Keystone pipeline backers use anti-Saudi message for oil sands


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To the list of all the reasons why backers of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast want it to be built, add now the welfare of Saudi Arabian women.

The pipeline, which would bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, is awaiting a federal permit. In the meantime, critics and backers of the pipeline have ginned up their public relations machines to influence the administration’s thinking.


Most supporters of the pipeline say it will create jobs in the U.S. and bring in oil from a friendly democratic state, rather than from a foreign autocracy. Lately, the Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada began running a 30-second ad from a group called Ethical Oil, which argues that buying Canadian oil is a better political choice for Americans than importing oil from Saudi Arabia.

Over a soundtrack of doom drums, a woman’s voice says North Americans bought 400 million barrels of oil from Saudi Arabia. “We bankrolled a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission,” the ad continues.

“Why are we paying their bills and funding their oppression?” The music suddenly shifts to violins and singing that sounds something like the Vienna Boys’ Choir. “Today there is a better way,” the narrator says. “Ethical oil from Canada’s oil sands.”

Ethical Oil, according to its website, is a Canadian venture that began “as a blog created by Alykhan Velshi to promote the ideas in Ezra Levant’s bestselling book Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands.”

Velshi and Levant are conservative activists, the latter gaining some notoriety for accusing George Soros of collaborating with Nazis.

One stated goal of the Ethical Oil blog is to rebut “inaccurate and unfair criticisms of the oilsands,” the website says. Those “Myths & Lies,” the website says, include concerns about the impact on the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions, from extracting oil.


Oil from the sands isn’t developed through conventional drilling. It’s mined as a mix of bitumen, sand and clay, accessed by stripping away boreal forests and polluting waters, say environmentalists and some scientists.

Extracting and refining bitumen also releases more greenhouse gases into the air than conventional oil production. Opposition to the project stems from the damage oil sands mining has done so far, and the potential damage it could do should the pipeline leak into a major aquifer it would wend through in Nebraska.

Why the ad is airing in Canada is unclear, when the decision to build the pipeline will be made in the U.S.

The Oprah Winfrey Network could not be reached to find out if such ads would air in the U.S.

The Obama administration is expected to render its decision on Keystone XL before the end of the year.


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-- Neela Banerjee, in Washington