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The Petroleum Papers by Geoff Dembicki

The Petroleum Papers by Geoff Dembicki

Author:Geoff Dembicki
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Greystone Books
Published: 2022-09-15T00:00:00+00:00


“ A way to justify exploitation”

TO ANYONE SCHOOLED in the oil and gas industry’s history of spreading climate disinformation, Steve Berman’s Kivalina lawsuit might have read like a “who’s who” guide to the most influential players. The complaint listed contrarians such as Patrick Michaels; polluter associations like the Edison Electric Institute and the Western Fuels Association; and industry-backed denial groups such as the Global Climate Coalition, the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, the Greening Earth Society, and the Cooler Heads Coalition. But the lawyer’s complaint also named an “industry-sponsored front group” that might have been unfamiliar even to seasoned disinformation experts. That was the Fraser Institute, the far-right Canadian think tank based in a city that thought of itself as one of the “greenest” places in the world.

You would hardly guess while walking past the Fraser Institute’s headquarters in Vancouver that you were passing a piece of libertarian history. The think tank is on the fourth floor of a nondescript office building above a car dealership. To the north are the gleaming energy-efficient glass skyscrapers of downtown, built to LEED-certified sustainability standards, and beyond them the snowcapped mountains of Vancouver’s North Shore. Within walking distance of the Fraser Institute is the headquarters of the David Suzuki Foundation, a prominent environmental group named after a Canadian ecological icon. And a short drive west is the building in the neighborhood of Kitsilano where Greenpeace opened its first office in 1971.

The Fraser Institute was founded in 1974, just seven years after Sun Oil’s Great Canadian Oil Sands project began pumping its first bitumen. Like former Sun Oil president J. Howard Pew, the Fraser Institute was heavily influenced by the anti-communist ideology of the economist and conservative activist Friedrich Hayek. The institute’s founder, an industrial chicken factory owner in the U.K. named Antony Fisher, was in fact good friends with Hayek. It was Hayek who apparently convinced Fisher to use profits from his chicken factories to create a free-market think tank in London called the Institute of Economic Affairs. Fisher later lost much of his fortune investing in a turtle farm on the Cayman Islands, a financial blow that he blamed on environmental and animal-rights activists. “Newly under-employed,” as a short biography on the Institute of Economic Affairs website notes, Fisher decided “to embark on a final career as the Johnny Appleseed of the free-market movement.”

Within a few years he’d helped found the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, the Manhattan Institute in New York, and the Fraser Institute in Vancouver—and over the decades these seeds sprouted into a global network of more than 150 far-right think tanks. Fisher dedicated special attention in the early days to the Fraser Institute, spending eighteen months starting in 1975 helping it raise funds, hire staff, and establish its ideological presence in Canada. In that role he worked closely with Patrick Boyle, “a Canadian industrialist who had been disturbed by the accelerating left-wards drift of both federal and provincial politics,” the biography reads. “The Institute’s first publication—Rent Control:



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