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Copenhagen Spoof Shames Canada
December 15, 2009 8:46 PM   Subscribe

During the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, The Yes Men put out a statement in which they purported to be the Canadian environment minister, Jim Prentice. The statement pledged to cut carbon emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. The statement was followed by a response from the Ugandan delegation, praising the statement, that was also faked. A fake statement was issued on behalf of Environment Canada celebrating the fake Ugandan statement. Another fake statement was then put out blasting the falsehoods of the original fake statement. A fake story in a European edition of the Wall Street Journal was also posted online. Jim Prentice (Canada's Environment Minister) described the hoax as "undesirable".

Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, emailed reporters and blamed Steven Guilbeault, cofounder of Quebec-based Equiterre. "More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks," said Soudas in a first email, while misspelling Guilbeault's name.

Guilbeault demanded an apology. "A better way to use his time would probably be to advise the Canadian government to change its deeply flawed position on climate," said Guilbeault. Soudas and Guilbeault were seen exchanging angry words in the hallway outside of Canada's 3:30pm press conference.



Why Blame Canada?

The only country in the world to have abandoned the Kyoto Protocol's emissions and climate debt targets, Canada also has the most energy-intensive, destructive and polluting oil reserves in the world. The Alberta tar sands, according to The Economist, are in fact the world's biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.

More background on the hoax:

Yes Men take credit for fake climate releases
posted by KokuRyu (90 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
In Canada's defence, we hate Alberta as much as the rest of the world. I'm pretty sure even Albertans hate Alberta.
posted by mannequito at 8:52 PM on December 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


We apologise for the fault in the recent press releases. Those responsible have been
sacked.
posted by chambers at 8:54 PM on December 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


Jim Prentice (Canada's Environment Minister) described the hoax as "undesirable".

Perhaps he'd just prefer a boot directly in his ass.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:56 PM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another fake statement was then put out blasting the falsehoods of the original fake statement. [www.ec-gc.ca]
I am very, very impressed by their fake. "ec-gc" vs. "ec.gc". Nailed the common look & feel, but they should have gotten it translated into French. The non-functional French-language toggle was a dead giveaway.
posted by Decimask at 9:05 PM on December 15, 2009


(Of course, they probably just did some copypasta into an existing page's source code then hosted that elsewhere)
posted by Decimask at 9:07 PM on December 15, 2009


It is very interesting to note, as documented in "refugees of this blue planet", that Albertans are being forced out of their homes, and that there are already refugees of climate change in the "developed" world. Yet politicians abandon the idea of trying to meet the promises politicians, on behalf of Canadians, had made.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2009


I've been to Alberta, have relatives in Alberta, have former friends, roommates and acquaintances that moved there; some who've moved back. The one thing that unites them are stories of people in Alberta rather full of themselves, and of pride in their province. And economy. And scenery, etc., etc. A select few also take great pride in their self-professed redneck ways.

The only ones who don't seem full of themselves about Alberta are ones who I considered full of themselves already. Obviously, YMMV, but that's the reputation it has in my crowd.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:16 PM on December 15, 2009


Alberta is the Texas of Canada. Oil, beef, a higher than normal percentage of assholes.
posted by philip-random at 9:24 PM on December 15, 2009


Alberta is the Texas of Canada. Oil, beef, a higher than normal percentage of assholes.


The Calgary School
posted by KokuRyu at 9:27 PM on December 15, 2009


Sits well with all the fake data coming out of University of East Anglia, non?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:30 PM on December 15, 2009


Canada hasn't been the same since Lloyd Axworthy left government. We haven't been anything resembling a responsible global citizen in a long time.
posted by Hoopo at 9:30 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm from Alberta and I want to know where I can elect this fake government.
posted by mazola at 9:33 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why Canada? Always with the Canada.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:33 PM on December 15, 2009


I heard Jim Prentice on the CBC last week (?) proudly asserting that his main priority was employment. I was like DUDE YOU ARE THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER. Your main priority should be the ENVIRONMENT. But then I am naive like that. To the Conservative Party, "Environment Minister" apparently means "Person in Charge of Defending the Tar Sands".

(Oh, right, we're not supposed to say tar sands anymore; it's oil sands. Honestly, how does that sound better?)

I am glad the Yes Men made Jim Prentice and the federal government look stupid. Not that it's that difficult, but still.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:36 PM on December 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sits well with all the fake data coming out of University of East Anglia, non?

No fake data.
posted by stbalbach at 9:39 PM on December 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


The only country in the world to have abandoned the Kyoto Protocol's emissions and climate debt targets

what
posted by FuManchu at 9:40 PM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


No. This is shameful. The British delegate's contribution.
posted by quarsan at 9:41 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The sad thing is that Jim Prentice is a moderate in the Conservative party and despite all his I'm-no-lefty posturing remains unlikely to get the party leadership once Stephen Harper steps down, mostly because he voted in favour of same-sex marriage.

No. Seriously.
posted by mightygodking at 9:44 PM on December 15, 2009


It's understandable that the Yes Men snuck into the proceedings. But who in their right mind let Nick Griffin in?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:53 PM on December 15, 2009


Alberta is the Texas of Canada.

