Oil sands: Canada's next vacation wonderland?

Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:37pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - If it's sand you crave on your vacation, then Greenpeace might have just the travel idea for you.

But you could have some hefty cleaning bills by the time you get home.

In an increasingly heated debate over the ecological impact of Canadian oil sands production, the environmental group has launched a tongue-in-cheek website promoting the huge northern Alberta energy projects as vacation destinations.

Using Alberta's logo, the site, www.travellingalberta.com, invites tourists to laze on black-sand beaches surrounding tailings ponds, hang-glide on "the unique coal bed methane and sour gas updrafts," then ride on one of the gargantuan dump trucks that trundle around the oil sands mines.

"Welcome to Alberta. Canada's Rocky Mountain Playground -- a carbon-based energy powerhouse!" the site says.

Greenpeace, one of several groups that have seized on the environmental impact of booming oil sands development, developed the site in response to public relations campaigns by the Alberta government and the oil industry, Mike Hudema, its tar sands campaigner, said on Thursday.

Earlier this year, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach announced a C$25 million ($24.7 million) communications push to protect Alberta's "brand" and "perception" around the world from environmental critics.

This week, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers launched its own site, www.canadasoilsands.ca, to get its message out that oil sands producers are doing all they can to cut greenhouse gas emissions, lower water use and limit damage to the northern forest, and are willing to discuss issues with the public.   Continued...