Toe-to-toe with Greenpeace
My Jan. 28, 2012 Sun column;
Toe-to-toe with Greenpeace
Comments reveal why group prefers stunts to debate
Greenpeace is pretty good at stunts — it's their trademark.
Sometimes it's jokes, sometimes it's criminal breaking and entering. Like when they broke out of the Calgary Tower and unfurled their propaganda banners in 2010.
Before that, they specialized in vandalizing oilsands mines and refineries near Fort McMurray. It's easy to get media attention if you're willing to break the law, and Greenpeace certainly is.
In gentle countries like Canada, at least.
So far, no Greenpeace stunts have been recorded in the world's largest oil-producing countries, like Iran or Saudi Arabia.
But stunts aside, what if you could sit down with a Greenpeace executive — no photo ops, no gimmicks — and have a conversation? Is there anything underneath the B.S.?
On Friday morning, I tried just that. The Canadian Bar Association sponsored a debate between Mike Hudema, Greenpeace's anti-oilsands executive, and me.
Ninety minutes of talk — no stunts, no crimes. It was illuminating — and depressing.
Hudema trotted out every shopworn cliché, rumour and slander about the oilsands — claiming it's anti-environment and even anti-aboriginal. (That last one is precious: The oilsands are the number one employer of aboriginal people in Canada. Which is good, considering Greenpeace is largely to blame for shutting down the aboriginal fur trapping industry.)
I made my points, too, about ethical oil — how the oilsands are superior to OPEC oil by four measures of liberal values: Environmental responsibility, peace, treatment of workers and human rights.
Back and forth we went.
So far, so predictable. But near the end of the debate, the conversation turned to how things would be different if the oilsands were somehow shut down. Besides massive unemployment and the loss of billions in tax revenues for the government.
His comments were amazing and show why Greenpeace prefers stunts to debates.
Hudema said two things that still have my head shaking.
He said the oilsands "feed our addiction to oil."
As in, people use oil because the oilsands supplies it. As in, if the oilsands weren't there, people wouldn't be driving.
We know this isn't true, because people were driving before the oilsands were a major producer. The U.S., which takes 99% of our oil exports, simply bought their oil from Saudi Arabia instead. That's what the oilsands do: They don't make Americans fill up their cars with gas. They let them fill up their cars with oilsands gas instead of Saudi gas. China and India are using more oil because they're no longer dirt poor, so they're buying cars too.
They're going to buy their oil from Iran and Saudi Arabia if they don't buy it from us.
Hudema's second whopper was more of a confession: Greenpeace doesn't have a clue of how to run the world without oil.
Hudema drove down from Edmonton for our debate. He jets around a lot too. Hudema calls for a green future, but when pressed on a real life version of that — as opposed to science fiction — he gets vague pretty quickly.
Sorry, we can't run cars on solar panels or windmills. Even experimental electric cars need electricity — much of it generated by coal.
Greenpeace is good at getting attention, because stunts and crimes make headlines.
But scratch beneath the surface and they really have no clue about how to get the world off oil. They just want the world to buy it from OPEC rather than Canada.EZRA LEVANT, QMI AGENCY