clearly necessary no matter how difficult or painful. But if not, it would be insane, because without fossil fuels we really do risk freezing and starving in the dark. And certainly without them the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers will be the Canadian Association of Petroleum Non-producers and you can kiss all those jobs, profits and products goodbye.

If they really think they’re destroying the planet, they should quit at once. If not, they should stand up for themselves without delay or equivocation. So I followed up with CAPP VP Communications Jeff Gaulin asking whether I had somehow misunderstood his Manning Conference remarks. He went into the dance of the seven vagues, then ducked out with “Climate change is real. All human activity has an impact on our environment and climate. We all have an obligation to address this global issue.”

The plain meaning of these words is … they haven’t got one. Possibly by focus-grouped design, avoiding alarm by avoiding content.

Of course climate change is real. Earth’s climate has been changing, often dramatically, for the last half-billion years, before which it was even worse, going from lava hell to frozen snowball. And of course all human activity has an impact. The question is how much and in what direction. So I asked directly, “Do you and CAPP believe humans burning fossil fuels is the main cause of disastrous changes in the Earth’s climate some of whose effects are already being felt?”

He never answered. But it is the key question because, based on an affirmative answer, our federal and provincial governments openly plan to shut down the oil industry. It’s a life or death issue for petroleum producers. And apparently the producers’ cunning plan is to choose death.

Only in the wacky world of climate change.

original article can be viewed here: National Post

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