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Alberta Government Goes After The Media For Oil Sands Misinformation

The new conservative Alberta government has targeted media in a campaign aimed at improving the image of the oil sands industry as presented by Premier Jason Kenney.

CBC News reports Energy Minister Sonya Savage had sent letters to Politico and National Geographic saying the Alberta government wanted to correct misinformation published by the two outlets regarding oil sands.

In the letter to Politico, Savage referred to a story quoting a former U.S. ambassador to Canada as saying the U.S. no longer needed Canadian oil and went on to explain why this did not reflect the truth touching on the discrepancy between U.S. production and consumption and political instability in other oil-producing countries to distinguish Canada from them.

While it is unclear how Politico might have been at fault in quoting a government official, the letter to National Geographic is much harsher as are the cited inaccuracies. Among these is a statement that there are “175-odd” oil sands projects while in fact, Savage writes, there are only seven. According to JWN Energy author Deborah Jaremko, who debunked 12 inaccuracies in the national Geographic piece, “There are currently six operating oilsands mining projects, and 10 total mines operating within these projects. There are also 26 operating in situ, or drilled thermal projects.

CBC notes that most Alberta oil sands projects are in-situ, meaning there is no open pit mining that requires tailing ponds to dump toxic chemicals used in the mining process. However, the author of the National Geographic article highlighted the issue of tailing ponds, saying there was “no end in sight and no solution to clean them up.” To this Savage responded with the fact that oil sands producers are required by law to reclaim sites after the end of their productive life.

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Another piece of misinformation that was not included in the letter but was highlighted by CBC is the implication that oil sands projects are so massive they span the length of a highway in northern Alberta where the oil sands industry is concentrated.

The news agency said, citing Jaremko’s article, that “the highway all the way from Edmonton to the northernmost oilsands project, Fort Hills, measures less than 350 miles — slightly more than 550 km — and most of that roadway is lined by boreal forest, with the actual oilsands mining concentrated in a short stretch north of Fort McMurray.” And this is just one of a total dozen of inaccuracies spotted in the National Geographic story.

Savage’s letter to National Geographic—which has to date amended its article twice—ended on a friendly note, inviting the news outlet to contact the Alberta government when it needs to and be provided with independently verifiable sources of information concerning the oil industry.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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