Oil Sands Fact Check New Resource for Energy Education

Manufacturers, refiners, energy companies and pipeline operators that think the promise of Canadian crude is getting lost in the criticism of it have formed an initiative to promote the fossil fuel.

"If you don't stand up for yourself or aren't seen as sticking up for yourself, why should (others) stick up for you?" asked Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which is participating in the campaign.

It comes amid scrutiny of the techniques energy companies use to harvest bitumen from Canada's oil sands and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver the crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. The opposition to oil sands development surprised some advocates, just as industry leaders were caught off guard by the recent public backlash against the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract natural gas.

Environmentalists have battled Keystone XL by focusing on concerns about its initial route through the drinking water supplies of the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska. Many say, however, that a larger worry is that more pipelines would expand the marketplace for oil sands crude, which generates more greenhouse gas emissions than other oil.

The new initiative, known as Oil Sands Fact Check, is battling back, with reports touting the benefits of the product and countering opponents' claims.

The campaign is the brainchild of the American Petroleum Institute, which already had been aggressively lobbying the Obama administration to permit the Keystone XL pipeline. But API has a big portfolio, writing industry standards and responding to regulatory proposals. It spent $8.6 million lobbying Congress and policymakers last year alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' analysis of required disclosure forms.

Oil Sands Fact Check, by contrast, is more focused on providing information, research and experts on the oil sands, said Cindy Schild, API's senior manager for downstream operations.

API is funding the month-old initiative, but members include a wide variety of trade and business groups, ranging from the Michigan Manufacturers Association and the Chemistry Council of Missouri to assorted chambers of commerce and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

Similarly, three years ago, the Independent Petroleum Association of America created "Energy In Depth," a public outreach campaign that focuses on countering critics' claims about oil and gas production from shale rock formations and other tight reservoirs nationwide.

"What we're trying to do is really just get the facts out on the benefits of oil sands, how energy is derived from oil sands and to continue to describe the opportunity, and, really, the energy security benefits and job benefits," Schild said.