Tar Sands Promoters Turn to Oprah Fans for Support

The promoters of the Canadian oil industry are now resorting to appeals to “women’s liberation” to promote tar sands oil. A group calling itself “Ethical Oil” is running ads on the Oprah Winfrey Network asking women to support extracting and exporting oil from the tar sands as a means of protecting women in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, the ad says, “doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission.” “Why are we paying their bills and funding their oppression?” it asks. The Michigan Messenger flagged the ad yesterday, which is posted below:

The website for the organization urges readers to “choose Ethical Oil from Canada, its oil sands and other liberal democracies.”

The tar sands have been in the news of late because the Obama administration is considering whether or not to approve a giant pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta down to refineries in Texas. This has sparked a two-week protest at the White House, with opponents arguing that the detrimental impacts of both tar sands extraction and the higher carbon output of the oil should be taken into consideration. (See our backgrounder on the pipeline for more.)

Yes, Saudi Arabia treats women poorly. But that wasn’t a big consideration a few years ago when President Bush was holding hands with the Saudi prince. Nor does the argument really hold water. Even if we increase output from the tar sands, it’s not going to put a huge dent in Saudi Arabia’s earnings, since Saudi Arabia will still have the largest oil reserves in the world and be the world’s largest exporter. And there’s plenty of concern that tar sands oil, if shipped to US ports, wouldn’t stay in the US anyway, and thus really wouldn’t put a dent in our imports from Saudi Arabia.

If you care about women’s liberation in Saudi Arabia, you should support women’s liberation efforts in Saudi Arabia. Saudi women shouldn’t be used as a ploy to draw support for dirty oil extraction in Canada.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.