The leader of Canada’s official Opposition party on Friday appeared to walk back an erroneous tweet that describes oil as the cleanest form of energy available.
Andrew Scheer was reacting to the Federal Court of Appeal ruling that quashed the federal government’s approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project, when he tweeted a comment about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s energy policy.
“What a total mess Justin Trudeau has made,” Scheer tweeted Thursday, linking to a news story about the ruling. “Canadians are paying, literally, for his utter failure to champion the cleanest, most ethical, environmentally-friendly energy in the world. This has to change.”
If built, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would be used to transport up to 890,000 barrels of petroleum products like bitumen, a tar-like heavy oil, from Alberta’s oilpatch to the west coast.
Scheer’s tweet and the context of his link to the ruling suggested he was comparing those petroleum products, which are fossil fuels, to all other forms of energy, including non-polluting sources like wind and solar.
Not so, said Scheer’s press secretary Daniel Schow.
What the opposition leader meant to describe was a comparison between Canadian oil and other forms of oil.
“In the tweet, Mr. Scheer is referring to the excellent ethical and environmental standards of oil extracted in Canada in comparison with oil extracted in many other parts of the world,” Schow said in an emailed response to National Observer‘s questions.
“As Canadians, we should be proud of our energy sector and the example it sets for the rest of the world.”
'Canada is on fire'
Clayton Thomas-Müller, a campaigner for environmental advocacy group 350.org, said Scheer is missing the point.
“Getting into nuances around whether or not oil is ethical, if it’s sourced from a G8 economy versus another economy, doesn't even make sense in this time that we’re living in,” said Thomas-Müller.
“Canada is on fire, the world is on fire, because of man-made climate change.”
Scheer's tweet didn't go unnoticed on Twitter. Gary Mason, national affairs columnist for the Globe and Mail, called it “the kind of inanity (U.S. President) Donald Trump would utter.”
“There is nothing clean, ethical or environmentally-friendly about crude from the oil sands. What a preposterous statement,” wrote Mason.
Scheer shot back, saying “it’s very troubling that a columnist at a national newspaper could be so wrong about Canadian oil.”
“By every possible metric, our oil is the best in the world. If this story was told more, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he said.
Scheer's comments mirror Harper campaign
Scheer’s “story” was told in great detail by the government of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, which budgeted tens of millions of public dollars for an advertising campaign promoting the Canadian oil industry in the U.S., Asia and Europe.
The Harper government also deployed its diplomats to push the pro-oil message to Fortune 500 companies in the United States and counter an environmental advocacy campaign that highlighted the rapidly-expanding carbon pollution from the oil and gas industry.
The rich deposits of heavy oil beneath Canada’s boreal forest, particularly in the northern part of Alberta, make up the world's third-largest reserves of crude oil and are Canada's fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
This carbon pollution is released into the air and collects in the Earth’s atmosphere, warming the planet and causing climate change, which is making extreme weather like hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires and heat waves more intense and more frequent.
Governments around the world expect fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas — which create this carbon pollution when they’re used by things like cars, planes, factories, power plants and other facilities — will need to be replaced with cleaner forms of energy like solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.
The International Energy Agency has concluded, based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence, that no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050, to avoid a climate change tipping point that could cause irreversible damage to the planet's ecosystems.