The other day on Metafilter, I learned that Bavaria is the Texas of Germany. I assume this is a semicovert Metafilter project to identify the most Texan geographical subdivision of every country. But what of Togo? What is the Texas of Togo?
posted by mreleganza at 10:00 PM on December 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


And tht is jst within the federal government... think how much regionalism there is in the US, then take out the close, easy connection between members of various United States... the hinterland has been seeming to be losing cohesion, and being loose with the BEAUTIFUL document of inception that they have created; after a strong trend towards living up to our various nations global roles... turning to a "War" force, for the Armed Forcees, from a previous Stated Title of Peacekeepers. progress... can't live without it, gott... can choose to be observers.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:00 PM on December 15, 2009


BEAUTIFUL document of inception -Ftfme
posted by infinite intimation at 10:02 PM on December 15, 2009


Look, I hate the mythical Albertan as much as the next guy, but...

Do you drive? Do you heat your house? Do you live anywhere in North America? If yes, better change your ways, bitches, because it's not Alberta that's burning all that oil, and as soon as you stop buying it, they'll stop digging it up.
posted by klanawa at 10:04 PM on December 15, 2009 [19 favorites]


As someone who lived their first 26 years in Alberta let me say, yes, we are the Texas of Canada. Honestly though, all you environmentalist people, let me ask you this: what country, what province, what state in the world would turn their backs on the likes of the Alberta oil sands for the sake of a "greener" future? Tell me, which one?

Stop blaming this on some alleged moral deficit in an otherwise irrelevant, idiosyncratic part of the world, and open your eyes to the larger problem at hand. It isn't that we have the oil, it is that people have decided they need the oil, and are willing to pay any price to get it in the end. Beneath it all is the fact that people are greedy, and will trade riches in this lifetime for any amount of hardship afterwards.
posted by paradoxflow at 10:05 PM on December 15, 2009 [10 favorites]


It's not just that they're benefitting from the oil sands, they're actively trying to deny deny that there's any remotely adverse effects while simultaneously bragging that they're self sufficient and complaining that other provinces are deadbeats for not having the same resources.
posted by Hoopo at 10:13 PM on December 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, there's nothing "mythical" about Ralph freaking Klein. Stop acting like these Albertan assholes don't exist and their attitudes and ideas don't enjoy widespread support among the population.
posted by Hoopo at 10:23 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure even Albertans hate Alberta . . . The only ones who don't seem full of themselves about Alberta are ones who I considered full of themselves already . . . a higher than normal percentage of assholes . . . we are the Texas of Canada . . . Stop acting like these Albertan assholes don't exist . . .

Well, boy howdy, speakin' as one a them mystical Albertans y'all are so riled about, ah shore am findin' it hard tuh get much in the wayuh respect 'round here, ah tell you whut.

What ah fine partickularly refreshin' - not countin' the broad brush y'all musta borrowed from one uh them big ole oil comp'nies up nahr Fort Mac to tar thuh lotta us all weeyuth - is jus' how comfurtin' it is tuh know, affer spendin' a big partuh mah car-heer studyin' on suhl-yootions to that thar climate change, that ah coulda solved thuh whole mess and ended thuh whole durn playnet's addiction to the black stuff jus' by convincin' muh neighbours to, as they say, cease and dee-sist from producin' 1/87th a thuh whole world's oil.

Damn, that thar's ruhl comfortin'. Thank yuh, resta North Amurica, fur settin' thisa har Calgary cowpoke on thuh straight an' narrow, an' much apologies tuh thuh world ayut large fur causin' all its problems.

Ah'll jus' apologize to any ruhl Texans out thar fur muh cornpone cartoon of an accent an' be own muh way.
posted by gompa at 10:29 PM on December 15, 2009 [10 favorites]


The other day on Metafilter, I learned that Bavaria is the Texas of Germany. I assume this is a semicovert Metafilter project to identify the most Texan geographical subdivision of every country. But what of Togo? What is the Texas of Togo?

Waco is the Texas of Texas.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 PM on December 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


Yes, Hoopo, lots of people are idiots and lots of Albertans are idiots, but there's a big problem here, and even if they gave two shits, Alberta couldn't solve it. Money makes some people do crazy things. If you keep giving them the money, they'll keep doing crazy things.

The real reason Alberta and Canada are getting shat upon, the real reason there's a good reason to do it, is because of the refusal of the average Joe to make minimal changes to their lifestyle. I went to a Copenhagen vigil a few days ago. Our friends (husband and wife) drove there... in separate cars. I still use up my share of oil, but I've managed to shape my life around carlessness. I have one but I drive it about 2x a month now.

When I lived in LA, none of my coworkers were willing to go even a mile without a car. My neighbours would drive literally across the street to buy groceries. And as far as I could see, it was the rule rather than the exception. But oh, how they railed against the oilmen!
posted by klanawa at 10:34 PM on December 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


While it's true that the current government is the first Western Canada-based government in the country's history, aside from Harper, most the current Conservative government are a bunch of 90s Mike Harris Tory retreads from Ontario - the same people that almost destroyed that province. Jim Flaherty, the guy who pissed away Paul Martin's structural surpluses, is a prime example.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:41 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The real reason Alberta and Canada are getting shat upon, the real reason there's a good reason to do it, is because of the refusal of the average Joe to make minimal changes to their lifestyle

Agreed 100%. And Gompa, I've read your blog and I apologize if you felt personally singled out by my statements--you're admirably fighting an uphill battle given your political surroundings.
posted by Hoopo at 10:43 PM on December 15, 2009


The other day on Metafilter, I learned that Bavaria is the Texas of Germany. I assume this is a semicovert Metafilter project to identify the most Texan geographical subdivision of every country. But what of Togo? What is the Texas of Togo?

