The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.
In his new book, Rick George, chief executive of energy giant Suncor Energy Inc. for 21 years, takes aim at some of the oil sands higher profile critics who he says often fudge the facts and don’t practice what they preach.
The following is an exclusive excerpt from his book Sun Rise, which goes on sale Saturday
Actor Daryl Hannah managed to get herself arrested in front of the White House in the summer of 2011 for protesting against construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. assume that many people who neither knew nor cared about either the pipeline or the oil sands were drawn to the story of her arrest based on recognition of her name. If that was the case and they read beyond the headlines to absorb some of her reasons for protesting, they were unknowingly being fed a litany of exaggerated claims and questionable “facts.” Here are the statements she delivered to U.S. media sources, followed by accurate responses that no one in the United States, to my knowledge, employed to repudiate her claims:
“It’s well documented that the tar sands itself is one of the world’s largest ecological atrocities and disasters.”
If she meant the existence of a trillion barrels or so of bitumen within a wilderness setting, she may have had a point — but an empty one. The sands have been there for a few million years, after all. I suspect, however, that she was referring to the development of the oil sands by Suncor and other firms as a means of providing North Americans with petroleum-based energy. The Royal Society of Canada report compared a number of industries with the oil sands and found that, as an industry, the oil sands ranked fifth for mercury, sixth for cadmium, and eighth for lead and some carcinogenic pollutants. These rankings made no reference to the actual volume of pollutants released, which continues to measure well below the acceptable level set by various government regulators. RSC members also added, “The claim by some critics of the oil sands indicate that it is the most environmentally destructive project on earth is not supported by the evidence.”
“The contribution [of the oil sands] to the carbon in the atmosphere is unprecedented.”
According to the RSC, the entire oil sands operation contributes perhaps 5 percent of Canada’s total carbon emissions. Sounds like a lot, but the report also noted that fossil-fuelled electric power generation in Canada contributes 16 percent of carbon emissions, and transportation services add 27 percent. How does the oil sands contribution possibly qualify as unprecedented?
“I’ve been hearing about how many people have cancer that live downstream from the tar sands project.”
Whoever Ms. Hannah was listening to did not include physicians and researchers from Alberta Health Services. In 2006 a physician claimed he had diagnosed several cases of a rare form of bile cancer in the village of Fort Chipewyan and immediately blamed emissions from oil sands operations. This became rich fodder for every critic, and soon headlines around the world were trumpeting stories about the carcinogenic impact of the oil sands. The news was personally unsettling to me. If our oil sands production was responsible for elevated cancer rates, I wanted to know about it. The doctor’s claims were taken seriously enough to warrant a detailed study of cancer rates in the area, conducted by Alberta Health Services.
For the rest of this book excerpt, please go to the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/13/rick-george-hannahs-hyperbole-and-camerons-hypocrisy/