Rethink Alberta

Rethink Alberta

August 18, 2010 02:32 ET

Controversial UK Campaign Attacks Canadian Oil Mines

Britain Asked to Rethink Alberta and Boycott Tar Sands

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Aug. 18, 2010) -

Editors Note: There is a photo and a video associated with this press release.

The latest example of environmental devastation caused by the oil industry will be in sharp focus in the UK for the next month.

Today will see the launch of a controversial campaign called Rethink Alberta highlighting the decimation caused by tar sands in Canada and asking British people not to help contribute to the problem.

Dubbed the 'other oil disaster' by environmental campaigners, tar sands are naturally occurring bitumen deposits and their exploitation in Canada is the largest energy project in the world.

In Alberta there are numerous tar sands projects which:

  • Are the largest contributors to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. (1)
  • Will potentially destroy or degrade an area of forest the size of England to extract oil. (2)
  • Has created toxic lakes the size of Glasgow of contaminated water, which has been used to help extract the oil. (3)
  • Leaks up to 11m litres of contaminated water from these ponds every day into the surrounding environment and water system. (4)
  • Is estimated to result in the loss of between 6 and 166 million migratory birds over the next five decades. (5)
  • Has adversely affecting the lives of thousands of people, including local aboriginal communities, such as those in Fort Chipewyan and other communities around the Athabasca River and Lake. (6)
  • Will release more CO2 emissions each year than the whole of Ireland (7)
  • Has wreaked devastation on Michigan's Kalamazoo River following a connected oil pipe rupture that released nearly a million gallons of oil. (8)
  • Consistently violates air pollution standards without proper enforcement by government. (9)

The campaign by Corporate Ethics International will highlight the comparisons between the pollution caused in Alberta's tar sands with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Britons will be encouraged to protest against the tar sands by avoiding travel to the Canadian province where oil giants BP, Shell, Exxon and Total all have mining operations.

Dr Michael Marx, executive director of Corporate Ethics, said:

"We want to lift the lid on the horrors of oil exploration taking place in a country that has a reputation for being the cleanest in the world. Tar sands mining in Alberta has not only caused irreparable damage to the environment but the health of local communities which have seen a dramatic rise in rare cancers linked to the same compounds found in tar sands operations.

"685,800 Britons visit Canada every year so we are appealing to the UK to join us in protesting against tar sands mining. (10)

"What's more the proceeds of tar sands exploration are enjoyed by BP and Shell who have major presences in Alberta, and tar sands oil will soon be in the UK - Canada wants to sell its dirty oil to countries in the EU and has been lobbying hard to end restrictions on high carbon fuels like tar sands."

In addition to asking the British public to take their own stand against tar sands, Corporate Ethics International is also urging the British government to take three clear actions:

  1. Work with the EU to reverse – not continue – the concessions made to allow highly polluting Canadian oil into the UK through the next round of trade negotiations.
  2. Use the public shareholding in RBS and other big banks to stop investment in the continued expansion of tar sands production.
  3. Encourage the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund to stop investing in companies with links to tar sands production.

Dr Marx adds: "If the funding for tar sands mines continues and EU negotiations with Canada continue to go the way they are heading, British citizens will soon be directly and in-directly using more and more oil from the tar sands mines. The British government can help stop contributing to the devastation being caused in Alberta by taking real international leadership on this issue."

The campaign includes large digital billboards throughout London supported by online advertising and social media activity across Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. (11)

On the website, visitors can view a video that has gained national attention in Canada. It begins with the beauty shots that tourists associate with Alberta, which are soon interrupted by the line, "Think you know Alberta? Think again."

The American version of the video was so powerful that the Angus Reid polling firm surveyed 4,000 individuals in Canada, the US, and the UK to assess its potential impact. After viewing the video, the poll found that 42% of Britons felt the Alberta tar sands were damaging the environment as badly as the Gulf oil spill.

Britons can send a message now that they don't want tar sands oil in Britain or used by UK companies by:

Joining the campaign at:

Facebook group: Rethink-Alberta

Twitter ID: rethinkalberta

The campaign has also started to attract wider support, Gordon Roddick, co-founder of the Body Shop and social entrepreneur, added his pledge to boycott Alberta:

"The Tar Sands fiasco is another sorry example of blatant corporate disregard of their responsibility to humanity. It rests within our responsibility to stop them."

