Canada Ramps Up Government Spending On Tar Sands Advertising

protesters holding #nokxl signs

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper in New York courting US business leaders and promoting the Keystone XL pipeline, it's perhaps unsurprising to hear that his government has nearly doubled its spending on advertising the Albertan tar sands since last year.

Suzanne Goldenberg writes in the Guardian, that according to the Canadian Press agency, the Harper government “has increased its advertising spending on the Alberta tar sands to $16.5m from $9m a year ago.” The government's strategy includes television advertising and “high-profile ad buys” like sponsoring Politico Playbook, an influential political journalism site frequented by administration officials.

Harper was in New York City as part of the push to entice the US into supporting the Keystone pipeline and exports of crude oil from the tar sands. Last week, Harper was at a discussion and question and answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations, with the tar sands and the pipeline high on the agenda.

This onslaught of tar sands promotion by the Canadian government comes at a time when the Keystone project's completion is still uncertain. If completed, the pipeline will pump up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Albertan tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Obama administration makes its final decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline later this year.

Aside from winning approval for the project in the US, Canada has also been resisting a EU proposal that would designate fuel from tar sands oil as high polluting compared to conventional fuels because of studies confirming its higher GHG emissions.

Goldenberg quotes natural resources minister Joe Oliver as saying that the EU proposal is “discriminatory, it's not based on science and it would potentially hurt Canada's ability to access markets for its resources.” Oliver's claim that the proposal isn't based on science is best refuted by the fact that it is, in fact, based on a Stanford University scientific study. His second claim is probably more accurate, if applied to the resource in question–high polluting tar sands oil.

Oliver reportedly assured CBC Radio that “Canada will keep developing its natural resources for export to the United States in a way that ensures the environment is protected.” He also stressed the importance of presenting “key facts on our strong environment record and long-standing energy relationship to American decision makers and opinion leaders.”

It's difficult not to think what the $16.5 million being used for tar sands advertising could do to strengthen Canada's “strong environment record” for the future. It remains to be seen whether or not the Harper government's efforts will pay off when it's time for President Obama to make a decision on the pipeline.

Image Credit: Emma Cassidy / Flickr