Rex comes to the defence of Canada's oil sands as the country faces scrutiny at a climate conference in Durban, South Africa.

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Defending Canada's Oil Sands

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In the middle of the worldwide recession, with the whole continent of Europe and all its member countries staring down the financial abyss, thousands of environmentalists are recycling themselves at another UN summit in Durban, South Africa. It is the latest of their vastly bloated, high-energy consuming, the-end-is-near gabfests. That number doesn’t include the mainly pliant press that goes with them.

One of the first orders of business over there in Durban- land, as it was in Copenhagen, is how bad Canada is and (spare us oh Gaia) the global menace of that great hell mouth: the Canadian oil sands. This one project, more perhaps than any other in Canada, has kept us out of the worst of the recession.

And is it not then bizarre that at Durban whole countries, like China and India, with massive populations and absolutely huge industrial and manufacturing enterprises, developing more and more electricity plants and coal generating stations -- are let off the hook by the campaigners. The production of those countries dwarfs into nearly total insignificance whatever the oil sands may represent. The Middle East, Venezuela, Russia -- everyone, by comparison gets a pass.

But poor Canada gets all the silly trophies and is badmouthed by every environmental medicine show from Rio to Copenhagen to Durban. Well, it’s a setup. They know ‘sweet, mild’ Canada won’t really kick back. China and India and Saudi Arabia, well that’s a different story.

Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Green Parties everywhere -- the usual suspects -- have made the Canadian oil sands their convenient target to bash and sure enough, yesterday there was a full page ad in the Globe and Mail, featuring no less than Archbishop Desmond Tutu, raging on about the evil tar sands, and how – even now – it was causing drought and famine in Africa.

This last is pure balderdash (ecclesiastical or otherwise) and the good bishop should be ashamed to give his name and prestige to such propaganda.

I would have thought, for the busy bishop, there are causes closer to home in which lives actually are being lost in circumstances of great cruelty; from Zimbabwe to the hideous protracted war in the Congo, to the grotesque inequities and bad governance of the whole continent, before he would belabor a country that helped his – South Africa – in its worse days.

There is another dynamic at play. Canada is, officially, stepping off the Kyoto train. Kyoto has been for the majority of countries that signed on to it, a mere pantomime. Emissions continue to rise; carbon markets floundered or were beset with graft. But everyone kept up the pretence.

If the current government has no intention of slowing the growth of Canadian industry to reduce carbon emissions then it’s only honest to say so and pull out of Kyoto.

That of course will earn another silly award at Durban and possible get us another full-page ad from that busy bishop. I tremble at the very thought.

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.