A heavy hauler trucks transports material in the oilsands in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Monday, June 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

A heavy hauler trucks transports material in the oilsands in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Monday, June 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Anti-oilsands inquiry writer backs off: critics

Researcher behind ‘anti-Alberta’ inquiry says she has not backed off allegation

Critics of a researcher whose work helped prompt Alberta’s inquiry into anti-oilsands campaigns say she appears to have backed away from one of her main allegations.

But Vivian Krause says she has never accused environmental groups of being used by U.S. interests to further that country’s oil industry.

“I certainly can’t pin that on any environmental groups,” she said Friday.

The inquiry, which was given a fourth extension by the United Conservative government this week, is looking into suggestions originally made by Krause that U.S. foundations funded Canadian environmental charities with the aim of landlocking the oilsands.

The theory goes on to suggest that was done to benefit U.S. producers by eliminating Canadian competition.

Krause said she’s never said that.

“I’ve seen no evidence of funding from commercial oil interests,” she tweeted this week.

In an interview, she said the theory is an extrapolation by people who feel beleaguered by what they consider unfair criticism.

“People look at me hoping to hear what they think would make sense, which is that the oil companies are behind it. I tell them all the time, ‘Sorry, guys, no. I don’t see that.’

“People have jumped to a conclusion that is unsubstantiated. I can see why. It sounds logical. But you can’t make that assumption.”

Krause said her concern is that any campaign to landlock the oilsands only led to production increases elsewhere and didn’t help the environment.

Krause’s critics have been posting excerpts on social media from her previous comments and writings.

“Since you’ve seen no evidence of $ from commercial oil interests, do you think it was fair/reasonable for you to keep making inferences to that effect?” tweeted University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski.

In 2016, Krause wrote: “The Tar Sands Campaign is keeping Canadian oil landlocked within North America, stopping it from reaching overseas buyers and allowing the U.S to dominate the market. Anti-pipeline activism claims to be about carbon emissions and the climate but what it amounts to is economic protectionism.”

In 2018, she tweeted: “It’s time we differentiated between green for the environment and the green of the American wallet.”

She has also written that she’s sought legal advice on whether it’s legal for American charitable foundations to try to influence the price of oil in the U.S. by sidelining Canada in the global market.

Krause told a parliamentary committee in 2012 that “the funders that are funding this strategy are funding science as a marketing tactic to sway market share, to manipulate markets, and in some cases to protect trade interests.”

She noted in her testimony: “I’ve never suggested, and I would never suggest, that there is a particular oil company or any particular commercial interest behind this.”

But she went on to say U.S. foundations were interested in more than just environmentalism.

“The foundations themselves say that they’re also interested in issues of energy security, national security, and energy independence.”

Olszynski asks why environmental charities are being targeted by the inquiry headed by Steve Allan if there’s no evidence that anti-oilsands campaigns are being done to benefit the American industry.

“Those campaigns were never aimed at workers, but rather the high-level political and corporate decisions that allowed oilsands development to run red hot, exceed regulatory capacity, and ultimately fail to prepare for a carbon-constrained economy,” he said in an email.

“That is what’s hammering jobs. Rather than scapegoating environmentalists, the inquiry should be focused on regulators and oil and gas executives and why they failed Alberta’s workers.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2021.

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