If you want an actual state in Australia, then Western Australia is the winner [according to friends from overseas], but as for a "geographical subdivision"? Gee, that's a tough one. The Pilbara or FNQ. Maybe the North West?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:46 PM on December 15, 2009


I do not drive and I do not heat my house.
I lived in Alberta and everyone I met seemed miserable and spoke illy of their own province.

If my first comment seemed like a slag, it wasn't, at least in my own experience.
posted by mannequito at 10:59 PM on December 15, 2009


Oh Jeebus, I wasn't aware Prentice was now the Environment minister. Last I heard he was a minion for the Canadian Recording Industry.
posted by benzenedream at 11:38 PM on December 15, 2009


Proper linkage.
posted by benzenedream at 11:39 PM on December 15, 2009


Keep in mind that Canada stands to benefit from Global warming. The opening of the Northern Passage and unhindered access to vast untapped oil and gas reserves under the polar ice cap. Canada, Russia, and the USA have all been quietly quibbling over how to split up the Arctic.
posted by empty vessel at 11:59 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ugh. What an embarrassment this Copenhagen thing has been. Props to the Yes Men for piling a bit more shame on them.

Also: so much for sewing our flag on our backpacks.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 12:04 AM on December 16, 2009


Costs about C$10-14 a barrel to extract the oil from the tar (I'm citing Wikipedia, I saw other quotes of around $25. Neither takes into account the environmental toll of all this rooting around in the earth - it is mind-bogglingly large).

Currently oil is trading a $70/bbl (Bloomberg).

As it's been said, until the price of oil drops below ~$25/bbl, they'll keep ripping hell out of Alberta.

I like the Yes Men. Even more than Improve Everywhere.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:08 AM on December 16, 2009


Agreed 100%. And Gompa, I've read your blog and I apologize if you felt personally singled out by my statements--you're admirably fighting an uphill battle given your political surroundings.

You know what? Much obliged and all, but I can't let this shit sit. Don't take this (too) personally, Hoopo - if I sound defensive, it's because I've spoken at something like 100 public gatherings and conferences across Canada on the subject of sustainability in the last 18 months, and you should hear the shit said about the city where my two kids were born in the expectation that I will smile and nod because surely no one who writes the kind of stuff I write could actually, you know, like Alberta, right?

For example: Church basement in a particularly sainted leftie enclave in Toronto, a gathering of organic biodegradable peace-on-earth types? The very name of my hometown elicited a wave of self-satisfied boos. I used to live four blocks from that very church and I had a couple of old friends in the audience and several of my closest friends in the world still live nearby, but fuck those people anyway for their smug self-righteousness, because it isn't going to stablize the climate for my kids any quicker than Jim Prentice's version will.

And as for this notion that the tarsands are a made-in-Alberta problem by a made-in-Alberta government, that if a pit of filthy lucre that deep and rich sat anywhere else in Canada or the world it'd be left alone with oil pushing $100/barrel? This notion that there's some uniquely venal strain of greed out here on the Canadian prairie, an idea which has now spread to globally respected authorities on climate change and all the way to Copenhagen? Sorry, that notion's bullshit.

As noted upthread, Ontario-born-and-bred Stephen Harper won the 2008 election not with the 27 seats the Conservatives carried in Alberta but with the 51 they won in Ontario. I didn't vote for 'em in any case, and my riding was one of the Top Five showings nationwide for the Greens. My neighbours here in downtown Calgary occupied Prentice's office ahead of COP15, and the former pastor of the neighbourhood United Church is on a hunger strike. My alderman took all kinds of political heat this summer to further the spread of pedestrianization in Calgary, we've got a stop on the wind-powered LRT two minutes away, and we buy our electricity from a company led by the single most ambitious and innovative green mind I've ever found in a utility company CEO outside Scandinavia.

There are, believe it or not, people of conscience taking paycheques from tarsands companies because they believe they can do more for the climate battle by changing the corporate culture of the oil patch from the inside than by striking rebel poses at international conferences. I might've sneered and called them delusional until I moved out here six years ago from Harris-and-Lastman-era Toronto (speaking of enlightened leadership) and realized the yeehaw Albertan stereotype was no more valid than any other. I decided years ago that Greenpeace-style grandstanding had often as not become as much about self-congratulation as about real change. I figure the folks working inside have to be at least as useful as the unfurlers of banners at this point.

I could go on. What the fuck, I will.

The financing of the tarsands (which George Monbiot acknowledges in passing on his way to Canadians-are-the-new-Saudis grandstanding) is global. If you had an RRSP or mutual fund riding high in 2006 and 2007, odds are it was there in part because a healthy wedge of your cash had been sunk in an energy trust. The guys who were buzzing down 17th Ave here in Calgary in freshly leased Ferraris were finance guys, not oilfield geologists.

When Ed Stelmach won the premiership, one of his first big gestures was a visit to Washington to kiss Dick Cheney's ring. I can tell you from firsthand experience that Stelmach's so fresh off the farm in east-central Alberta he's still got a Ukranian accent when he's not being careful about it. Like many of us in Alberta or anywhere else, he's caught in the middle of a machine with gears so big it's all he can do to keep from being crushed by 'em as he pleads with the bossman driving the rig to let him ride on in a little comfort. That might not be a very bold position to take and it sure isn't the least bit courageous, but it's also no more or less evil than politics anywhere else.

