Canadian Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford stepped into the role of cheerleader for his country’s oil and gas industry last October, joining the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to “deliver a pep talk and dispense strategic planning advice at a closed door meeting in a luxury Rocky Mountains resort,” The Guardian reports.
“You are fighting an uphill battle for public confidence,” Rickford told 40 or 50 fossil executives meeting at the Banff Springs Hotel. “Our messages are not resonating.”
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The Guardian writes that “the 2,900-word prepared speech makes no mention of climate change or the conclusions of studies that say most of the tar sands will have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic global warming. Instead, Rickford commiserated with the executives about criticism of tar sands oil, suggesting it was misguided.”
“Much of the debate over energy is characterized by myth or emotion,” Rickford said. “You’ve heard them all: that the oil sands are a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
In a post last week in the National Observer, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart quoted additional detail from the speech and noted just how far Rickford’s appearance in Banff strayed from what would normally be expected of a federal Cabinet minister.
“It may not be unusual for government ministers to address the industry they regulate, but normally this event would be public knowledge and the text of the speech published on a government website,” Stewart wrote. “This speech was not only secret—I got a copy by making an Access to Information request—but in it the minister was giving political advice to the people who lobby him.”
A spokesperson told The Guardian the speech was no big deal because Rickford “is not involved in regulation,” but Stewart said that’s not true. “As Minister of Natural Resources, he not only regulates industry directly, but also establishes the rules that the National Energy Board and other federal regulatory bodies apply.”
Moreover, at a moment when he “had all of the major oil CEOs in a room for a private chat,” there’s no evidence Rickford had anything to say about the industry’s rising greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, “Minister Rickford chose to attack those who are identifying this as a problem,” Stewart wrote. “The bulk of his speech focuses on what government and industry could do together to sell oil sands expansion to an increasingly skeptical Canadian public.”
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