The Royal Canadian Geographic Society is one of Canada's largest non-profit educational organizations. They publish Canadian Geographic magazine and run environmental and social education projects all across the country, but this past month they launched a dangerous new partnership with Canada's biggest oil and gas lobby organization.
Called Energy IQ, the project claims to be "an energy education resource for all Canadians...is designed to engage Canadian teachers and students through curriculum-linked in-class learning tools, and to increase energy knowledge among the general public and community leaders."
Taken at face value this sounds likes a great resource, especially given the importance of charting a transition away from fossil fuels in the face of climate change. The problem is that the sole funder and sponsor of Energy IQ is the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) holds the dubious distinction of being Canada's most vocal proponent of tar sands, fracking and other fossil fuel development. They are also one of the largest lobbyist for any group or cause in the country, having met with the Harper government hundreds of times to push policies like Canada pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, the gutting of environmental regulations in recent omnibus bills, and just last week, lobbying the Alberta government to undermine climate legislation. On top of their lobbying, they have spent millions on advertising to promote the tar sands through ad campaigns across Canada, in the United States and around the world.
The Energy IQ project borrows directly from CAPP's website to populate its "Energy Glossary" and provide background information in its "Learning Center." Neither of which are balanced by representation of other stakeholder groups. While the project presents a fair assessment of Canada's current energy mix it only tells part of the story.
Energy IQ leaves out current and future social, environmental and economic considerations for pursuing CAPP's vision of massive tar sands and fracking expansion. Most notably, it completely ignores the calls from groups like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, HSBC and others that 80% of global fossil fuel reserves need to stay underground to have a chance at maintaining a safe climate.
What's potentially more concerning is the role that Canadian Geographic is playing. As a respected educational resource and publisher, their reputation is providing political cover for CAPP to present a dangerous and disturbing narrative and vision of the future of energy and climate change in Canada. Were CAPP to be taking this project forward on their own they would be the subject of great scrutiny by teachers, students and the public, something they probably hoped to avoid by using Canadian Geographic to take their industry spin into classrooms from grade 3 on up.
The tar sands alone in Canada are on track to grow three times the size they can for Canada to have a chance of hitting its own climate targets, a reality promoted and lobbied for by CAPP. As the self declared " voice of Canada's upstream oil, oil sands and natural gas industry" CAPP has a mission to decrease regulation, increase extraction and cut through red tape for its client groups. Unfortunately that means they also have a business model based on ignoring the reality of climate change, and the direct impacts of fossil fuel extraction in Canada.
As a private company CAPP has a right to try and spread their spin by buying up advertising. As a publisher, Canadian Geographic has the same rights to work with whoever they want in putting out their magazine. They are more than welcome to erode their own credibility by putting out a magazine with CAPP, but neither of them have a right to bring Canada's biggest oil lobby and public relations organization into schools.