I'm not defending the Alberta Conservatives - I would love a viable alternative to come along and boot the lot of 'em, and there are some vicious little shits among them who'd probably deserve the guillotine in a different age - but I also realize they are not otherworldly in their passions. There are no fangs dripping blood. Like politicians anywhere else, they're just shortsighted and vain, a little greedy, a little too easily persuaded by the lull of a cushy status quo. They know how to exploit the fears and insecurities and shortsightednesses of their constituents well enough to stay in office, and if that weren't a near universal trait among the world's political leaders then we wouldn't be at 387ppm with a bullet to begin with.

I am not trying to defend the tarsands. It's an ecological disaster. But it is the logical product of a global energy system upon which damn near every First World resident alive today is wholly dependent for everything from their transport and heat to the food they eat and the packages that keep it fresh till it arrives. And this self-righteous fingerpointing isn't getting us anywhere.

I've said this already here on the blue - I'm with Hermann Scheer on this one. The Kyoto-Copenhagen process is not a call to action, it's an accidental justification for postponing it. About the best it could produce is widespread cap-and-trade - a rather curiously timed leap of faith in a derivatives market, to say the least.

Never mind COP15. Agitate for a feed-in tariff at the local or provincial level. (Or, if you're in Ontario, be thankful you just got one.)

Yeah, that there was my second self-link in a single post. Typical asshole Albertan thing to do, eh?

And on preview, From Bklyn, I've got it on pretty good authority that it's more like $60-70/barrel to turn a profit on a new tarsands operation. Possibly more if the bitumen's in situ, which more and more of it is.

posted by gompa at 12:22 AM on December 16, 2009 [49 favorites]


I'm not defending the Alberta Conservatives - I would love a viable alternative to come along and boot the lot of 'em, and there are some vicious little shits among them who'd probably deserve the guillotine in a different age

And yet, Albertans have been voting them in for something like 40 uninterrupted years.

posted by Rumple at 12:57 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


gompa – awesome comment. Thank you.
posted by ageispolis at 1:41 AM on December 16, 2009


But what of Togo? What is the Texas of Togo?

Everyone knows that Dapaong is the Texas of Togo.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:56 AM on December 16, 2009


Waco is the Texas of Texas.

And what is the Texas of Waco?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:01 AM on December 16, 2009


Forgetting about who's in first place, look who's tied for second with the Conservatives (and beating them in Calgary).
posted by gman at 4:55 AM on December 16, 2009


I'm just going to step out here and say that sometimes people can control their own appetites, and that's commendable, but sometimes you just have to STOP BUYING THE FUCKING COOKIES because if they're in the house they're GOING TO BE EATEN.

By which I mean gosh you sure can be all "well if you don't like climate change then just stop driving your SUV and running that 300W plasma TV" but seriously the only real answer is to simply START TAXING THE FUCK OUT OF OIL because if it keeps sitting around the marketplace at unmanaged prices, it's GOING TO BE BURNED.

I'm a Canadian, and I say that my government isn't doing enough. And, fuck Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. I can say that now, I got my Canadian citizenship.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:02 AM on December 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


The behavioral economists (or Dan Ariely at least) would agree with SeanMPuckett. People go to great lengths to keep themselves from temptation. One great example is an American program where men are invited to pay 6 months in advance for a colonoscopy so that when the time comes, they know they'll be motivated to turn up at the doctor's office. It's been popular, and it's worked in reducing last-minute cancellations.

Seeing as there's no same-decade cancellations at Mother Nature's proctology clinic, we had better find ways of changing our habits now, rather than having all that bitumen crude just sitting there, waiting for us...
posted by anthill at 6:45 AM on December 16, 2009


If only driving or flying less to reduce GHG were as easy as getting a colonoscopy.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:00 AM on December 16, 2009


And what is the Texas of Waco?
Ted Nugent? Dr. Pepper? Mt. Carmel?
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 7:13 AM on December 16, 2009


And what is the Texas of Waco?

The Dr. Pepper museum.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:17 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I heard Jim Prentice on the CBC last week (?) proudly asserting that his main priority was employment. I was like DUDE YOU ARE THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER.

That's more honest than previous ministers but don't make the mistake of thinking that industry hasn't been the priority of Environment Canada for some time now. Prentice is just a little more clueless about the messaging.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:22 AM on December 16, 2009


At least you don't actually live in Texas, which is the Texas to which all other Texases are compared. The Texas of Canada is still pretty awesome compared to our Texas.
posted by Capt Jingo at 7:23 AM on December 16, 2009


Is Paris, Texas, the Paris of Texas?

Cause Edmonton is the Winnipeg of Alberta, if you know what I mean.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:26 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


that if a pit of filthy lucre that deep and rich sat anywhere else in Canada or the world it'd be left alone with oil pushing $100/barrel?

To further re-iterate this point, it's important to point out the magnitude of the oil sands: 170 billion barrels recoverable today and 1.7 to 2.5 trillion barrels in total.
posted by Adam_S at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2009


The truth of course is that there can be no reduction without sacrifice. People who say that we can reduce our GHG emissions without a little pain are lying or naive.

We will not replace all the reduction in economic growth with handwaving about "green jobs", logically we can't. Our global economic growth since the industrial revolution has been driven by cheap energy, if renewables were cheaper we would already use the exclusively, and in areas where they're cheap - we do.

Now, I think that it's worth a little sting, a few decades with 25 basis points shaved off GDP growth but I don't delude myself that it will be painless.
posted by atrazine at 7:31 AM on December 16, 2009


It's been going down to -32C here in Winnipeg this week; I'd like to see a little global warming right about now. Oh, and that Prentice guy? PRANK HIM!
posted by sporb at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2009


"Look, I hate the mythical Albertan as much as the next guy, but...

