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Oil Sands Ad Campaign Touches Energy Security Raw Nerve

Furor provokes comments from Alberta Premier and U.S. Ambassador on key oil supply debate

By Stacy Feldman

Jul 22, 2010

But for many in Alberta, the portrayal was false and insulting to the province.

Stripping the sticky bitumen with hot water and chemicals and converting it to crude produces about three times more planet-warming emissions than conventional sources, according to a recent peer-reviewed published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The water is collected in giant tailing ponds. These are leaking over 11 million liters a day of tainted water, finds a by

Not true, says the province.

Stelmach maintained this week that the tailings ponds are not leaching toxins – and that the oil sands are no more carbon intensive than conventional petroleum after transport, refining and other "lifecycle" costs are considered.

Marx called that a "bald-face lie" and "an embarrassment both to the government of Alberta and to the Alberta media." 

The oil industry, not surprisingly, remained in step with the premier.

The said in that the "activist" campaign is "not truthful, fair and accurate," and that the "oil sands industry continues to improve environmental performance."

Everyday Canadians, too, were furious. Comments on the campaign's were full of anti-American jabs.

"Americans should look at their own deficiencies before talking about Alberta's," said one commentator, who said he was logging on from Canada. "Oil sands production is not even a drop in the bucket compared to what American companies pollute into their rivers, oceans and atmosphere."

One commentator suggested that the U.S. government helped with the video to divert attention away from the oil gusher in the Gulf.

"There's no question that we have touched a nerve with Albertans," Marx said. "We have gotten hundreds of emails and calls from angry Albertans. I must admit it's a bit more than we anticipated."

Stelmach Commission: Province Damaged

However coincidentally, the campaign got some validation from at least one unlikely source: Stelmach's own .

The of former politicians, business leaders and academics released a that shines a not-so-favorable light on the reputational damage of the oil sands.

"Alberta's reputation with key energy customers has been damaged in recent years, and relationships with communities near oil sands developments (especially First Nations communities) are strained," the report stated.

"Both reputation and relationships must be repaired if Albertans are to continue to benefit economically from the natural resources with which the province has been blessed."

The council is most concerned with its neighbor south of the border.

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