Jess Worth, New Internationalist co-editor and UK Tar Sands Network co-founder, added:

"As people in the UK become increasingly aware of the human and environmental devastation being wreaked by the Alberta tar sands, the campaign to sever all British involvement is growing rapidly.

"In the same week as the launch of Rethink Alberta, two young women from Canadian First Nations will be joining 1000 climate activists at the Camp for Climate Action in Edinburgh, with the aim of taking action against RBS, Britain's biggest investor in the tar sands.

"The launch of Rethink Alberta is the latest example of the way the tar sands cause is becoming a global one – because if this giant scar on the face of the land is allowed to continue growing, it will ultimately hurt us all."

The campaign is supported by multiple environmental groups across the US, Europe and Canada, including Friends of the Earth, Earthworks, Rainforest Action Network and ForestEthics.

About Corporate Ethics International

Corporate Ethics is an NGO based in San Francisco. It is the founding organization for the Business Ethics Network, which is comprised of over 150 NGOs that engage in corporate campaigns to make companies more environmentally and socially responsible. It is the lead strategic advisor to funders for the international tar sands campaign.


1. Tar sands are the largest contributor to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

- Source: Environment Canada's emissions projection ( tar sands will rise from 4% of national emissions in 2006 to 12% in 2020, and account for 44% of the total increase.

2. Tar sands will destroy or degrade an area the size of England.

- Source: The Government of Alberta Energy said tar sands underlie 140,200 square England is 130,410 square kilometres 

3. The toxic lakes cover an area of equivalent to 170 square kilometres.

- Source: Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board the total area covered by tailings lakes is 170 square kilometres.

- Glasgow is 175 square kilometers

4. It's estimated that tailings lakes leak up to 11 million litres of contaminated water per day.

- Source: Environmental Defence Canada report "11 Million Litres a Day: The Tar Sands Leaking Legacy," December 2008

5. Tar sands will threaten millions of migratory birds and other wildlife - 6 and 166 million migratory birds over the next five decades.

- Source: "Danger in the Nursery," December 2008, produced by NRDC, Boreal Songbird Initiative, and Pembina Institute

6. Downstream native communities suffer from rare cancers linked to the same toxic compounds found in the tar sands.

- Source: An Alberta Health Services report on the incidence of cancer in Fort Chipewyan found there was a 30% increase in cancers compared with expected over the last 12 years. Leukemias and lymphomas were increased by 3-fold. Bile duct cancers were increased by 7-fold. Other cancers, such as soft tissue sarcomas, and lung cancers in women, were also elevated. 

7. Release more CO2 emissions each year than the whole of Ireland

- Source: Greenpeace report Dirty: How the Tar sands Are Fuelling Global Climate Change"

8. Michigan's Kalamazoo River following a connected oil pipe rupture that released nearly a million gallons of oil. 

- Source:,1607,7-135-3313-241297--,00.html and

9. Consistently violates air pollution standards without proper enforcement by government

- Source: Dirty Oil Dirty Air. The Alberta Government has established Ambient Air Quality Objectives, which set standards for key air pollutants. If a pollutant is found to be at a higher level than the limit set for it, it's called an 'exceedance According to Wood Buffalo Environment Association, the number of excedances has recently spiked in the tar sands region, rising to 1,556 in 2009 from 47 in 2004.

10. Source: Canada Tourism Commission 


11. The campaign will feature 11 large digital billboards throughout London plus on-line advertising including flash and banner ads on major UK tourism websites and Google keyword ads on terms related to Alberta, all estimated to generate over 23 million impressions per month.

To view the photo associated with this press release, please visit the following link:

To view the video associated with this press release, please visit the following link:

Contact Information

  • For footage of the Alberta tar sands, stills from the
    campaign, interviews with UK, US and Canadian spokespeople,
    and more information, please contact:
    Rebecca Johnston
    020 7419 7000
    Laura Buchan
    020 7419 7000
    Max Wilson
    020 7419 7000