Do you drive? Do you heat your house? Do you live anywhere in North America? If yes, better change your ways, bitches, because it's not Alberta that's burning all that oil, and as soon as you stop buying it, they'll stop digging it up.
"

I agree with placing the blame for the CO2 emissions on whoever is actually burning the oil, gas, or coal. However, in the case of the tar sands, a very large amount of energy is needed to extract the oil, which currently comes from natural gas. So the extraction process itself is a major source of CO2 already, and it might get worse as natural gas gets more expensive and they switch to powering it from the extracted oil, or even with coal.

There has been some talk of powering the extraction process with heat from nuclear reactors, but my understanding is that's still just talk at this point. However, if we decide to take CO2 emission reduction seriously in Canada, this one change would make a huge difference. Something like 5% of Canada's total CO2 emissions come from the tar sands oil extraction processes alone.

And I think gompa is right: if the tar sands were somewhere else in Canada, or somewhere else in the world, they wouldn't just be sitting there untouched.
posted by FishBike at 7:49 AM on December 16, 2009


if the tar sands were somewhere else in Canada, or somewhere else in the world, they wouldn't just be sitting there untouched.

Somewhere else in Canada, I hear you. Somewhere else in the world, well... I'd suggest, depending on where you're talking, that's not a valid comparison. We regularly hear the (IMO, very valid) complaint from developing countries that they simply cannot afford to ignore their resources (wildlife, water, fuel, what have you). If anyone should be able to, it would be a wealthy country, particularly one that excels at wasting energy.

But treated by another province differently? No, of course not.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:17 AM on December 16, 2009


And I think gompa is right: if the tar sands were somewhere else in Canada, or somewhere else in the world, they wouldn't just be sitting there untouched..

I don't know. Maybe eventually but likely not yet. The flip positive side of all that BIG Alberta ugliness and stupidity is the sort of CAN-DO attitude that does actually, with minimal bureaucracy and second-guessing, get things done. Which can be great, depending on the THINGS getting done.

The obvious question that needs to be asked is, What Is The True Cost Here? Not just, is it now economically feasible to extract oil from the oil sands (it seems to be) but does it remain so when we factor in all the other related environmental, health and social costs, or as David Suzuki put it once, "The cost of not just SAFELY extracting materials from the environment but also safely returning them once they are no longer of use to us"? (or words to that effect)

I mean, if you just pursue the narrow market profit-versus-cost model, at what point do we start slaughtering poor people for their body fat?
posted by philip-random at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2009


Some of this I have to take issue with.

Seats in Alberta: 28 (27 Conservative, you say?)
Seats in Ontario: 107 (51 Conservative, you say?)

The tar sands are in Alberta and so are the associated problems, whether or not you can hypothetically envision the same thing elsewhere in Canada is a nice rhetorical trick but not really relevant. Like it or not, no amount of deflecting this to the "bums and creeps" in Toronto will change this. I'll have to take your word for it that there are people on your side "working on change from the inside" of the tar sands project, and it doesn't surprise me to hear that there are dissenting opinions and activists in Calgary. The point is, it's a small minority.

BTW, I'm pretty sure Calgary is OK with the "yeehaw" stereotypes or they wouldn't all go get pissed in cowboy hats at the "Stampede" every year.
posted by Hoopo at 8:28 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


We will not replace all the reduction in economic growth with handwaving about "green jobs", logically we can't. Our global economic growth since the industrial revolution has been driven by cheap energy, if renewables were cheaper we would already use

atrazine, how cheap is oil, really? It used to be very cheap, almost free. Since the early 1970's its real cost has soared. It's already hurting GDP. Personally I don't see why we can't switch to a green energy economy over the next..50 years.. without hurting the economy, improving it. The technology in the works is awe inspiring, and it's only just begun.
posted by stbalbach at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2009


It isn't that we have the oil, it is that people have decided they need the oil, and are willing to pay any price to get it in the end.

No, it is because we, through our useless government, allow the oil sands to be mined. We do not have to allow that to happen. And if we do, sure as hell we should be benefiting a whole lot more by it, as it is our resource and not Shell's.

Oil sands emit more CO2 than some European countries. Our asshole-in-charge might give them even more breaks. And of course, they're poisoning the shit out of us even worse than previously reported.

Add to all that the on-going Afghanistan war crimes accusations and the looney attempt by our dickshit PM to cover it all up, and you can see Canada is not getting good governance these days. Fuckers.

We really, really need to get with the mandatory voting, progressive vote-counting systems. This bullshit is destroying our country.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, because I forgot to mention it:

Fuck Stephen Harper.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a Canadian, and I say that my government isn't doing enough.

In no small part because Canadians have become a country of complacent and self-satisfied assholes who love to talk the talk but can't walk the walk. And those fucking 'We were made for this' Winter Olympic ads? 3/4 of the damn population live within 100 miles of the US border, they can cram that horseshit self-mythologyizing up their collective arses.

Bavaria is the Texas of Germany

"A Bavarian is half-way between an Austrian and a human being." - Bismarck (There's some type of doughnut joke in there.)

