(Un)Ethical Oil’s New Sexist Public Relations Push

Given recent major actions opposing the tar sands in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, it seems that increased pressure on the Alberta Tar Sands has held oil lobbyists’ feet to the fire.  EthicalOil.org, a site devoted to advancing the ideas of right-wing pundits such as Ezra Levant who has popularized the term ‘ethical oil’ to refer to tar sands bitumen (aka “dirty oil”), has begun using women’s liberation struggles to justify continued extraction and expansion of tar sands oil.

The premise is that supporting “conflict oil” from Saudi Arabia would prop up a regime that is oppressive to women. The underlying motive, however, is not to talk about women’s rights, but rather to deflect negative attention from the tar sands.

If women’s rights were ever of genuine concern to EthicalOil.org (and all the individuals that make it possible such as Ezra Levant, Alykhan Velshi, Kathryn Marshall, and their corporate oil profiteers) then there would be conversation about the impacts that all oil, even oil that some may call “ethical” (while most call dirty), extraction has on women.

Women working in the Alberta oil industry have reported sexual harrassment, gender discrimination, and unequal pay; and the tar sands boom has been coupled with increased rates of sexual violence whether they work in the industry or not. This gender-based discrimination makes the highest paying jobs less accessible to women and, with skyrocketing housing costs, makes affordable housing less accessible as well.

Furthermore, the premise is based on a problematic and delusional sense of Canadian nationalism and superiority in which Canada is socially advanced and civilized.

EthicalOil.org says that “every barrel of Ethical Oil that replaces a barrel of conflict oil is a good thing,” saying that getting oil from Saudi Arabia props up a regime that oppresses women. Simultaneously, EthicalOil.org avoids recognizing that purchasing “ethical oil” props up the Harper government which also oppresses women.

The premise of ‘ethical oil’ is that because Canada’s political regime is more ‘ethical’ than that of other oil producing states, then canada’s oil must therefore be “ethical” in comparison to oil from countries such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Oil from these places is, by contrast, “conflict oil.” To read more, please read this previous blog post.

1 Response to “(Un)Ethical Oil’s New Sexist Public Relations Push”


  1. 1 Jdpauletto Nov 7th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Somehow I’m really not surprised by the Koch spin.

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About maryam


maryam is an organizer, writer, and friend based in Vancouver on unceded Coast Salish Territories. She likes bikes, exploring by kayak, and capoeira. You may have seen some of her writing in Canadian Dimensions, Briarpatch Magazine, The Dominion, or this online blog. You can follow her on twitter @maryamaquarium

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