Photo: By William Chen/Wikimedia Commons

Albertans deserve the truth about why the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline is stalled. Not half-truths and distortions, not fully-baked conspiracy theories, the truth. Unfortunately, they are not getting it from Vivian Krause, Licia Corbella, and the Calgary Herald.

Vivian Krause.

Krause has been touring Alberta the past few months, feeding frustrated audiences her fanciful speculations about how US-funded BC activists are behind the oil and gas sector’s pipeline problems. Albertans are eating it up because they want to hold someone responsible for low oil prices, lost jobs, and even more economic insecurity just as the province looked to be finally recovering from the bust of 2015 and 2016.

That’s completely understandable on their part. But Krause, Corbella, and the Herald should be held to a higher standard here.

I’ve written several columns in the past demonstrating how Krause is misleading Albertans, and it’s worth reiterating a few things from them.  

First, I’m not disputing her research that shows American charities like the Rockefeller Foundation have funded Canadian anti-pipeline groups and activities like the Tar Sands Campaign. Her work there is sound.

What I am disputing is the conclusions she draws from that research — conclusions that she shared on Wednesday in Calgary at the Indigenous Energy Summit, as reported by Corbella in her Herald column today.  

“Krause says at the end of 2012 the Rockefeller Brothers specified that its money was to be used to “bring about a cap on the production of oil from Alberta.”

Sound familiar?

Your premier put a cap on the oilsands,” Krause reminded the attentive crowd. “That’s exactly what the Rockefeller Fund funded the activists to do, was to pressure the government to put that cap on.”

Read those four sentences carefully.

In the first one, Krause refers to a cap on Alberta oil production. In the third and fourth sentence, a production cap magically becomes the Alberta government’s 100 megatonne oil sands emissions cap.

Notice the conflation between the oil sands and all oil extraction and between missions and production. Krause’s remarks are even contradicted by the Financial Post story that’s linked in Corbella’s column.

If we’re being generous, we could chalk this up to confusion on the part of both Krause and Corbella. But I’m not particularly inclined to be generous here, given that both of them know full well how the emissions cap in Alberta actually came to be.

I wrote three columns (here, here, and here) last July describing the secret meetings that took place between five oil sands CEOs and five ENGO executive directors that began in the fall of 2014 and continued well into 2015, past the May 5th election that brought the Albert NDP to power. Those meetings, remember, started at the request of the companies.

Executives like Suncor’s Steve Williams and CNRL’s Murray Edwards were sick of the rancorous public debate about the oil sands and climate change. They hoped face-to-face meetings with opponents would clear the air and create a middle ground position that was acceptable to both groups.

The oil sands emissions cap was put on the table during these meetings.

While initially reluctant, Suncor VP of Sustainability Arelene Strom describes why the companies eventually agreed. “If we are truly going to address climate change,” she said in the 2016 sustainability report, “we have to contain emissions growth and, at some point, our absolute emissions need to start bending downward. And that limit on emissions is an expression of our faith in technology and innovation.”

And in an Energi News interview, Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips confirmed that the Notley government had not considered an oil sands emissions limit before the CEOs and ENGOs brought the deal to her in September of 2015.

Pretending the emissions cap is a production cap is dishonest, at best. But claiming the emissions cap resulted from Rockefeller-funded activism is both dishonest and devious.

And lest readers think this is a solitary lapse in judgement by Krause, here’s another example that hits closer to home.

In 2016, I wrote an op-ed for Alberta Oil magazine that used two expert sources, American energy economist Ed Hirs and Alberta political scientist Keith Brownsey, to debunk Krause’s conspiracy fabulism.

On April 11, 2018, 630CHED’s Ryan Jespersen asked her about that article. Here is her response, transcribed from the audio file:

“When I started this research, right away, people on the Tides side tried to shut me down. First it was letters from lawyers and there were four or five times at least that I had all the different pieces I wrote I get lawyers and letters saying that I had to remove my blog and all of that sort of stuff. And then they shifted to basically trying to discredit me, to intimidate me and you get these articles popping up. They’re always in publications that are funded by Tides [Canada]. For instance, Desmog blog. And Mr. Hislop, he sent me a– I put this on Twitter at one point that he had said that he was being paid by the National Observer and the Vancouver Observer to write a piece about CAPP actually. So, at the time, he said, ‘Yeah,’ he’s going to do this for one of these Tides publications. So, I asked him, ’Hang on a sec, are you part of the Tides side?’ Anyway, I would be curious for Mr. Hislop to explain some of the funding of his own operation.

Doesn’t that sound like Energi News is funded by Tides, either directly or indirectly? Jespersen wanted answers, and the next day on his show he played Krause’s comments and asked me to answer her allegations.

No problem, I replied; our funding comes from reader subscriptions, speaking engagements, editorial assignments, and freelance journalism. Not one penny comes, or ever came, from Tides or the National Observer organization.

Indeed, I wrote an entire piece for Alberta Oil criticizing the Observer’s approach to journalism in 2015.  Yes, I had discussed a paid freelance piece about CAPP with Observer publisher Linda Solomon Wood, which I told Krause about. And after some pestering by her on Twitter, I told her the truth: that I had decided against taking up the Observer offer because their energy activism was incompatible with my energy journalism.

I never wrote the story (as Krause would know if she had simply Googled my name on the Observer site), and was never paid a cent by Solomon, Tides, or anyone in that orbit. 

She knew that, but smeared my reputation on Jespersen’s show anyway.

Maybe the ends justify the means for Krause. After all, she is a blogger and pro-pipline activist, not a journalist, and she seems more interested in telling people what they want to hear than what they need to.  

Take this whopper from Corbella’s column about how Texas would never allow activists to landlock its crude oil the way they have in Canada. But here’s the thing:  Texas has 367 miles of Gulf of Mexico coastline, much of it covered with the world’s largest refinery complexes and export terminals! And the Texas Railroad Commission approves and regulates in-state pipelines, just like the Alberta Energy Regulator approves and regulates in-province pipelines. If Alberta was located on the Gulf of Mexcio, it’s safe to assume we wouldn’t be dealing with any differential-related problems.

Likewise, if California stood between Texas and the market access it needed, it would almost certainly be dealing with the same challenges that Alberta faces today.

But these are — sorry — inconvenient truths, and Krause isn’t interested in talking about them. That’s the real story here.