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Yes Men are again proving that activist performance art can affect what gets talked about in the media and induce dialog on a grand scale. This double twist prank, in all its layers, takes what they are good at doing to a whole other level of sophistication. I'd like to think it inspires other people to realize that with a little ingenuity, a barebones, grass roots support system, and huge metaphorical balls, it's possible get their own voices heard above the din of the corporate-money-backed lobbying machines.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2009


People are asking if this is the real Jim Prentice Twitter account. It is as real as our plan to address #climate change in #Copenhagen

You think he'd already have that Twitter account pulled. Nope.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:49 AM on December 16, 2009


Honestly though, all you environmentalist people, let me ask you this: what country, what province, what state in the world would turn their backs on the likes of the Alberta oil sands for the sake of a "greener" future? Tell me, which one?

Why, it's almost as if we need to turn our backs on the countries, provinces, and states of the world.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:53 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Chaos erupts at climate conference

Yowza: reading that link is a real reminder of how, as a species, human beings are adrift.

If you'll afford me the following indulgence: as a species, we humans are at war with ourselves, having divided the world into artificial constructs (like nation-states) that we then take to somehow be ultimately real. The chaos at Copenhagen feels like an allegory for the environmental violence we have wrought upon the earth, and more specifically seems like an allegory for the real hunger many people have right now for some kind of change in the way the world goes about its business. Something has to give.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:24 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Canada's defence, we hate Alberta as much as the rest of the world. I'm pretty sure even Albertans hate Alberta

Aw, poor Alberta! It's a beautiful place that is stewarded by people who will all too willingly sell its resources down the river, and including the river. I have lived here all my life, in both central and southern Alberta and I find it to be an incredibly complex place. Central Alberta is so much more friendlier than southern Alberta - people can be way too harsh here on those who are down on their luck or mentally ill. If you're not driven to hypersucceed and follow a very corporate way of life in Calgary, there's something wrong with you, or at least that's the way I have been made to feel over the years.

I love the land, but not always the mindset - it's hard to be a big L and little l liberal here without being called a communist or whatnot. For a place that would claim to value individuality, it's rather conformist, and if you aren't on the right side of things, it can be a lonely and alienating place to be because your opinion is never valued. A majority of citizens can't be bothered to vote in local or provincial elections most of the time and the ignorance is often astounding. My own grandmother believes that if the provincial New Democrats come into power, they will take away health benefits for seniors, when it was the provincial conservatives that were slicing away at denture subsidies among other health benefits for years. How do you change such stubborn minds?
posted by Calzephyr at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2009


(I can't believe nobody has done this yet.)

Metafilter: I could go on. What the fuck, I will.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2009 [3 favorites]



Do you drive? Do you heat your house? Do you live anywhere in North America? If yes, better change your ways, bitches, because it's not Alberta that's burning all that oil, and as soon as you stop buying it, they'll stop digging it up."

I agree with placing the blame for the CO2 emissions on whoever is actually burning the oil, gas, or coal. However, in the case of the tar sands, a very large amount of energy is needed to extract the oil, which currently comes from natural gas. So the extraction process itself is a major source of CO2 already, and it might get worse as natural gas gets more expensive and they switch to powering it from the extracted oil, or even with coal.


Umm... if by "very large" you mean "a small, though not insignificant proportion".

Burning the gas in your car still represents between 85 to 95% of the carbon intensity from well to wheels, including transport and refining, from all sources including the oil sands. Meanwhile, the energy and carbon intensity of the oil sands has also been steadily decreasing. The oil sands' environmental impact does not stop at carbon emissions, of course.

And Gompa? Thanks.
posted by bumpkin at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2009


OMG, Gman--I hadn't even heard of the Wildrose Party before but this description from Wikipedia doesn't bode well:

-"Reducing by constitutional means the enormous net outflow of wealth from Albertans to the federal government"
-"Ensuring that provincial decisions better reflect the mainstream values and priorities of most Albertans"
-"Ensuring that the party's Leader and MLAs honour their election promises and commitments"

According to Don Weisbeck, Mayor of Brooks and Vice President (Communications) for the party, “the provincial government has swayed from its conservative roots. They’ve become one of the fastest spending and highest taxing jurisdictions in the country compared to their original roots where they tried to minimize taxes and government involvement in people’s lives".[1]
The party constitution emphasized the control of the grass-roots.


Again, I've obviously stepped on certain Albertans' toes here, but any solution to this Tar Sands situation has to largely involve Alberta and Albertans. Likely in the form of legislation -- as everyone has pointed out, so long as money is rolling in people will want the status quo to continue. That's going to mean supporting parties other than the Conservatives on the Federal level and stop supporting these slogan-slinging entitled reactionary right-wing nut jobs on the provincial level. This is very much and definitively a made-in-Alberta problem that requires a made-in-Alberta solution. The financing of the tar sands is "global"? What financing isn't "global" these days? It happens to be located in Alberta and is under Albertan jurisdiction. I'm not sure what left-wing Torontonians and former Ontario governments have to do with it at all. The support for these people needs to dry up, and this knee-jerk "well Onterrible said this, and then they took our stuff and sent us their bums" crap that Albertan politicians have been selling for 50 years needs to stop, ASAP.

As I said, Gompa, I think you're in a small minority and have a hell of a fight ahead of you. I wish you luck with it, and I'm glad there are people like you and the people you speak of in Calgary tackling the issue with thought and creativity.
posted by Hoopo at 12:45 PM on December 16, 2009


Umm... if by "very large" you mean "a small, though not insignificant proportion."

