Nossal: Is the Ethical Oil campaign helping or hurting Canada’s international reputation?

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26 September, 2011
Kim Richard Nossal
By: Kim Richard Nossal

Director of the Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen's University

Painting petroleum derived from Alberta’s oil sands as more “ethical” than petroleum produced in countries such as Saudi Arabia may generate a little creative cognitive dissonance among Canadians who don’t give much thought to the kind of regimes sustained by the global oil trade.  And the response of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the campaign – loosing a battery of high-priced lawyers across the land threatening chill – will do nothing but confirm the “ethical oil” message.  However, while the campaign may slightly shift the terms of debate within Canada, it is unlikely to convince critics, either in this country or elsewhere, to abandon their criticism of the oil sands.  The campaign is right to remind us about where the oil we consume comes from, but it is unlikely to do for oil what was so successfully done for diamonds.

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