Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Author - Norman Leach, Created - 06.09.2010, Views - 7970, Comments - 1

2010-08-30

Fig.1. The Rig Fig.1. The Rig

It is appropriate, based on the close relationship between Canada and the US, that the phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics" was first uttered by a British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, but made famous by the American writer Mark Twain.

However, there was never a truer phrase when it comes to the question of energy interdependence between Canada and the US. On any given day the financial pages, and more and more frequently, the lifestyle pages of major newspapers across North America are filled with “facts” and “statistics” of the importance of energy to North America.

The newest set of lies, damned lies and statistics is the “boycott” of Alberta oil by companies like the Gap, Levis and Timberland. In a public media release San Francisco-based environmental group Forest Ethics claimed that the companies were joining others in refusing to buy oil produced from the oil sands. In the last day or so all of the companies are backing away from the word boycott but the damage is already done.

For Canada and the US the only statistic that really matters is that Canada is the largest supplier of energy to the US (19% of its oil consumption) and the US is the largest customer for Canadian energy. The rest is just noise.

As is true in most of the trade relationship between Canada and the US we need each other. Canada represents, for the US administration of Barack Obama, a way to keep a vital campaign promise. President Obama promised Americans he would find a way to establish a secure continental energy supply. Obama also promised a lesser dependency on “foreign oil.” Canada provides both.

The challenge is that less than 24% of Americans even know Canada is their largest energy supplier. Most assume it is either Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. This poses a unique threat to both Canada and the US.

With the average American firmly focused on OPEC oil few are looking North. Tainting the discussion is the strawman of dirty oil and global warming. The result is that the American public is ignoring an opportunity to move away from “foreign oil” (or at least Arab oil) and the Canadian government is missing a very real opportunity to increase its trade with a steadfast friend.

Albertans, and Americans, must stand up to the “lies, damned lies and statistics” of groups like Forest Ethics. Companies like the Gap and Levis must be made to recognize that boycotts of this type only hurt the very people who are their customers. Further, it is not just oil sands workers who will lose their jobs if Forest Ethics and their ilk are successful but so will the workers at Gap and Levis when Albertans don`t have the money to buy their products.

For Americans standing up to Forest Ethics means a reliable energy supply and for Canada increased trade and revenues. That is a statistic we can all live with.

comments: (1)

    • does not matter how you call it - jinni is flying high now

      At the end of August four major U.S. consumer companies had announced a "boycott" against Alberta's oil-sands crude things were far less clear-cut. And last week three Fortune 500 companies, and the environmental group behind the alleged boycott are all distancing themselves from the "boycott", claiming the whole matter was a great big misunderstanding. (from National post,Sept.2, 2010 "We never said it was a boycott")