First with some praise:
... The ethical oil argument is a clever and compelling one, and good for a dozen laughs when it’s delivered — as it was at a Toronto Empire Club lunch the other day — by Mr. Levant. Most of the laughs come at the expense of the David Suzuki crowd, green campaigners and air-headed young campus leftists/activists such as Zoe, Mr. Levant’s caricature of a 20-something McGill student in vegetarian studies who has never been west of Hamilton but has a brain filled with ethical angst over dozens of global issues about which she knows nothing — human rights, environmental degradation, poverty, climate change and Wall Street domination. Zoe is probably preparing even now for Saturday’s march on Bay Street. ...Then his objections:
... Ethical oil backers appear to have co-opted the liberal left’s concerns about rights and the environment by portraying the oil sands as a morally superior source of oil. In the end, though, ethical oil abandons the principles of free trade and cedes the economic argument to the anti-free trade left. Ethical Oil is too clever for its own good. ...And Ezra responds:
Hi Terry. Thanks for coming to my speech yesterday!I'd add that Ethical Oil is a well reasoned response to relentless attacks by environmental radicals and other hysterics, on Alberta's oil sands ("dirty, immoral, environment destroying tar sands, Big Oil, capitalist pigs, ..., ..."). Big Oil was doing a crappy job of defending itself, so someone had to. Ezra deserves high praise for demolishing all the nonsense and makes the case that, contrary to the dearest wishes of the anti-oil mob and whether or not AGW is actually a problem, there is no alternative on the horizon. Furthermore, each of the various causes promoted by activists has to be addressed on its own merits. They are not all morally or ethically equivalent. Pushing for dubious "fair trade" in coffee beans is hardly equivalent to the anti-apartheid movement.
Defending Canada's ethical oil does not mean creating trade barriers against conflict oil from OPEC dictatorships. For one thing, it's impossible: there is just too much conflict oil on the world market and too little of the good stuff. We see this now with economic sanctions against Sudan and Iran: America doesn't buy any of that conflict oil, but China, Japan and India are desperate to buy all they can.
The ethical oil argument is the opposite of a trade barrier; it is a call for more transparency in the marketplace to allow consumers to make a fully-informed choice at the pumps. Some people don't care if their oil is from Saudi Arabia. But others do. Why not let the market decide? Fair trade coffee shops don't depend on putting Tim Hortons out of business. They just give consumers a chance to pay for the goodwill inherent in ethical production methods. But the good news for energy consumers is that, unlike fair trade coffee or Polar Bear diamonds, ethical oil doesn't cost any more than the foreign stuff.
Terry Corcoran is worried about a fantasy scenario where world governments would sanction blood oil. The real risk is the opposite: right now the European Union, looking to distract from its own appetite for blood oil, is threatening to slap trade barriers on our Canadian ethical oil. Let's fight that real trade threat before going off to fight one that doesn't exist yet.