By January 10, 2017 Read More →

Advice to Alberta oil sands boosters: Let Jane Fonda be, you’ve won this war

Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda will be touring the Alberta oil sands Jan. 11. Photo: CBC.

Oil sands boosters are like Japanese nipponhei, loyally fighting long after the war is over

Psst. Alberta oil sands boosters. Stop dissing Hanoi Jane. You’ve already won the bitumen and pipeline war, now you’re being an ungracious winner.

jane fonda

Neil Young, singer-songwriter, oil sands critic, electric car advocate.

Jane Fonda is coming to Alberta on Wednesday to “tour” Fort McMurray and the oil sands, then attend a Greenpeace Canada event at the University of Alberta in Edmonton in the evening. She’ll also meet with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allen Adams and members of the Anzac and Fort McKay communities.

Fonda follows in the footsteps of other celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Neil Young. And just as with those two celebrities, oil sands booster groups are chirping about Fonda’s trip.

“I think that it’s unfortunate that Jane Fonda is going to come up here,” said Canada Action founder Cody Battershill as reported by CBC. “And she will probably have, in my mind, a less balanced opinion of the issues.”

“I think that it’s another hypocritical celebrity coming here,” says Robbie Picard, founder of the Fort McMurray group OilSands Strong. “She’s kicking us while we are down.”

It’s true that Fort McMurray is bruised and battered. The oil price collapse that began in mid-2014 and left thousands unemployed, followed by the worst wildfire in Canadian history, has left the community reeling. Most people understand that fleeing for your life and having your house burn to its foundation – as Picard’s did – might make a fella testy.

But if we can look past the immediate pain, the future looks pretty rosy for the northern Alberta city. And the industry that supports it.

Oil prices have stabilized over $50 and the 2017 forecast ranges from mid-50s to $80, depending on how quickly the American shale producers can ramp up and if the OPEC-Russia production cut agreement holds together.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved two pipelines in late Nov.: Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion (525,000 b/d) and the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 (additional 370,000 b/d).

President-elect Donald Trump has said he will ask TransCanada to resubmit the Keystone XL pipeline application (830,000 b/d) and the betting is the project will go ahead.

A study released last week by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary suggests new technology to partially upgrade bitumen to a medium or heavy crude oil that flows in pipelines (without needing the usual 30 per cent blend of diluent) could significantly improve oil sands economics. One 100,000 b/d partial upgrader could add $10 to $15 to barrel of Alberta heavy crude. 

Finally, last month the Alberta government awarded $500 million to two companies under the Petrochemical Diversification Program. Two new manufacturing facilities will turn propane into polypropylene, employing 1,400 direct and indirect full-time workers when they open in 2021.

jane fondaThe Alberta oil and gas industry appears to be in for another year or two of pain while producers repair balance sheets, and service companies slowly raise their rates and begin hiring again. The next boom will start tentatively, as they always do.

After that, the future looks reasonably bright. Maybe not as bright as before the price of oil fell off a cliff, but happy days are here again…soon.

That’s why the examples of DiCaprio and Young are instructive for why the overwrought reaction to Fonda’s visit is both inappropriate and not helpful.

In both cases, the celebrities visited, held a couple of press conferences, riled up the locals, and left, (mostly) never to be heard from again.

Picard points out that DiCaprio included Fort McMurry in his environmental “movie,” Before the Flood, which has no box office numbers I could find and attracted a paltry 905,000 views on Youtube. I suppose if you’re an 11-year old guitar virtuoso or the latest kitten video those are pretty good numbers. But for an A-list Hollywood actor?

During my interview with Picard, I pointed out that running around with his hair on fire was counterproductive because he, the community of Fort McMurray, the Alberta economy, the oil sands industry, have already won the bitumen and pipeline battle against Hollywood celebrities and Greenpeace eco-activists.

The war is over. Alberta and Fort McMurray are about to enjoy a bountiful harvest of decent oil prices, enough pipelines to go around, and value-added processing jobs.

Picard is having none of it. He insists that eco-celebrities are somehow damaging the Alberta oil sands brand, with attendant unspecified but nonetheless horrible consequences.

Picard and Battershill and all the Alberta energy boosters shouting into the tiny political echo chamber that listens to them are like the Zanryū nipponhei, the soldiers who refused to accept the 1945 surrender of Japan – or simply didn’t know about it because their communications had been cut off – and kept on fighting.

