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It’s official: Ottawa has gone bananas.
In recent days, a war of words has erupted over a campaign by a website called EthicalOil.org that urges consumers to stop buying fruit from Chiquita Brands International Inc., following an announcement by Chiquita that it would like its business partners to reduce their use of high-greenhouse-gas fuel sources, including Canada’s oil sands.
Conservative Ministers Jason Kenney and Rona Ambrose tweeted their support for the banana ban, while NDP leadership candidate and MP Megan Leslie accused the government of ignoring climate change. (Meanwhile, most Canadians breathed a sigh of relief that Chiquita doesn’t sell cranberries, and got on with their Christmas shopping.)
The Chiquita saga is only the latest protest to hit the world of petropolitics over the past year. 2011 saw actresses getting arrested, pipelines encircling the White House, ranchers teaming up with environmentalists, and Saudi Arabia taking legal action against television ads. News stories about oil boycotts used to involve consumers fuming at high gas prices; in the past 12 months, the focus has shifted to oil itself, and our dependence on the increasingly demonized commodity. The shift has major implications for Canada.
The latest wrinkle south of the border was the Republicans’ attempt to tie the continuation of payroll tax cuts to an accelerated approvals process for the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Barack Obama would rather drag this issue out past election day, a delay that threatens the viability of the entire project.
Why have the anti-oil forces become so successful? In part, because Obama does not want to alienate the Democrats’ environmentalist constituency in an election year, but also because of a growing sense in the Western world that somehow life without oil will some day be possible. Electric cars and windmill farms seem to be popping up everywhere, and with them, a confidence — led by the Darryl Hannahs of this world — that we are in a position to break our dependence on fossil fuels.
Eco-doomsayers charge that the high living standards we’ve derived from oil come at an unacceptable environmental price: Whether it’s climate change or oil spills, petrochemical companies were 2011’s most fashionable target for outrage, after Wall Street bankers.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/12/22/tasha-kheiriddin-oil-has-a-bad-rap-but-the-world-still-needs-it/