A Call to the World: Choose Ethical Oil

Erica van Wyngaarden

Recently, released a series of ads decrying the extraction of oil in politically oppressive and unstable nations, suggesting instead the support of Ethical Oil in the Canadian Oil Sands.  These ads, as well as Ezra Levant’s concept of Ethical Oil, propose a choice: choose human rights over oppressive and unstable nations.  While this is rather controversial to some, the international community and nations should seriously consider this argument to make effective policy choices when it comes to energy, external, and environmental policy.

One of the largest challenges within the international community is dealing with the world’s insatiable demand for oil.  Shockingly, one of the largest sources of oil in the world, the Canadian Oil Sands, has been battered with negative campaigns of misinformation of its detrimental environmental impacts.  Simultaneously, oil extraction continues in some of the most unstable and politically oppressive countries and regions of the world.  Both Ethical Oil and this writer contend that there are many more factors which must be considered within energy decisions and policy.

But first, what is Ethical Oil? Alykhan Velshi and Ezra Levant contend that the international community has a choice.  They argue that our dependency on oil is constantly increasing; however, we must consider at the same time which nations our oil comes from. argues that “countries that produce Ethical Oil protect the rights of women, workers, indigenous peoples and other minorities….Conflict Oil regimes, by contrast, oppress their citizens and operate in secret with no accountability to voters, the press or independent judiciaries.”  The overarching idea and basic choice is this: choose Ethical Oil, not environmentally reckless and politically oppressive regimes.

Both of these individuals demonstrate a plain and simple truth. We have a choice!

International policy creation is constantly based off of making choices between what is most ethical and will promote good governance throughout the world.  We place trade embargoes on and cease diplomatic relations with nations who abuse and/or violate the human rights of their citizens.  There are numerous examples one can think of where the international community choose to cease relations with another nations based on a human rights basis.  However, energy policies have broken this trend.  Choosing Ethical Oil is a logical extension of such policies and would continue to promote the same values international organizations and nations have promoted through past international actions.  Instead, nations have made a conscious choice to continue extracting oil from ‘Conflict Oil’ locations based on apparent environmental issues they hold with the Canadian Oil Sands.

Many organisations have called for the immediate halt of any and all oil sands developments, filling the international media with campaigns decrying it.  While it must be conceded that there are environmental impacts in oil sands development, one must be aware of the vast amounts of misinformation that has been dispelled about the oil sands.

Environmentally we have a choice.  Oil sands development must continue given constant international energy demands; however, alternatives can and have been found to make this a cleaner process.  This cannot occur in unstable and oppressive nations.  They cannot enforce or have not implemented environmental regulations to make the oil extraction process as clean as possible.  By refusing to support oil sands development here in Canada, the choice is made to simply export the problem elsewhere and in most cases increasing environmental degradation.  Because it is not happening at home does not mean it is not happening at all.  There will be environmental harm no matter where oil is extracted and this writer would urge policy makers to choose a location where environmental policies can be effectively enforced.

To make a long-term impact on oil development, the international community must focus on investment in sustainable ways of developing the oil sands while recognizing the necessity of it’s development.  Actions have already been taken by the Alberta Legislature through Carbon Capture and Storage policies, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has started sustainable landscape or reclamation and the clean up of tailings ponds.  The most effective way to ensure a cleaner process and to find alternatives to oil dependency is by placing political will and national funds behind it.  This starts with a consensus that the oil sands are an ethical alternative and, through international cooperation, environmental alternatives can be found.

The choice is clear.  The international community can and should make the choice to support Ethical Oil to promote human rights and an effective environmental agenda. accurately addresses this choice before international policy makers, showing the responsible foreign policy choices a nation makes must carry over to its energy policies as well.