Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada

Photograph Source: NASA Earth Observatory – Public Domain

As we know, big lies can run free across borders with few joining the dots.

For example, no media reports that China’s growing dispute with Canada is based on Canada’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s unilateral and illegal embargo against oil-competitor Iran. A cynical reply is that this is predictable. Canada attacks any designated US Enemy in junior partnership with global corporate command.

But this time there is a new twist. Canada is attacking itself without knowing it.

A US Big-Oil backed juggernaut of Conservative provincial governments and the federal Opposition are well advanced in a Canada campaign to reverse longstanding parliamentary decisions, environmental laws, climate action initiatives, Supreme Court directions, first-nations negotiations, and bring down the government of Canada. Yet no-one in public or media circles has joined the dots.

Canada’s vast tar-sands deposits are world famous as surpassing Saudi Arabia oil-field capacities in total barrels of potential yield. Great Canada! Yet few notice that over two-thirds of the entire tar-sands operations are owned by foreign entities sending their profits out of Canada, and almost all its raw product is controlled for refining and sale in the US.

What is especially kept out of the daily news is the incendiary fact that the infamous, election-interfering and oft-EPA-convicted Koch brothers have a dominant stake in the toxic crude of the Alberta tar-sands seeking a massive BC-pipeline out to their US refineries.

Koch-owned industries have already extracted countless billions of their near $100-billion fortune from the tar-sands and deployed their well-known voter-manipulations to change the balance of power in Canada as they have done in the US.

The objective is the same in both cases – ever more tax-free, publicly subsidized and state-enforced control by US Big Oil of Alberta’s massive oil resources with no government regulations or interferences in the way.

A Short History of the Background Facts

Prior to the wide-mouth pipelines of toxic Alberta crude planned through BC mountains, lands and waters to US processors, oil has to be extracted from the tar-sands first. This demands a continuous gargantuan depleting and polluting of the great Athabaska Lake, River and watershed to steam-boil the tar out of the vast open-pit mines. The immense open-pit mines are not formed or pumped out of desert as in the Middle East. They are torn in state-size chunks out of the earth’s mantle by monstrous wrecking machines ripping out the boreal forest lands by the roots to destroy the carbons sinks and water-hold stabilization they provide in the Northern region as well as pump out ever more climate-changing gases.

To boil the tar out of the endless open-pit mines already demands the equivalent of twice the amount of water the entire City of Calgary uses and recycles in a year. But water consumed by the tar-sand boiling is permanently polluted and wasted, and its fresh- water take from the great Athabaska watershed will only increase as the tar-sands ‘development’ is maximized, accessible oil fields are exhausted and prices rise. So too the annihilation of the boreal forests acting as a sink for carbon and holding the watershed together will be permanently lost.

Yet this is only the beginning of what ends up being the biggest single point-source of carbon pollution and climate destabilization in the world. It pollutes 2.5 times more carbon gases than natural oil. Extraction mechanisms cost almost 8-times more fossil fuels than natural oil, and use overall almost as much energy as is produced!

For many years now, the Kochs have made most of their vast fortune from processing billions of barrels of tar-sand crude in the US, not Canada. This is why their octopi funding fronts have relentlessly pushed for ever more pipelines through others’ lands (including Dakota’s indigenous Standing Rock) to control this bigger and safer business than tar-sand extraction itself.

This is also why the Kochs have led the huge financing of climate change denial against the known science, in which tar-sand extractions and burning produce far more toxic carbon gases than high-grade oil. Most of all, the Kochs have acted out of sight to ensure control over elected governments that might regulate and control their above-the-law activities. They spent more than the Republican Party itself on the 2012 US elections.

They invented and funded the Congress-upending Tea-Party, and finance endless attack ads against all resisters to their will to dominate the US Congress and Senate (and behind the scenes the Trump presidency).

Canada’s Love-in With US Big Oil as ‘Alberta’ and ‘National Unity’

In Canada, the governing corporate media and parties have had such a media-transmitted love-in with Big Oil that even Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley militantly demanded over years that the US-dominated tar-sands mega project receive ever more rights and public subsidies to run its toxic tar-sand crude over neighboring BC mountains and the inland whale-inhabited ocean channels as a moral obligation to Alberta.

