Calgary realtor seeks to galvanize a pro-oilsands social movement
“Everyone has a right to an opinion, but let’s deal with the facts and put them in context”
This article appears in the February issue of Oilsands Review
By Peter McKenzie-Brown
Cody Battershill found himself driving behind a car with the vanity plate “BITUMEN” one day, and thought that was a great idea. He quickly registered “SAGD” for himself, and proudly drives around Calgary touting the oilsands.
So Battershill is an oilman, right? Wrong. He’s a realtor with a passion for bitumen. A Calgary booster by instinct and a salesman from birth (his Twitter address is @Calgaryism), Battershill is selling “I ♡ Oil Sands” tee-shirts (see photo) at cost. And that’s just the beginning.
Battershill is on a mission to find a way to correct misinformation about the oilsands. To begin, he says Canadians should wake up to the fact that Canada has a resource-based economy, and that this will not change for many decades to come. “The energy sector is by far the most important part of our economy -- not manufacturing as it once was, not agriculture, high tech or tourism. The oil and gas sector drives our economy. If it goes sideways, so does Canada.” More than any other sector, the petroleum sector – especially the oilsands – supports the reality that Canada’s national income is about $35,000 for every man, woman and child.
“And we do it well,” he argues, citing a World Energy Council report that ranks Canada higher in terms of sustainable energy than the U.S. According to that report, Canada leads the group of fossil-fuelled economies – others include Australia, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia – seeking ways to raise their environmental standards.
According to Battershill, these “facts” need to get out, and he believes the internet and social media offer those who are interested a great deal of potential to counter this misinformation. He has no doubt that oil will be the world’s dominant energy source for many decades.
“The facts simply don’t support the extravagant sound bites that we hear from people like [actor] Robert Redford,” who recently released a one-minute anti-oilsands video, which promptly went viral. He then pulls out a device and plays Redford, who proclaims that “Developing the Canadian tar sands is destroying our great northern forest at a terrifying rate. It is producing enough carbon pollution to wreak havoc with our climate for decades to come. And the pipelines that carry this toxic tarsands fuel are a direct threat to our own drinking water supplies…Tarsands oil is exactly the type of dirty energy we can no longer afford. It may be great for oil companies, but it is killing our planet.”
“Unfortunately, that stuff materially gets a lot of airtime,” says Battershill. “Let’s deal with the facts. Burning coal contributes more than 40% of humankind’s greenhouse gas emissions, while the oilsands contribute 0.16%. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but let’s deal with the facts, and put them in context.”
How to do that? Battershill believes pro-oilsands people should use social media to fight attacks on social media. He illustrates with an effort on Twitter. “To read the news” about the Northern Gateway Pipeline, he says, “you would assume that Canada has already had a major pipeline oil spill, and that her pipelines really are not safe. The reality is the opposite. We need context. Countless ships have taken resources in and out of Canadian ports for centuries. They’ve carried coal, they’ve carried oil, they’ve shipped all kinds of resources, and they’ve been doing so safely for a century.”
But a BC group called the Dogwood Initiative began “tweeting around a photo of a sign that said ‘Keep BC’s coast tanker-free.’ They are an anti-Gateway environmental group with an anti-TransMountain component,” he says. “I held them accountable, and I got a lot of buzz on Twitter. That’s the kind of thing we need to be doing.”
Battershill is now centralizing his efforts with a series of developments under the brand name CanadaAction – presently available on your computer or device as a Twitter feed, a place on Facebook and, of particular interest, the www.CanadaAction.ca website. When the site is complete – it went beyond landing page status at the beginning of November – he believes it will become a hub for a network of likeminded people, each of whom can respond to false information about the oilsands quickly. It won’t be just a centre for responding to the negative, he adds. “We can use it to share great news about this industry. We should celebrate what the industry has done, and what it means to Canada.”
Absolutely convinced that Alberta is the best, most dynamic place to live – he cites The Economist’s list of the world’s most liveable cities, which puts Calgary in fifth spot. And what are we to make of the fact that Vancouver and Toronto both nudged out Calgary on the list? “It shows what a great country this is,” of course.
So, what to do? If you are driving down the streets of Calgary and see Battershill’s SAGD license plate, honk twice for oilsands.