The last nipponhei surrendered in 1974.

Don’t be surprised if 30 years from now, long after the Alberta oil sands production has expanded to 5 or 6 million b/d and all the necessary pipelines have been built, Picard and Battershill are still outraged when the latest Hollywood eco-activist arrives in Fort McMurray to get a little camera time and promote their latest movie.

They needn’t be. They’ve already won. They just don’t recognize that the enemy has surrendered.

jane fonda

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Posted in: Markham on Energy

10 Comments on "Advice to Alberta oil sands boosters: Let Jane Fonda be, you’ve won this war"

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  1. Shawn says:

    How have we won? I mean it’s great that Keystone will get approved, but we have by no means won, actually it feels like we’ve lost. Major oil sands projects are leaving the province faster than you can count. As an energy news organization, how do you not know this?

    • Jude Hislop says:

      Some projects are being lost and some being gained. Koch Oilsands announced a new SAGD project the same week they cancelled a SAGD project citing the AB govt as the reason. We are more than aware. And it’s not “faster than you can count”. Alberta has gone through these same losses, jobs and projects before. When oil goes as low as it did, Alberta always loses. We’re looking to the future now. I suggest you do too.

  2. Jeanette Burr says:

    Albertans are tired of the uninformed coming here with their 2 cents and damaging our reputation and priovince. If theyd take the few minutes and actually research theyd find that Alberta is and always has been a leader in environmental awareness and regulations with regards not only to our energy sector but all resources, flora and fauna. Hence the frustration with our current government both provincial and federal, with their uneducation. Want to do some good then head to Quebec where they buy oil from unethical producers and still dump in the ocean.

  3. Shanon says:

    Go Home Fonda!!!! It must be nice to make millions after all she has a job that requires no physical effort, must be nice. People need these jobs in Alberta to feed their family’s and put roofs over their heads. My question for her could she give up her job, all of her money and the lap of luxerys that she has including vehicles and aircraft. First Nations are the first to complaine about oil and gas and are the first to apply for jobs when oil and gas is near a reserve. People need work just like Fonda and First Nations people do. There would be no environmentalist jobs if there was no oil and gas. Instead of environmentalists fight pipeline they should be fighting for the reclaimation of abandoned wells. That creates jobs for oil workers as well as for Environmentalists. The day there is no oil and gas is the day there is no environmental jobs because they will have nothing to fight for.

  4. Larry Maze says:

    I believe the Eco-celebrities carry a hidden guilt of excess. Owning mutiple homes, multiple cars, over indulging in a life that for the most part none of us will ever be familiar with. She sold her ranch with the new 10k sq. ft. home, and 2k sq.ft guest house which was listed for $19 million. Hard to imagine that she can ever understand the loss of a job, a home or a person’s way of life or being unable to pay for food for her family. Unemployment is a horrible monster that destroys families and steals people’s self worth.

    I’m not so sure she would be as understanding if we told her to find another job besides acting, give up her livelihood and her community. This is no more than a hobby for her, a project that makes her sleep better at night, feel like she “gave back” somehow. What is she willing to personally give up, what is she willing to lose, to go without under the utopian ideal that we here in Canada will be able to eliminate fossils fuel and rely on only green energy, to stop selling a resource that allows us to avoid poverty.

    If you want people to truly ignore and not complain about Jane Fonda and the rest of Eco-celebrates than stop giving them local press coverage, keep them off the front of our newspapers and stop inviting them on our news shows when they show up for 48hrs. Do the one thing that they fear the most, zero press coverage and simply being ignored.

    They bring this disdain upon themselves, don’t blame hard working Albertains or anyone else for that matter when they get upset over these circus shows. Until they start showing up in paper planes wearing bamboo clothes nobody here is ever going to take them seriously. Stupid is as stupid does and there is nothing is more stupid than coming into a community that relies on the energy industry to feed their kids and provide a home for their families and telling them to go get different jobs.

    I guess it’s not her fault she is so overly ignorant of our energy industry, it’s hard to see through all the fog in L.A.

  5. Paulette Paquette says:

    Name-calling. Demeaning. Insulting. What are all you pro-oil people so afraid of? Fear is the killer. Hate is the killer. Do you think you sound intelligent when you spew your jealous rage? As for those who go on and on … and on … about others you feel haven’t done their research or informed themselves sufficiently – why don’t you do a little research yourselves and become better-informed about the real effects of climate change? There are solutions, but they need to be undertaken now – not later!