The spell of ‘national unity’ to sell Alberta’s US-controlled oil sands is not broken even as the forest fires and floods in BC and Ontario rage beyond all records from the fossil-carbon-destabilized climate. Now six new pro-developer premiers of Canada and the leader of the federal opposition are shouting that any more delays to the Big-Oil pipelines are “breaking up the country”.

US Big Oil led by the Kochs’ political war chest and already covertly dominating the US Senate and Presidency, has long gotten its way by such polarizing propaganda. Yet in Canada the line is swallowed whole and spread by the national media as the “unity crisis” facing the country.

Big Oil’s crucial step in putting the tar-sands into the driver’s seat of Canada politics has gone beneath the radar. First of all it assumes a premise which no-one questions that all the toxic raw product must be piped through Canada unprocessed “to market” (i.e., US refineries), and that Canada must duly enforce this off-shore refinement “as a national priority”. Once this full false premise is established as a given, it follows that the toxic Alberta crude must be piped raw across the BC mountain forests and aquifers, and then into its paradisal inland ocean channels for oil-tanker transport – now demanding a rising and rarely mentioned seven-times more oil-tanker traffic with toxic product that cannot be cleaned up.

Any ‘delays’ to this (never named) US-Big-Oil agenda with Canada juniors are then attacked as against ‘national unity’. They are called ‘illogical’ and ‘punishing Alberta’- even when the time is legally required for amending legislation that has been ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada and for negotiating with the first nations whose lands and waters will be overrun by the the dirty-oil project in a period of ‘national reconciliation’.

In fact, the governing premises here are lawless and driven by what the Kochs specialize in – a fanatic anti-government agenda claiming to be for tax-payers and citizens. The rule of law is implicitly dismissed. Carbon pricing legislated by elected government – which sane oil corporations now accept as economically required – is ferociously attacked.

Even Parliament’s long-passed Bill C-48 protecting the Northern BC Coast from heavy oil-tanker traffic (tankers carrying over 10,500 metric tons of tar-sand crude) – a bill supported and voted for by over two-thirds of MP’s – is attacked in the Senate of Canada backed by Big Oil and Alberta.

Thus the single most important legal protection of Canada’s greatest environmental treasure, one that has been the negotiated decision of Parliament and a condition for the oil-pipe through BC, is marked for elimination. The federal Conservative Party goes along, and its ever-smiling leader Andrew Scheer has promised if elected in the approaching federal election to abolish Bill C-48.

The worst part of the whole multiplying Big-Oil tar-sands mega-project may be the mammoth toxin-filled tankers ploughing through and despoiling the world’s most awe-inspiring green inland coasts in BC. It is like the Vietnam coast in this sublime natural beauty, but even more than Vietnam, it is an ecological paradise carrying a world of whales, eagles, biodiverse life and breathtaking music of nature with thriving indigenous peoples protecting the environment since ancient times in a breathtaking music of life from rising green peaks to the fish depths of the ocean.

That the current Big Oil forces, Alberta Conservatives, the federal Conservative Party, many in the Senate of Canada, and various corporate media and fronts are all seeking to reverse the already-legislated Bill C-48 protection of even the Northern BC coasts from this grossest abuse of majestic life and beauty at every level and scale of Creation demonstrates how cancerous the Big Oil tar-sands mega-project has become.

Yet in the unseen, historic shell-game going on behind the scenes, there is a convenient perpetual side-show of attacks on PM Trudeau whose unforgiveable sin is not to push the oil-pipes and tankers through BC fast enough.

Led by Jason Kenney as Premier and the so-far invisible Koch brothers, the Conservative Party across provinces and federally has formed into an implicit war against any public control over and regulation of Big Oil. Any legal impediment to the massively toxic extraction and export through Canada’s most pristine natural environments to US control, refineries and far more profitable foreign sale is reverse portrayed as an attack on Alberta and a strike at Canada’s unity as a country.

