Tar/Oil Sands Industry Readying Public Relations Campaign

alberta tar sands photo

Image credit:Boreal Song Bird Initiative

We'll get to tar sands right after this analogy - King Coal recently got his PR nips and tucks, emerging from the surgery re-named "Clean Coal," making public debut in a series of bizarre ads and jingles. The makeover turned into an epic fail, though, once that bad boy spilled his ashes in Tennessee. For now, no sane US politician will act the courtier. That said, totalitarian regimes love "Clean Coal". (See "Clean Coal" Has Prospered With Totalitarian Rule And Oil Shortage for details.)

Alberta Tar Sands went under the knife recently too, emerging as "Oil Sands." Though industry information sources only speak of "oil sands" (a more technically appropriate term according to Wikipedia), "Tar Sands" seems to remain the preferred term for its detractors. What else might be the goal of an industry PR effort? Surprisingly, the estimates we've read of tar/oil sand-produced fuels carrying a carbon footprint of around 3X that of fuels made from sweet crude seem not to be the primary focus. No mention of landscape aesthetics either (as pictured). Wonder why? Read on.

Bad news: the tar sands industry has a credibility problem with half the Canadians surveyed...

A public-opinion poll commissioned by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers found that almost half of Canadians do not think energy companies have done a good job of balancing the environment and the economy.

In another damning indictment of the oil and gas sector, 50 per cent of respondents said they do not believe what oil and gas executives say in the media compared with just 13 per cent who do.

Via:Calgary Herald, Oilsands industry admits it 'dropped ball' on environment, Survey reveals PR failure
The good news for the industry is that by tending primarily to better water and wildlife protections, they are likely to win the Canadian public's heart and mind.
Concern about impacts on freshwater supply was cited as the single most significant oilsands environmental issue by respondents (26 per cent). Impact on local wildlife and habitat was the second most cited (19 per cent); - 63 per cent of respondents believe Canada benefits from oilsands development; 19 per cent disagree; - 64 per cent of Canadians believe oilsands are important to providing a secure supply of Canada's future oil needs.
Via:Calgary Herald, Oilsands industry admits it 'dropped ball' on environment, Survey reveals PR failure

So, a few donations to waterfowl conservation groups, and more investment in waste water treatment and re-use, and the press releases can go out.

Except for that sticky little climate thing. The industry association says this about it's carbon footprint.

All of us – industry, governments and the general public – must be involved in those solutions. 29.5 megatonnes of greenhouse gases are emitted from the oil sands each year. That’s a big number – it’s equivalent to over five million cars on the road.
I don't know about you, but my reaction to "29.5 megatonnes," having grown up during the peak of the Cold War, is that from a PR standpoint, describing their emissions with the same units used to rate a nuclear weapon leaves me speechless.

For detailed survey findings, and to add to the conversation with the tar sands industry (if you are Canadian) visit the Canada Oil Sands web site, here.

More Tar/Oil Sands posts from our archives.
Canadian Oil: At What Price?
Tar Sands, Banking Crisis, & Peak Oil - Mired At The Crossroads ...
Tar Sand Investments Could Be Oil Industry’s Version of the Subprime Loan...

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