Sorry, Alberta, there’s nothing ‘friendly’ about Canadian oil — or anyone else’s – Toronto Star

An oilsands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014.

By Heather MallickStar Columnist

Sat., Oct. 2, 20214 min. read

Canada’s energy is “friendly,” claims a new Alberta oil industry billboard campaign in Washington and Times Square in New York. “Choose friendly oil. Cleaner. Closer. Committed to Net Zero.”

If this is true, and I’m afraid it’s very much not, I’m pleased to hear it. My own energy these days is low, sapped, spavined even. It’s as thick and slow as Alberta’s famous bitumen, oppositional if not bellicose, peevish if not surly.

Or so the $240,000 peppy video billboards from Alberta’s notorious energy “war room” claim, illustrating the point with a gas pump nozzle emitting red maple leaves that drift prettily onto passing American heads.

Canada’s energy is so friendly it doesn’t lock its doors.

Knock over a glass of red wine on Canada’s new white couch and Canada’s energy says, “Well I think it’s an improvement frankly. Have a refill, my friend.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” the American neighbour says. “Can I have a Meng with that? “Surely,” says Canada’s energy. “And here’s two Michaels while we’re at it. With toast.”

Canada’s friendly energy is so everlastingly canoeist in that it just keeps paddling. It has pemmican in its pocket and looks forward to making American landfall. It even tastes good. Our oil is so friendly it tastes like Meursault.

Another reason Americans should buy our friendly oil is that it’s cheap, partly because discredited energy is tough to transport these days. God knows, no one wants unrefined matter from the Alberta tarsands and then it gets complicated.

But there’s another reason, as the centre points out. “Of the top 10 countries from which the U.S. imported oil in June 2021, three were designated Not Free (Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq) and three were designated as Partly Free (Mexico, Nigeria and Colombia).”

“The campaign will highlight that oil from Canada is a better option for America.” Other oil “largely comes from areas that do not like the U.S.,” says New York-based analyst Phil Skolnick helpfully.

I looked up that list of nations from which the U.S. bought oil and I see a possibly sinister pattern: the leader is Canada, followed by Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Nigeria, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Libya, U.K., Ghana, Guyana, Norway and Angola. Have I left out any dark-hued nations?

The U.S. has bombed some of these countries, backed coups in others, overlooked surprise dismemberments in certain embassies plus 9/11 terrorist sourcing, Cold War enemies, nations crippled by drug wars so Americans can snort a brief euphoria, and in Iraq, an almost Hiroshima level of devastation.

This isn’t oil procurement, it’s a Mob sit-down.

As a result, the war room trumpets Canada’s friendly energy. Americans, buy our oil because we’re one of the few countries that doesn’t hate you. Yet, I add.

Sorry, that was awkward. Back to Canada’s sociable oil. It may well have escaped American notice that Canada is a multicultural country, in other words, not as pale as it used to be. Did I write that out loud?

There’s a larger philosophical point here. As Americans are slowly realizing, it doesn’t matter whether oil is friendly or unfriendly, whether it is shipped out by pale, English-speaking people or the most depraved tented murderous Saudi decapitators.

Oil is the unfriendliest material on earth — I see Australian coal putting its hand up at the back of the class — and it has doomed us. Even if Alberta oil were not originally tarlike, and then refined to make it more like Chablis than gasoline, it carries the same emissions burden that makes pension funds divest around the world.

It would be more profitable to refine it in Canada but Alberta never got around to that. It really would be best to keep oil in deep earth where it lived so safely for so long. Too late.

The English poet John Betjeman once wrote about modernist architecture and German bombs. “Come friendly bombs, and fall on Slough/It isn’t fit for humans now.” Perhaps we could alter it to, “Come friendly oil, and fall on New York City/It isn’t fit for human pity.”

The final verse won’t change though: “To get it ready for the plough./The cabbages are coming now;/The earth exhales.

As my descendants dig for root vegetables in a furry, dusty rural Toronto in 2100, they’ll merrily declare, “Oh look, pigweed mould starter, we shall not starve this winter, Mother.” They will think of a previous Canada and its friendly killer energy as they assemble tampons out of braided hognut hair — zuckerbergs, they’ll call them — and fertilize the soil with trump, kushner and cheney bones (they moved here).

Canadians will no longer exude the friendly energy that Americans once took for granted. Truth be told, we never did. We despised you. So did Norway. So did Britain. Have I left out any pale countries?

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