Ottawa/Calgary – OTTAWA – Standing two storeys tall, the 180-tonne yellow dump truck parked on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., commanded attention all around Capitol Hill.
With tires four metres high, the Caterpillar 777F hauler — similar to the monster machines used in the oilsands — was the main attraction for Alberta’s exhibit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in July 2006. The behemoth machine symbolized the province’s growing energy bounty: a secure supplier of crude to the United States, boasting some of the planet’s largest oil reserves.
But in a global game of Show and Tell, the move would also backfire. During that two-week stretch, the truck unexpectedly became a powerful symbol and prime target for a U.S. environmental movement searching for a focal point for its next campaign.
It would set off 10 years of trouble for the oilsands, triggering a new level of environmental scrutiny over developing the resource that is profoundly felt in Canada to this day. “It was a pivotal moment,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington.
“When you bring a tarsands dump truck to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., it was like bringing the tarsands into our backyard. For the environmental groups in D.C., it was a moment of it sort of being, ‘They’ve brought this fight to us.’ ”
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