'Ethical Oil' TV Ads Re-Brand Canada Oil Sands On Oprah Winfrey Network

First Posted: 08/29/11 12:12 AM ET Updated: 10/28/11 06:12 AM ET

A campaign designed to re-brand Canada’s oil sands as an ethical alternative to fuel from states with questionable human rights records was scheduled to take to the airwaves Sunday, with the first of a handful of television spots appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The 30-second advertisement suggests North Americans, through the purchase of more than 400 million barrels of oil from Saudi Arabia last year, helped bankroll a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow women to leave their home without a male guardian, and believes a woman’s testimony in court is only worth half as much as a man’s.

“Why are we paying their bills and funding their oppression?” a woman’s voice asks viewers.

EthicalOil.org’s Alykhan Velshi, a former communications director with the Conservative government, told The Huffington Post Canada that the “public information ad” will run exclusively on the Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada for a week.

“The Oprah network's programming - which includes lifestyle issues affecting women, women's health, and entertainment - in my view fits nicely with a campaign promoting Canada's oil sands as an ethical alternative to misogynist conflict oil from regimes like Saudi Arabia,” Velshi said.

Greenpeace’s Tar Sands campaigner Mike Hudema said Velshi is mounting a “very appealing argument” and "dangerous" defence of the environmentally destructive oil sands by framing energy purchases as a choice between supporting a liberal democracy such as Canada or conflict oil from oppressive regimes.

“It really presents us with a false question … when the reality is, we have a lot of different choices about how we produce energy,” Hudema said.

Velshi wouldn't say whether EthicalOil.org collects money from big oil companies. He described his campaign as "grassroots," saying all Canadians who care about ethical oil are invited to donate and that the median donation is in the $20-$25 range.

"We are 100 per cent independent of government and industry," he wrote in an email.

EthicalOil.org's campaign could expand in Canada and into United States if public donations on its website keep flowing, Velshi said.

But Hudema cautioned that the campaign's goals could have massive consequences.

"This campaign is designed to keep us locked in an outdated fossil-based economy that potentially could decimate the entire planet if we do not get our greenhouse gas emissions in check, and I think that is the most dangerous part of this campaign,” he said. "(It's) going to give people more excuses and give our politicians more reasons to delay action."

"To me, it is very immoral,” Hudema added.

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