Monday, January 12, 2009

Why Did Syncrude's Former COO House Burn Down?

The investigation into the recent fire that destroyed the Carter home is not complete. It is a sad situation for the Carter family that they would have to lose their home, possessions and personal effects by fire and possible arson. Then there is anxiety one would feel about personal safety if it was a fire bomb that started the blaze. If there was arson involved it is also sad for the rest of us and should make us wonder about the kind of society we are evolving into.

Some folks are already jumping to conclusions about eco-terrorism and linking that to the Carter fire to his role in oil sands development. Some are even linking this incident to the drowning of the ducks on the Syncrude tailings pond last year. We need a lot more information from investigation that is going on before that leap to any conclusions.

That said, one has to be concerned when such an event happens to a family of a man in the past and current position of Jim Carter. We have seen 3 or 4 unresolved eco-terrorists bombings on pipelines in the Alberta – B.C. border of late. We saw Greenpeace able to breach security and place a banner on a tailings pond berm as a publicity stunt but the ease with which they did this trespass stunt is pretty telling and chilling if you think about it. Oil sands facilities are strategic targets especially as we tout it as the safe, secure and reliable energy source for the Americans. Alberta better be on top of the implications and consequences of that reality and ready to deal with it.

The pressure is mounting on the Alberta energy sector to get serious about the environmental consequences and practices around oil sands development. There are indications that they are feeling this pressure. Some efforts are being made within the energy sector to respond but indications are that they are not yet fully aware and conscious of the breadth and depth of their social license to operate problems. Employing PR techniques and tactics will not do it…in fact it will just make the animosity and distrust worse and deeper.

I have known and admired Jim Carter for about 14 years and assure you we all owe him a debt of gratitude for his skill and wisdom that he brought to bear in the early days of oil sands development. He and his family don’t deserve the anxiety, loss and sorrow the burning of their home has caused. I hope these incidents are shown not to motivated by eco-terrorism. I am not ready to jump to that conclusion without evidence. But I am looking forward to the results of the current investigation and will form my judgment and engage on the issues and implications, if any, accordingly.