TORONTO – Hollywood heavyweight Robert Redford, fresh from a campaign against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, is setting his sights on Alberta’s oilsands.
In a column published today in the Globe and Mail newspaper, Redford denounces the oilsands development near Fort McMurray, Alta., and calls on Canadians to join him in his effort to shut down the project.
“Where spruce and fir and birch trees once rose and waters ran fresh and clean, tar-sands production has left a lifeless scar visible from outer space,” he writes.
The result, he continues, is “a vast repository of enduring pollution that threatens fish, birds, animals, public health and an entire way of life for native people.”
Redford, long a champion of environmental causes in the U.S., said he developed a greater appreciation of Canada’s natural wonders during a recent stretch in Vancouver, where he has been working on his latest directorial effort, “The Company you Keep.”
Extracting energy from the oilsands results in three times the amount of carbon emissions generated by producing conventional North American crude oil, Redford argues.
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He urges Canadians and Americans alike to reduce their oil consumption, speak out against the oilsands and maintain their resistance to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial effort to ship 700,000 barrels of bitumen daily from northern Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Under siege from critics, the U.S. State Department has ordered a review of the project, prompting TransCanada to agree to re-route the pipeline away from the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was quick to decry Redford’s perspective.
“Canadians lack any appetite for this kind of trite, hypocritical and uninformed attack on an industry in the total absence of offering a reasonable solution,” said spokesman Travis Davies.
Hollywood, he said, is itself a pretty resource-intensive business.
“If you’re of the belief that we can be off hydrocarbons tomorrow, then show me how. Put a solution out there,” Davies said.
“Until we are, we think that Canadian energy is a responsible choice and the right one for North America.”
Redford’s editorial also condemned the Northern Gateway pipeline, Enbridge Inc.’s proposed 1,200-kilometre project to transport oil from the oilsands to northern B.C.
“Crossing the territories of more than 50 First Nations groups, slicing through rivers and streams that form one of the most important salmon habitats in the world and putting at risk the coastal ecosystem of British Columbia?” Redford asks.
“Americans don’t want to see that happen any more than Canadians do, and we’ll stand by you to fight it.”
Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, called Redford’s clarion call a welcome opportunity to take up a cross-border cause, since each country’s energy policies wind up having repercussions on the other.
“The way the pipelines and the export market has happened, we have integrated Canadian energy as really a North American energy grid,” Barlow said.
“If we’re going to slow the pace of the tar sands and start to move towards a more sustainable energy future, we’re going to have to do it together.”