Reposting this since the other thread has been hijacked by an off-topic discussion
How an Alberta PR stunt backfired in the U.S., sparking a decade of oilsands opposition
OTTAWA – Standing two storeys tall, the 180-tonne yellow dump truck parked on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., commanded attention all around Capitol Hill.With tires four metres high, the Caterpillar 777F hauler — similar to the monster machines used in the oilsands — was the main attraction for Alberta’s exhibit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in July 2006.
The behemoth machine symbolized the province’s growing energy bounty: a secure supplier of crude to the United States, boasting some of the planet’s largest oil reserves.
But in a global game of Show and Tell, the move would also backfire.
During that two-week stretch, the truck unexpectedly became a powerful symbol and prime target for a U.S. environmental movement searching for a focal point for its next campaign.
It would set off 10 years of trouble for the oilsands, triggering a new level of environmental scrutiny over developing the resource that is profoundly felt in Canada to this day.
“It was a pivotal moment,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington.
“When you bring a tarsands dump truck to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., it was like bringing the tarsands into our backyard. For the environmental groups in D.C., it was a moment of it sort of being, ‘They’ve brought this fight to us.’ ”
On the other side of the debate, Greg Stringham, a vice-president with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, journeyed to the U.S. capital and saw the giant truck draw crowds.
It soon became clear to him the event caught the attention of U.S. environmental groups as well.
“I honestly believe that it was the trigger point for people to recognize what was going on up here — and see it as an opportunity to pit opposition against us,” says Stringham, who retired from the industry’s main lobby group this year.
“Before that, it was essentially invisible, out of country, and that’s really where the major opposition started.”
The battle waged against the oilsands since then put Alberta and Canada on a path leading to many of the issues vexing the country today over balancing energy development and environmental protection.
Lingering concerns over energy infrastructure have stalled or torpedoed major pipeline projects at home and in the U.S., while Canada is trying to shed its international reputation as an environmental laggard.