    • Preston Sniher says:

      United States has higher per-capita C02 emissions than Canada (16.5 versus 15.9 kilo tonnes in 2014). But look at the population densities: China has 1.4 billion people and produced 30% of the worlds C02 in 2014 (1st place). USA is in second place, with 325 million people and 15% of the worlds C02 in 2014. Canada is ELEVENTH with 1.6% of the emissions, and 37 million people. Here is the most interesting part: Canada, US and China have roughly the same global land area. There is not other way to look at this than USA and China are effecting climate on a far greater level than almost all other countries combined. To single out Alberta Oilsands as the “worst place on earth’ and the eye of the climate change storm is simply disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. In third world countries, they continue to cut down rainforests – vital sources of oxygen and C02 reclamation – no mention of this. China (and USA) uses more coal fired generation than all of the other countries as well… look at the smog in Chinese and American cities. You know what? There is no smog in Edmonton and Calgary. We need to stop making Fort McMurray out to be the “biggest environmental calamity on the planet” because it’s not. Our carbon emissions by exploiting our NATURAL resource are literally on the other side of the decimal point. Pipeline spills? Do you remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? 180,000 US gallons. We spill 50 barrels of oil in Alberta from a minor pipeline leak and suddenly every washed up movie star known to man (like Fonda) rushes to the nearest airport. Sorry, but you need to do some of your own research – I have and I can PROVE that the vilification of Alberta Oilsands is pure political propaganda and a convenient scapegoat for an entire PLANET full of people who ALL want lifestyles and energy consumption this planet can simply not sustain. Look in the mirror: you’re part of the problem. You won’t take a reduction in the comfort and convenience of YOUR lifestyle, and as North Americans, we use more energy than any other people on the planet. Maybe skip the car and walk 3 miles to the mall today in -30 weather and then you can take some higher ground position on climate change. The problem is not those who supply the world’s energy demands, it’s our ever growing populations and growing expectations of comfort and convenience. China is raising the bar for it’s citizens, and when India joins the party this planet (sadly) will be doomed. The first disasters will be food shortages… not bad weather.

    • Larry maze says:

      Jealous rage, fear is the killer, hate is the killer? Lol, Drama Queen much?

      The world will remain a mix of green energy and fossils fuels long after you’re gone and fossil fuels will get cleaner and cleaner. Start getting use to that idea so when your eutopian ideal of zero fossils fuels doesn’t pan out you won’t need a such big group hug from your Eco-celebrities.

      One last thing, when other people have a different opinion other than yours, it doesn’t mean they are filled with jealousy, fear and hate, it just means they don’t agree with you. You should try to get use to that idea too because the concept of debating will also be here long after your gone. I hope you’re ok with that, you seem overly sensitive to criticism.

    • Larry Maze says:

      Just watched the CBC Question Period with Jane Fonda. She mentioned that the oil sands workers need to get jobs that have dignity, apparently their current jobs don’t have any dignity.

      Thanks Jane for being so incredibly insightful, reminding us of just how simple minded and unintelligent Eco-celebrities can be at times. Hopefully Green Peace can get a refund.

  6. Preston Sniher says:

    Here are some statistics and facts for you. We can have a “war of sources” later if you want.

    Population 1380 million
    Land Area, million (square km) 9.3 million
    C02 Emissions (2014, million kilo-tonnes) 10.5
    Population Density (ppl/square km) 143

    Population 324 million
    Land Area, million (square km) 9.15 million
    C02 Emissions (2014, million kilo-tonnes) 5.3
    Population Density (ppl/square km) 33

    Population 36.4 million
    Land Area, million (square km) 9.1 million
    C02 Emissions (2014, million kilo-tonnes) 5.7
    Population Density (ppl/square km) 3.7

    Now here is some interesting math; look at how much each country contributes C02 emissions on a *per unit area* basis:

    C02 Emissions (tonnes per square km)
    China: 1129
    USA: 579
    Canada: 62

    Pardon me, but USA actors/actresses should address the C02 emission crisis in their OWN BACKYARD before taking aim at ANYTHING Canada is doing.

    This is not name calling, these are hard numbers. If anyone is resorting to name calling, it’s USA government propaganda to avoid purchase of Alberta oil, which should be seen as a violation of the Free Trade agreement. Maybe Canada should implement a trade embargo and stop supplying the USA with other Canadian natural resources and we can then have a more “civil” discussion.