Actually, yes. The scale of the extraction process is so big that even a "small proportion" is a lot in absolute terms. Combined with us exporting much of the extracted oil (so the CO2 emissions from burning it mostly aren't happening in Canada), we get the statistic of 5% of Canada's total CO2 emissions originating from that process.

So it seems like a good target if we want to reduce CO2 emissions from our own country. I'm not suggesting that we should stop the extraction process or scale it back as a means to achieve that, though. I think reducing CO2 emissions is a problem that needs to be tackled from the demand side, so tar sands oil extraction is only of interest in that it is itself a major demand on fossil fuels in Canada right now.

The oil companies will, understandably, use the most economical source of energy they can for the extraction process. I've read some predictions that if the price of natural gas keeps going up, they'll switch to using some of the extracted oil, or even coal, as the energy source, and I think that makes the situation much worse.

So how can we ensure that doesn't happen? Maybe something like taxes on carbon emissions, that shift the economics in favor of some other energy source. Maybe even apply some of the taxes raised towards credits for carbon-free energy sources to reduce their cost, to reduce the impact of higher energy prices on the competitiveness of our industries. Because that's a real problem unless every other country does the same thing at the same time.

And of course, all that applies just as much to other major industries and users of fossil fuels in Canada.
posted by FishBike at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2009


All of Canada has a shameful record on reducing CO2 emissions -- and I'm happy to see that shame paraded before the world.

We need to tax oil and all fossil fuels heavily. And we need to recognise that action must come for the developed world, and not from the developing. We're the ones who shat in the atmosphere, we should be the ones suffering to clean it up, not pushing the problem onto them. Limits should be based on CO2 emissions per person -- China and India may put out a lot of emissions, but they are a fraction of what we put out per person. And the rich world should pay for the mess we have made.
posted by jb at 1:04 PM on December 16, 2009


I'm not sure what left-wing Torontonians and former Ontario governments have to do with it at all.

Alberta isn't a world onto itself. Something of the magnitude of the tar sands extraction is a federal, and hell, a global problem. As such, it's important that people pay attention to the issue, and try to change the status quo. This extends not just to Albertans, or Canadians, but to importers of Canadian oil (hi!), and anyone who considers global warming a pressing issue.

That's what left-wing Torontonians have to do with it. If a left-wing Albertan can be expected to fight the good fight, perhaps Torontonians could reach out to their fellow Ontarians, who voted Conservative? At the least, people could stop slagging off all of Alberta: It doesn't particularly help anything, but does manage to alienate the Albertans who aren't assholes,* especially those who're busting their nuts to change things.

It is absolutely true that, given the opportunity, most countries would attempt to exploit a similar resource. It's also true that individual energy use adds up to the massive demand for oil. In other words, it's a collective action problem. The sort of thing that's best solved at a governmental, if not intergovernmental level. Because as nice as it is if we personally pledge to lower our thermostats, things aren't going to change until we're collectively forced to do better, at individual, corporate, and national levels.

*I have a friend who happens to be from Calgary. He uses CFL bulbs, takes public transit, recycles, and isn't some kind of ten-gallon-hat wearing douchebag. He does, however, waste energy watching Flames games on cable.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:34 PM on December 16, 2009


tl;dr: Be nice. It's your problem, and my problem, too.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:35 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


If oil gets more expensive, it would remain profitable to extract it from oil sands even using methods that are more expensive but more environmentally compatible. I don't know much about the process, but surely putting the heavy-metal polluted water somewhere other than on the surface in giant bird-poisoning tailings ponds could help?

So... if Alberta requires more responsible extraction, the world oil supply is reduced driving up prices and making that extraction possible? Cartel that shit like DeBeers! What did cause oil prices to crash in the last couple of years anyway? Economic malaise has caused enough reduction in consumption? Is that really it?

Guilt isn't going to curtail consumption, so how about $200/barrel oil? I bet on more expensive energy by moving to a house from which I can reach work by bike or public transit. I suppose I'm going to have to plant a garden because food is going to get more expensive with higher energy prices too.
posted by morganw at 1:45 PM on December 16, 2009


Jeez, you had to bring out the "Be Nice" card. If they find out I'm not being nice, they'll strip me of my Canadian citizenship!

Yeah I guess I'm not expressing myself well here. Basically what I see is that the most direct level the tar sands issue can be addressed is through/by Albertans and their votes and actions--it's their province and their resources, after all. When the Feds or other provinces get involved in Alberta's affairs or offer "free advice", what typically happens is they get accused of meddling or worse and used by opportunistic politicians to get support for whatever agenda they may have. And it works very, very well as evidenced by 40 + years of election results.

You're right to say CO2 emissions are everyone's problem, and no one province is much better than the next in that regard. Finger-pointing doesn't help anything. The tar sands just represent a particularly obvious target when the discussion comes up.
posted by Hoopo at 5:07 PM on December 16, 2009


The oil sands' environmental impact does not stop at carbon emissions, of course.

IMO, the carbon emissions are the least of its problems. Those fuckers are spreading carcinogens and heavy metals and poisonous chemicals far and wide, and especially downstream. It's a grotesque cancer, as-is. We can do it a lot better, especially by restricting mining until good processing techniques are developed.

The cost of extraction should be matched to the long-term costs, not to the immediate costs. Cheap tar sands oil now is going to translate into a costly deaths, diseases, and disaster in the future.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:43 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously. Does anyone really expect that Suncor is actually going to do anything with those tailings ponds except let them leach into the Athabasca?
posted by anthill at 7:30 PM on December 16, 2009


I hadn't even heard of the Wildrose Party before...

