A conspiracy of incoherence

There is something that does not make sense to me about the Vivian Krause penned/City Caucus cited “U.S. money to Canadian environmental groups (to Vancouver political parties)” story that I would like to get off my chest. And that is the insinuated-though-required-to-make-it-work conspiracy that underpins it. It’s never stated directly, but the gist – as I understand it – is the real purpose of American money to Canadian green groups is to advance the U.S. national interest at the expense of Canada’s. In the comments of his own story, the Georgia Straight’s Charlie Smith says it out loud:

Question: Which foreign country benefits from thwarting tar-sands oil exports to Asia through Kitimat or through Vancouver?

Answer: The United States, which draws about 18 percent of its imported oil from Canada. Canada is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States.

Question: Where is the money coming from to help thwart tar-sands oil exports to Asia?

Answer: The United States.

The classic “who benefits” angle. But there’s something missing, and that’s the actual “who benefits” part. In this scenario we have private U.S. based capital partially funding groups in Canada. Who benefits? I suppose there’s a case to be made that by blocking Asian access to Tar Sand oil the United States as a whole indirectly benefits from denying potential rivals access to Canadian oil. But who directly benefits? Private Canadian, U.S. (it’s a stretch because they are more correctly transnational) capital does. But it’s not the same private U.S. capital that funds Canadian environmental groups. What is being insinuated is a scenario that sees private capital funding efforts for the material benefit of other, distinct private money.

So, who benefits? Companies with stakes in the Tar Sands, the Exxons and Sunocos, benefit. Sort of. They would equally benefit selling their Tar Sand oil to China too. Oil is a global commodity…it makes no difference who the buyer is.

Vivian Krause has dubbed 5 U.S. foundations “The Big 5” who give away $1.2 billion. She states “If these foundations decide to undermine a foreign industry, they probably can.” It’a s ludicrous statement. First it presupposes the entire $1.2 per annum is being or would ever be dedicated to undermining a foreign industry (it’s not), and that that foreign industry does not have financial assets exponentially larger to hypothetically combat it (it does), but to characterize the Tar Sands as an exclusively Canadian effort for the exclusive benefit of Canadians is to wilfully ignore reality. Notice all the foreign-based companies on that list?

Let’s keep playing “Who benefits”? Krause has not to date established how, exactly, Gordon & Betty Moore, William & Flora Hewlett, and David & Lucile Packard benefit. Are they agents of the U.S. government, channelling government monies to secure America’s oil supply? Uh…prove it, please. Are they simply patriots, a side effect of their efforts being the profit of other private American companies? Very selfless, that. But both of these are underminded by the fact this same philanthropist money also funds domestic U.S. environmental groups in anti-Tar Sand campaigns. If they goal is to secure America’s oil supply, they’re doing it very, very wrong.

True, the Rockefeller Fund – whose assets are based in large part on Exxon stock – potentially benefits from a rise in oil prices even though the Fund and the company are independent of each other by design. To reiterate, Exxon benefits regardless of who buys the oil. In essence, the argument would have to be the Rockefellers are funding efforts…against themselves…but not really. Krause futher states: Corporate Ethics received US$950,000 from The Rockefeller Brothers Fund “to stem demand for tar sands derived fuels in the United States.” Never mind oil from Nigeria or the Middle East, Rockefeller Brothers has honed in on Alberta.

Er, yes, and never mind that tar sands oil extraction is a very different, very much more damaging, animal than conventional oil extraction which is, you know, the entire basis for objecting to tar sands oil. Exxon, parent company of Imperial Oil, operates in the Tar Sands.

The Pew Charitable Trust is based partially on the trusts established by Sun Oil’s Joseph N Pew’s for his children in 1948. Sun Oil was also the first company to build in the Tar Sands. They too must be fighting against themselves, I suppose.

In his comment Charlie Smith recommends reading Michael Klare’s Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy. So…I picked it up. I completely agree with the premise. But it doesn’t mention environmental groups being used as pawns in the struggle to secure nations’ oil supplies. Maybe there will be something in the next WikiLeaks release…

Finally, in regards to oil tanker traffic out of Vancouver, any action by the City of Vancouver to ban oil tankers in the Port would be symbolic, as this is the Federal government’s jurisdiction. If U.S. money is bankrolling Gregor Robertson with the expectation of this, someone has made a serious miscalculation. And to add to yesterday’s point:

24.113: Each year, based on current levels of tanker traffic, Canada can expect over 100 small spills (less than a tonne), about 10 moderate spills (about 100 tonnes), and at least one major spill (100 to 10,000 tonnes). A catastrophic spill (greater than 10,000 tonnes), for which we are totally unprepared, can be expected once every 15 years.

Once again, why would any Canadian independently arrive at the conclusion that concern and action is warranted?


One comment

  1. Norman Farrell

    Anyone willing to spend a few minutes searching the web will find that Krause has been a busy activist for the Norwegian fish farming industry and others on the west coast but prefers to be seen as a modest “North Vancouver” mom working at home. Chity Caucus even advises that “Vivian’s work is self-financed, and done at some considerable personal sacrifice.”

    Being “self-financed” perhaps that is, like other consultants, she is paid her fees periodically by those for whom she works and must self-finance the intervals. Nothing wrong with that but the artful construction of words can aim to ascribe impressions that simply stated facts do not declare. Ms. Krause seems to specialize in artful construction of words.