The book “Ethical Oil “by Ezra Levant has one goal: to demonstrate that “Canadian oil sands oil is the most ethical oil in the world . . . “.
I have always assumed that marketing of oil was a matter of commercial expediency, and – apart from a prudent observing of basic honestly – ethics did not enter into it. To defend this assumption would take another book. So let’s accept that Canada’s status as one of the world’s most ethically developed countries among oil exporters is relevant.
Still, if the exploitation of the tar sands is wrong, can it be justified by our ethical superiority?
The fundamental objection to the tar sands is that they are and will continue to be for decades to come a fossil-fuel energy project that generates a large amount of Green House Gases (GHG) in the extraction process.
Basically Levant dodges this objection. He dismisses GHG emissions as a problem in scientific theory that “isn’t uniformly accepted in either the scientific or lay community.” Strictly speaking he is correct: there are a few remaining maverick scientists who deny that GHG emissions contribute to climate change. But they are a very small minority in the scientific ommunity.
His other arguments also side-step the objection. He dwells at length on other polluting gases, a reference that does not diminish the seriousness of GHG emissions.
He also points out that the oil sands contribute only 5% of Canada’s emissions or .1% of the world’s human carbon emissions. In effect he argues: as long as there are other significant GHG polluters, why should we change our ways?
Remember that Levant defends the tar sands on ethical grounds. Go back to the FOG blog “Ethics and Climate Change” for an analysis by Professor David Archer of Chicago University of ethical issues arising from climate change. Levant ignores these issues, perhaps because he regards the contribution of GHG to climate change as theoretical.
Levant’s defence of the tar sands refers to the morality of Canada when compared with other countries. Yet he does not comment on Canada’s failure to make significant efforts to reduce its GHG emissions as it agreed to when it ratified the Kyoto Convention in 1997. Or to Canada’s continued exploitation of the tar sands that makes it practically impossible to reduce its GHG emissions by 2020 level, as Canada agreed following the Copenhagen Conference. If Canada ever does limit GHG emissions this achievement will be “Too little and too late!”
“Ethical Oil” is propaganda. Too bad its arguments have been adopted by our Minister of the Environment.
O Canada, stand on guard against Levant’s defence of the tar sands.