Not to step on anyone's toes, but if that's the case, you may want to reconsider being judgmental and commenting on what's going on in Alberta.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:21 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I said, Gompa, I think you're in a small minority and have a hell of a fight ahead of you.

In case anyone's still reading, some breaking news on this front:

City of Calgary recognized in Copenhagen for climate leadership

By 2012, The City of Calgary’s municipal electricity supply will be 100 per cent green electricity, making it the largest municipal user of green electricity in Canada and the number one user – by percentage – of green electricity in North America.

It ain't the end of the tarsands, but it's a good start. That minority's bigger than you think.
posted by gompa at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2009


Alvy, it says in the article they were founded in 2007. The current incarnation is even younger than that. How long have the tarsands been around? I'm not sure what your point is.

But who am I to get in the way of a good bit of snark?
posted by Hoopo at 8:29 AM on December 17, 2009


On top of which, they appear to have only been more than a single-digit force in provincial politics for a mere few months, and don't appear to be bucking any trends in terms of popular support for the right in Alberta, telling the Feds to stuff it as a campaign promise, or doing anything regarding the tar sands situation other than continuing the current arrangements.

Sorry to judge what's going on in Alberta politics with my gross misconceptions.
posted by Hoopo at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2009


It's good to hear from the more progressive Albertans, who doubtless are disproportionately represented on Metafilter. But lets be clear: Alberta as a collective, as a population, is unlike any other province in Canada, let alone the western provinces.

Since 1935, Alberta has continuously elected conservative governments.

"the Social Credit Party, from 1935 to 1971, and the currently governing Progressive Conservative Party, from 1971 to the present." (wikipedia)

That is 36 straight years of the weird, populist, highly conservative Social Credit party (who also dominated BC for about 30 years) followed by 38 years of the Conservative party proper (who largely absorbed Social Credit).

Obviously not all Albertans are conservative. But to deny the facts of the electoral results is just silly -- coming up on almost 75 continuous years of electing rightwing governments. You really don't see that in most democratic jurisdictions.

Without the liberalizing hand of the Federal government and the relatively progressive Canadian constitution, it is clear to me that Alberta would not have socialized health care, for example, would have even weaker environmental laws, probably would ban abortion, etc. Not all Albertans would like that, of course, and in fact a lot of the free marketeers would like paying for their own bypass operations a lot less too.

Though it is conceivable, I suppose, that in the absence of a liberalizing Federal government then Alberta would lose its defensive crouch, and there would be a fuller debate across the sphere of the meaning and impact that conservative politics would truly have in the absence of the soft hand of the Canadian system meaning Albertans don't really have to walk the talk. For that reason, I consider Albertan conservatives to be an extremely childish majority of that Province's population.
posted by Rumple at 10:19 AM on December 17, 2009


Rumple -- I didn't want to get into this earlier in the thread, due to no small part because it involves a lot of speculation, by why is Alberta so conserative. Is it the hills? The mountains? How about the oil?

I wonder to what extent such an economy-bending resource might warp any province. Spend a few years in the "green" west or overfished east to see what it's like to live in a resource-based economy, though not so valuable you can create a tax-free haven and make transfer payments for the ROC.

So I don't know if anyone is denying election results. But I'm also not sure they're answer if the question is "how would another province handle Alberta's oil?" Because they would certainly be changed by it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:33 AM on December 17, 2009


Well I butchered that first sentence. Due in no small part / but why...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2009


I wonder to what extent such an economy-bending resource might warp any province.

The Devil's Excrement
posted by benzenedream at 1:47 PM on December 17, 2009


Some numbers from the BC Government I came across, via Co2-Art blog


per capita greenhouse gas emissions by province 2006 in tones of co2 equivalent

Alberta 70
British Columbia 14
Manitoba 18
New Brunswick 24
Newfoundland & Labrador 18
Nova Scotia 21
Ontario 15
P.E.I. 15
Quebec 11
Saskatchewan 73
Yukon, Nunavut & N.W.T. 16


greenhouse gas emissions by province, 1990 vs 2006

Alberta 172 - 236
British Columbia 50 - 66
Manitoba 20 - 22
New Brunswick 19 - 21
Newfoundland & Labrador 12 - 12
Nova Scotia 21 - 22
Ontario 174 - 190
P.E.I. 2 - 2
Quebec 84 - 82
Saskatchewan 45 - 73
Yukon, Nunavut & N.W.T. n/a


% increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990:

Alberta 50.2%
British Columbia 10.9%
Manitoba 1.9%
New Brunswick <1>
Newfoundland & Labrador <1%
Nova Scotia <1%
Ontario 13
P.E.I. <1%
Quebec 0% (total decrease of 1%)
Saskatchewan 22.7%
Yukon, Nunavut & N.W.T. 0% (total decrease of 17%)
posted by Hoopo at 6:55 PM on December 17, 2009


Good god. Thanks for nothing, Alberta.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:00 PM on December 17, 2009


On the topic of provinces and oil, British Columbia has ~10bil barrels of offshore oil, with a ban on drilling it that has been in place since 1971. Exxon Valdez cemented it. The Liberals have been thirsty to lift it for several years now, but haven't for political reasons. Given their fall from grace over HST, and growing concern over dwindling salmon stocks, they will hopefully never get the chance.

Some of us can resist eating the cookies... for now. But we're going to be awful hungry sooner or later.
posted by mek at 5:07 PM on December 19, 2009


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