Canadian Oilsands: Harper Defends 'Misinformation' On Environmental Impact

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TORONTO - The need for Canadian oilsands is "overwhelming" and the government will work hard to combat misinformation about its environmental impact, the prime minister said Friday.

Stephen Harper launched into a defence of the controversial oilsands at an unrelated event in Toronto, saying his government will push to get the "real information out there."

"The fact of the matter is that emissions from our oilsands are comparable to other heavy oils and that the industry continues to invest and continues to find ways to reduce those emissions," Harper said.

"It is absolutely clear if you look at the trajectory of world supply and demand, of North American supply and demand that the need for this energy is just overwhelming."

Harper's comments came in response to a question about Chiquita Brands, which announced Thursday that it would avoid using fuel from Alberta's oilsands.

The company, which sells hundreds of millions of dollars of fruit, juice and snacks around the world, said it has joined 13 other companies and one city in trying to reduce its carbon footprint.

"We are committed to directing our transportation providers to avoid, where possible, fuels from tarsands refineries," Chiquita vice-president Manuel Rodriguez wrote in a letter to Aaron Sanger of the environmental group ForestEthics.

Cosmetics giant Avon and U.S. drugstore chain Walgreen's have both made commitments similar to Chiquita's.

Others, such as Gap, Levi Strauss and Timberland, have only said they are trying to reduce the environmental impact of transporting their products. The city of Bellingham, Wash., has guidelines minimizing fuel purchases that take oilsands feedstock.

ForestEthics wants oilsands producers to clean up their operations.

Harper threw his support behind the oilsands industry and stressed its role in the economy.

"I remain very confident about the future of this industry and its ability to generate wealth for the Canadian economy," Harper said.

"This is one of the sectors that creates some of the most jobs, not just in the oil patch, but around the country in terms of manufacturing and support services, and this government will continue to do everything to promote the Canadian energy centre."

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