James Cameron may not have won the Academy Award for Best Picture or Best Director, but he walked away from the Oscars with the highest accolades from many of the world’s leading environmental and human rights campaigners. Groups like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action and the Sierra Club joined grassroots community groups and Indigenous Rights groups from Canada and the US in placing a high profile ad in Variety magazine showing the mass destruction of pristine forest lands by Canadian tar sands production.  Complete with a ‘Hell’ giant truck it looked literally like a scene out of Avatar.  The Ad read:

… Where Indigenous Peoples in Canada are endangered by toxic pollution and future oil spills.

… Where Shell, BP, Exxon and other Sky People are destroying a huge ancient forest.

… Where giant Hell trucks are used to mine the most polluting, expensive unobtanium oil to feed America’s addiction.

Well it didn’t take the PR flacs for Big Oil long to react with a vengance – the same day they fired off a volley:

The advertisement likens Canada’s oil sands industry to the computer-animated film Avatar. Canada – a stable country with the highest standards of democracy as well as environmental and social responsibility – is the largest provider of energy to the United States.  “Canadian oil is responsible oil,” said Janet Annesley, Vice President of Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “Unfortunately this blurring of the lines between fact and fiction by anti-oil activists has become all too common.”

Turns out James Cameron, a Canadian born and raised near the majestic boreal forest, may not have accidentally shined a light on a dark reality.   His film actually used images of tar sands production machines, so maybe it’s the oil industry that is having a problem with fact and fiction.

Clearly Cameron crafted a fantastic fable, but just like the Greeks and even the Bible, he also used stark reality to make a point about the human condition.  Clearly when prestigious publications like the National Geographic lay bare the shock and awe of tar sands destruction, we are no longer in the land of make believe.   When the scope of the scar on the Earth caused by tar sands mining can be seen from space, who is creating the fiction?

But the oilies weren’t done yet, their PR machine tackled the charge that they are poisoning the Indigenous First Nations downstream of the tar sands:

“Aboriginal people are the oil and gas industry’s neighbours, employees, contractors and stakeholders,” Annesley said. “Productive relationships are crucial to oil and gas companies earning their licence to operate. Canadian regulation requires industry to address First Nations’ economic, social and cultural needs. Delivering economic and social benefits and minimizing environmental impacts is fundamental to an oil sands project being found ‘in the public interest,’ the final test a development must pass in order to proceed.”

But First Nation neighbors of tar sands were quick to dispute these claims:

First Nations have recently intervened in several hearings for the multibillion dollar project applications and have recommended a moratorium on many of these applications until many of our issues were mitigated or science has caught up to the multitude of questions, said George Poitras of the Mikisiew Cree.So I would question CAPP and other oil companies suggesting that we are their “full partners and stakeholders” endorsing their actions. Having productive relationships with the oil and gas sector and endorsing their licences to operate is far from the truth from a First Nation perspective.”

Sounds like Big Oil is having another fact vs fiction problem.  Who to believe?  What oilies say their neighbors say? Or what the neighbors actually say?

While we may never get the oil industry to gives us the facts, you can help us stop tar sands development, the pipelines and refinery expansions that will lock us into 30 more years of tar sands oil instead of transitioning to a clean energy future. Sign our Clean Energy Petition to President  Obama today!