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Guilt by Association – Untrusted Research if Funded by Oil Industry?

Guilt by Association – Untrusted Research if Funded by Oil Industry?

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I have to admit that I am a little jealous. I was checking into the research that was completed on the Gulf oil spill at the website: gulfresearchinitiative.org. I was preparing a presentation on how the oil spill in the gulf might impact monitoring of the Alberta oil sands. I presented at the CLRA AGM Alberta meeting (Feb 27-28, 2014) and the slides for the presentation can be found on my slideshare account.

The gulf oil spill as tragic as it was for the loss of life and damage to the environment has a small positive – it has funded many research projects that has substantially increased our knowledge of oil spills, the impacts of oil spills and will very likely change monitoring requirements for oil spills worldwide in the future.  This could be a discussion all on its own but let me get to what I was jealous about.  The spill has caused groups of scientists to come together to monitor the effects of the spill and has made a super team of scientist that are ready to respond to the next event (if and when it ever happens).  Scientists being portrayed as the next group of superheros – The Scientific Avengers.  People trust superheros.  This is all great stuff.  What gets me is that I do not feel the same independent trust and expertise is given to researchers or results from studies in Alberta.  Oil industry funded studies are not seen as independent and trustworthy.   In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Any studies conducted by Alberta institutions if funded by the industry do not seem to be accepted as independent.  I believe this is demonstrated in by the fact that the Canadian federal government has been researching the oil sands with Environment Canada offices and universities outside of Alberta.  It has almost developed an east vs Alberta attitude.  I don’t know why the system is broken but is certainly doesn’t seem to be working if research in Alberta cannot be considered independent and trustworthy.  It seems to be a loss of trust between the public and oil companies and this seems to also extend to trust between the public and consultants for oil companies and even the trust to university researchers in Alberta.  Heck, the mistrust is so bad that even Peter Mansbridge (CBC chief correspondent) cannot speak (and get paid) at a oil industry function.  (As I added that link, I had to chuckle… it was from the Toronto Star – home of the crack smoking mayor.)

It seems like there is going to be a long road ahead to bring trust back to the naysayers regarding the oil and gas industry in Alberta.   I hope to see this change in the near future.

BY Court Sandau Services