U.S. green groups attack Alberta tourism industry

Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:47pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Environmentalists are taking aim at Alberta's C$5.6 billion ($5.4 billion) tourism industry in the latest battle over the impact of developing the Canadian province's oil sands.

Alberta is the largest supplier of crude oil to the United States and the environmentalists say their "Rethink Alberta" campaign is in response to pro oil-sands lobbying and advertising in the United States by the Alberta government and the province's oil industry.

The campaign, led by San Francisco-based Corporate Ethics International, features billboards in four U.S. cities urging Americans to exclude Alberta from their travel plans, saying it is "one of the world's dirtiest destinations".

"The government of Alberta and Canada are paying lobbyists, working with oil companies, running full-page ads down here, to block legislation like low-carbon fuel standard legislation that would help us make the transition (from fossil fuels)," Corporate Ethics International Executive Director Michael Marx said.

"And they are also down here lobbying for infrastructure, new pipelines, refineries, which would keep us addicted to high-carbon oil for another 50 years."

The billboards compare the oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, using the phrase, "Alberta: the other oil disaster."

The billboards are up in Denver, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis, which the group said are home to the largest number of U.S. visitors to Alberta, which is known for such destinations as Banff and Jasper national parks in the Rocky Mountains.

Northern Alberta's oil sands represent the largest deposit of crude outside the Middle East but extracting oil from the terrain requires energy-intensive mining techniques. Environmental groups say development comes at a disproportionately high cost to land, water, local communities and the fight against global warming.   Continued...