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Anti-Oil Activists Never Think Of The People Who Get Hurt

01/27/2017 12:23 EST | Updated 01/27/2017 12:23 EST

jane fonda

Jane Fonda, Sept. 12, 2015. (Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Canada’s environmental and social performance on oil production is second to none.

Vermonters have always been happy to "let their freak flags fly," as the old expression goes. From Ben & Jerry to Bill McKibben to Sen. Bernie Sanders, a strong connection with Vermont's alternative 1960s crowd is considered good for business.

No wonder. Back in the psychedelic era, magazines and newspapers placed the number of "Vermont hippies" at fully one-third of the state's population. It sometimes feels like those numbers have only grown ever since.

So things can get a little weird in Vermont. In fact, we expect it. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the two hippie tycoons who founded an ice-cream empire that they later sold to food conglomerate Unilever for more than US$300 million, have had a long history of mixing it up in the media in support of the latest causes of Vermont's alternative crowd.

And in that way, at least, the ice cream barons are a lot like Vermont climate alarmist and 350.org spokesman McKibben, or self-described socialist Sen. Sanders. They recognize a good bandwagon when they see one, and they'll jump on if it has any chance of advancing their own respective profiles and agenda.

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Former presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

That's why these four members of the Green Mountain State's alternative elite have all renewed their protest against Keystone XL. And it's why Jane Fonda, Leo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Farrow have piled on as well. Given their personal CO2 footprints, they're not the most consistent anti-oil activists you'll meet. But Jane, Leo, Mark and Mia are always up for a good demo -- even if they have to fly there on the occasional private jet.

So when president Donald Trump signed an order this week allowing Keystone XL to move forward and opening the door for 4,500 construction jobs in Canada alone, activist Twitter feeds started generating enough hot air to melt a few dozen tons of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Swirl.

"President Trump ignored the voices of millions and put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet," roared Sen. Sanders over Twitter on Tuesday.

"Call your representatives," Mia moaned. "Hold strong, friends," Jane jeered. "Let's keep fighting, brothers & sisters," Ruffalo ranted.

Do you ever feel like it's just too easy for these folks? Their fans don't seem to question their hopeless addiction to petroleum products, their constant global air travel to film festivals and media junkets, their oil-supported glitzy homes, their gasoline-delivered fine foods or their natural gas-aided health care entitlements.

Even with enormous subsidies from federal, state and local governments for renewable energy technologies, fans rarely quiz these stars on the fact their reliance on petroleum products continues virtually unabated -- and likely will continue to do so well into the future.

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Pipelines Make Economic Sense


I haven't noticed many of these wealthy film idols advocating for poor people who can't even pay for the most basic, reliable oil-based technologies -- natural gas for cooking, heating and electricity, or gasoline for transportation, or petroleum-derived plastics and fertilizers that contribute to shelter, clothing and agriculture.

When renewable energy technologies finally catch up to society's demands, then eventually this all may change. But since renewable alternatives today just can't support societal needs, then cutting off affordable petroleum-based resources isn't just frivolous; it's harmful to the most vulnerable people in society.

Ben & Jerry's Foundation, a legacy of the giant windfall sale of their hippie ice-cream empire to Unilever, can play around on the edges of technological change all it likes. But real working families -- not retired millionaire ice cream moguls -- are the ones who will be hurt by anti-pipeline campaigns, anti-oil and anti-forest campaigns or whatever else is the campaign flavour of the day.

Does anyone in the CEO suites of businesses like Lush and MEC ever wonder what life would be like without petroleum products?

For the Canadian version of this highly selective approach to environmental consciousness, look no further than Lush Cosmetics or Mountain Equipment Co-op -- two aggressive businesses that push hard toward financial growth while saying all kinds of disparaging things about the petroleum sector and resource development.

Does anyone in the CEO suites of businesses like Lush and MEC ever wonder what life would be like without petroleum products, without natural resource extraction, without affordable, reliable energy? Probably not -- but maybe it's time they did.

We have a great Canadian track record on sustainably developing our natural resources and turning them into commodities of exceptional value that the world is clamouring for. We'll continue to bring those valuable commodities to market in spite of the ill-informed opinions of environmental zealots in Vermont and Hollywood.

It's just a real shame these wealthy movie stars, politicians and activists couldn't find a better, more constructive way to spend their mammoth fortunes.

Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.

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