The assumed absolute necessity of this pipeline and tanker extension of the multiplying tar-sands project is,in fact, the demand of US-led Big Oil to loot and pollute Canada’s natural resources for value added in the US (including for oil sale back to Canada at multiplied prices). Yet every politician is supine before the transnational Big Oil powers involved. Even Liberal leader Stephan Dionne who won the Liberal leadership in 2006 on an environmental platform dared not question the Koch-led tar-sands mega-project. “There is too much money in it’, he responded to environmentalist concerns.

With all these unseen premises against Canada’s common life interests now cast as inalterable necessity, the trap is well set. As a federal election must occur before October 21, all the wheels are being oiled for Conservative toppling of the Liberal government and override of any resistance to the biggest force-play of US-led Big Oil in Canada’s history.

The Unspeakable Contradiction: Jobs, Environment, and Prosperity Lost by Raw-Crude Pipeline and US Refinement

No-one yet recognizes the Koch-led US Big Oil plan to extract Saudi-like treasure from Canada’s boreal forests and to transport its toxic crude through and out of Canada with ever-rising environmental damages at all levels is actually throwing away all the Alberta “jobs”, “investment”, “tax revenues” and “prosperity” which it promises to deliver. All of these economic benefits would actually materialize and multiply many times if the tar-sands were processed and refined for Canadian, US and global sale inside Alberta.

Most ironic of all, the biggest immediate danger of Alberta tar-sand crude is that is irreversibly toxic because it is not processed first before transportation over land, aquifers, shorelands, and inland ocean channels. This is what the BC resistance on the ground is most motivated by – the irreversibly disastrous consequences when this unprocessed toxic crude spills anywhere along the rocky, ocean-tempest way. The spills are an historically demonstrated certitude, but like climate destabilization itself are denied by the Big-Oil beneficiaries in future tens of billions in private profit.

As always in the ruling narrative, there is ‘no alternative’. ‘It must be done now to create jobs and get product to market’. Astonishingly, no-one in government or the mass media observes the fact that many more well-paying permanent jobs, far more oil revenues, and infinitely more safety from tar-oil spills and dirty-oil carbon effluents are assured by processing the raw bitumen in Alberta itself.

On closer examination not yet considered, the political stampede for the trans-mountain pipeline of toxic Alberta crude through  the BC mountains and coastal waterways is based on a very big lie. If Alberta and Canada’s government, globally competitive Canada oil firms and working people really want to “create jobs”, “get product to market’, “achieve environmental  security”, “provide needed investment and revenues for the Canadian people”, and “reduce climate-destabilizing gases” the option is economically self-evident.

Process the tar-sand product in Canada and Alberta where the uncleanable toxins can be stripped out first by rigorous regulation and safely precautions before flooded through huge breakable pipes across mountains, aquifers, forests, and ocean coasts and the world-renowned lands and waters of a 5000-year-old ecological wonder larger and more unspoiled than any in the world.

Yet just as climate science does not matter to rogue Big Oil, so too the prevention of toxic Alberta crude running through Canada by processing it in Canada first is erased from discussion. No public voice even mentions the environmental risks of pipelining the toxic crude through the mountains and coats of BC when it could be cleaned up in Alberta first. None yet flags all the lost Canadian fortune and economic development going down the drain by raw-crude pipelines straight to the control, refineries and global sale of foreign Big-Oil multi-billionnaires like the Koch brothers. As for the foreign interference in Canada’s elections manipulating every step, no-one reports this either.

For what? The driver is not “jobs and prosperity”, “creating and sharing wealth”, and “making the indigenous people independent” (what a Canada Senator incredibly just wrote to me). The truth is the opposite on every count. Tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, escalated tax revenues, immense new domestic profits and investment opportunities are now all wasted for Canada by letting four times more of the value-added go South to US Big Oil management, refineries and high-grade global sales.

The real driver here is dispossession of Canada’s workers, first peoples, taxpayers and the common wealth by ever more multi-billion private profits extracted from its public lands at the lowest oil-royalties in the world to further enrich the already obscenely rich who are mostly not tax payers and are, in effect, lead destroyers of the life support capacities of the planet.


John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada whose work is translated from Latin America to Japan. He is the author of the three-volume Philosophy and World Problems published by UNESCO’s Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), and his most recent book is The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: from Crisis to Cure.