Protestor showing image of water discharge from tar sands production, photo: Jonathan McIntosh via flickr.
There's no doubt that tar sands production is a threat to the environment -- in terms of global warming, deforestation, and water pollution it's a nightmare. But it's also a threat to brand image. That's what Forest Ethics told over 100 Fortune 500 companies in their latest letter campaign:Phase Out Tar Sands, Start Using Low-Carbon Fuels
The letters, sent last week, urged companies to ensure that their transportation fuel suppliers 1) phase out usage of non-conventional sources of oil and begin greater usage of low-carbon fuels; 2) publicly oppose government policy that encourage further development of tar sands; 3) publicly support government policy that supports greater usage of low-carbon fuels.
Shame & Blame to Start in 2010
All of this is so that companies distance themselves from what Forest Ethics is describing as the 'tar sands controversy':
A first step toward ensuring that you are in compliance with your own CSR standards and that you are protecting your brand from the Tar Sands controversy would be to learn the origins of your company’s transportation fuels and to implement systems to exclude fuels made with Tar Sands oil. Because the Tar Sands controversy is escalating, it is urgent that this step be taken as soon as possible. In early 2010, we will begin educating the employees, executives, shareholders and customers of companies like yours. And while we are resolved to work together with those that demonstrate leadership on this issue, we intend to launch a public campaign focused on companies that do not act responsibly.
Which is all fine and good -- I entirely support the actions Forest Ethics recommends Fortune 500 companies take -- but I'm not entirely sure there's yet a controversy about the Alberta tar sands, at least not in the public consciousness.
In the green community there's no controversy: The environmental affects of them are well documented and unequivocal. Oil produced from tar sands is a whole heck of a lot worse than conventionally sourced oil on many many fronts -- and no amount of technology is likely to change that.
But in the community at large I'm afraid tar sands don't yet register as something to be concerned about -- even though people surely should be concerned.
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