Billboards warn Americans not to travel to ‘dirty’ Alberta

Billboards warn Americans not to travel to dirty Alberta

CALGARY – A San Francisco-based environmental group has launched a billboard campaign in several U.S. cities asking Americans to rethink their travel plans to Alberta because of the oilsands.

Corporate Ethics International has set up up the ads in Denver, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis “revealing Alberta to be one of the world’s dirtiest destinations.” The campaign is targeting U.S. cities with the most Canadian travel.

The group was also behind an ad backing an Oscar for director James Cameron for his move Avatar. The ad linked the fictional planet in the movie to oilsands production in Alberta.

“There is another oil disaster going on in Alberta every day and as more Americans become aware of it we believe they’ll be less willing to support the province with their tourist dollars,” said Michael Marx, executive director of Corporate Ethics, in a statement.

Canadian representatives were dismayed with the ads as well as a video posted on Youtube that contrasted idyllic scenes of the Rockies with images of dead ducks in Syncrude Canada’s tailing ponds. The oilsands giant was recently found guilty of failing to take appropriate steps to prevent the deaths of more than 1,600 birds in a St. Albert courtroom.

Travis Davies, a spokesman with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the country’s largest industry lobby group, said the ads distort basic perceptions of the oilsands industry by claiming that an area twice the size of the United Kingdom is being strip mined when in fact mining is limited to an area smaller than most American cities.

Instead of staying away from the province, he suggested Americans should come to Alberta to see for themselves the steps the oilsands industry is taking to try to improve its image.

“These kinds of groups thrive on providing a small piece of the picture claiming it represents the whole when clearly it does not.”

The salvo was the latest in a series of volleys that saw Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach take out ads in the Washington Post defending the oilsands industry against charges that it produces “dirty oil.”

In an email, Corporate Ethics’ Marx said the ad campaign was sparked by Stelmach’s and other government lobbying efforts in the U.S. against low carbon fuel standards and vowed to take their message to Europe.

“The next wave of the ad campaign will be launched in two weeks across the UK,” he said.

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