American Non-Profits Financing Canadian Oil Sands Opposition

by Brian McGraw on October 24, 2012

in Blog

A new report published in Greenwatch by the Capital Research Center documents the significant financial backing that Canadian groups have received in order to garner opposition to development of the Canadian oil sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline. Brian Seasholes, an adjunct scholar at CEI, writes:

Media accounts and policy discussions of oil sands and Keystone XL usually portray the adversaries as David vs. Goliath: small, underfunded environmental pressure groups taking on big, wealthy corporations. In reality, the activists, especially in Canada, look less like grassroots groups than like subsidiaries of large U.S. institutional donors, many with billions of dollars of assets—organizations that have funneled colossal amounts of money to anti-oil sands groups over the past decade.

While the U.S. media have paid scant attention to this funding stream, a handful of Canadians have picked up the slack. The first to blow the whistle were left-wing Canadian activists, who feared funding from U.S. donors would make “green” pressure groups less confrontational and more likely to cut deals with governments and corporations. Then in the mid-2000s left-wing journalists in Canada blew the whistle, most notably Peter Cizek, Dru Oja Jay, and Macdonald Stainsby, with the Pew Charitable Trusts as their favorite target.

He includes this helpful table, documenting grants from 1999 to present:

As Seasholes discusses in the report, this evidence should put to bed the notion that Canadian opposition is a rising up of grassroots activists, but rather the work of wealthy American foundations.

Fortunately, their activism does not seem to have had much success. Public opinion in Canada is mixed, with Canadians supporting development of the Canadian oil-sands, with less support for allowing the oil to leave the Canadian border. This is presumably due to protectionist or energy independence sentiments, both of which are popular in the United States as well. Nonetheless, the development of the Canadian oil-sands is ongoing. Given that President Obama approved the southern portion of the Pipeline, the conventional wisdom is that the full pipeline will eventually be approved (though not all agree with this, clearly), regardless of who is the next President. As Seasholes argues, this is a good development, as there is very little refining capacity which can handle heavy crude oil.

 

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