FEATURED: Canadian Oil Sands
Anti-Alberta Energy Campaign

Vivian Krause Biography

Vivian Krause: Profession

Krause described herself as “Researcher and Writer” on Fair Questions, a personal blog she set up in 2009.

Who funds Vivian Krause?

To date, Krause has declared at least $200,000 from the oil and gas industry. This exceeds 90 per cent of her total income in 2012-2014.1 She revealed on her Twitter account that she had received speaking fees from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association. 

Vivian Krause: Previous employment

Corporate Development Manager for Nutreco Agriculture – Dissolving concerns of ecological groups campaigning against the ecological dangers of salmon farming.

Vivian Krause: Education

B.Sc. in Nutrition (McGill University), M.Sc. in Nutrition (Université de Montréal.)

Vivian Krause: Debunked claims 

Canadian groups opposing the expansion of the oil sands were spearheaded by American funders seeking to limit Canadian oil exports overseas / landlock Canadian crude oil and guarantee a cheap flow of oil to the US. 

Fact-checking overturns claims

Journalists who interviewed the Canadian groups voicing concerns about the oil sands revealed that 90 per cent of their funding came from Canadian foundations and individual Canadian donors. US funders contributed just 8-10 per cent of the annual budgets of the groups involved.2 Opposition to oil sands was primarily driven by Canadian activists and indigenous leaders. If the main reason behind the groups opposed to oil sands expansion was to guarantee a cheap flow of oil to the US, as Krause claimed, it makes no sense why these same groups spoke out vehemently about the Keystone XL pipeline, whose primary purpose would be to export oil sands crude to the United States. 

Vivian Krause championed by

Right-leaning media including Rebel News; oil and gas industry group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP); Alberta Premier Jason Kenney who launched a now $3.5 million public inquiry into foreign funding of charitable organizations opposing the Alberta oil sands. The inquiry commissioner has said he doesn’t have time to meet the public inquiry’s initial objective of checking if the organizations were telling the truth about Alberta’s oil sands. 

Foreign-funding in the oil sands: Although Alberta Premier Jason Kenney likes to suggest the oil sands are a made in Canada energy solution, the big five oil sands producers – Suncor, CNRL, Imperial Oil, and soon-to-be merged Cenovus and Husky Energy – are majority foreign-owned, controlling 60 per cent of bitumen production. While 10 of the 14 publicly traded oil sands companies have Canadian headquarters, only two – Athabasca Oil Corporation and Pengrowth Energy – are majority-owned by Canadians. More than 52 per cent of oil sands production is owned by American shareholders.3

Overview: Vivian Krause positions herself as an independent Canadian researcher and writer, though she has admitted to accepting at least $200,000 from the energy industry. Krause gained attention largely through industry speaking engagements and interviews with right-wing media outlets, such as Rebel News, for her now-debunked theories over the foreign funding of groups speaking out against the expansion of Canada’s oil sands.4 Krause claimed that the anti-oil sands campaign (also called the Tar Sands campaign) was furtively driven by several large American funding foundations in order to limit Canadian oil exports overseas and guarantee the continued cheap inflow of oil south to the US.5 Krause accused the Canadian organizations speaking out about the oil sands of acting as pawns in the American funding giants’ game.6 From the beginning, questions arose about Krause’s controversial theories – in terms of her questionable data, research process and her convenient ignoring of US-owned assets in Alberta’s oil sands. 

Vivian Krause: Background

Vivian Krause was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. She obtained a B.Sc. in Nutrition from McGill University in Québec, before completing an M.Sc. in Nutrition at the Université de Montréal. Later, Krause worked on children’s nutrition programs for UNICEF in Guatemala and Indonesia (1990-2000).7 In 2002, Krause began work as a corporate development manager for Nutreco Aquaculture, the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon. The majority of her work focused on dissolving the concerns of conservation groups who warned of the potential ecological dangers of farmed salmon.8

Krause’s vendetta against groups working to raise awareness about pollution from the oil sands was brought about by her defence of the farmed salmon industry.9 In an effort to uncover details about the conservation groups’ monetary support, Krause learned about a past multi-million dollar donation from the American-based Moore Foundation.10 Based on this discovery, Krause concocted a theory to suggest Canadian conservation groups were being funded by US foundations in order to sabotage Canada’s farmed salmon industry. Looking at the funding records of several environmental charities, Krause extended similar accusations towards those groups speaking out about the risks of pollution from Alberta’s oil sands.11  

Conspiracy theory of tar sands campaign

Vivian Krause’s conspiracy theory centred around her belief that several American funders (such as the Rockefeller Brothers) were spearheading the Canadian campaign opposing the expansion of the oil sands in an act of deliberate economic sabotage. She implied that through their foreign donations, the American funders would utilize Canadian environmental charities to inhibit the construction of pipelines transporting Alberta’s bitumen oil to the coast. This would then land-lock Canadian oil, leaving no choice but to increase inflow to the United States.12

Foreign funded conspiracy collapse

While Krause’s theories were embraced by some oil executives, the oil sands industry association as well as Alberta premier Jason Kenney in his election campaign in order to appeal to oil sands workers, Krause’s theories crumbled under scrutiny.13 

Immediately after Krause first published her theory on her personal blog, Fair Questions in 2012, concerns arose regarding the validity of her argument. Krause is not formally trained as a journalist. She acquired her findings through an internet search, but neglected to follow the journalistic practice of checking her research by consulting directly with those involved.14 

Investigative journalists who spoke with the Canadian groups voicing concerns about the oil sands revealed that, contrary to Krause’s allegations, over 90 per cent of their funding came from Canadian foundations and individual donations. US philanthropic funding typically contributed just 8-10 per cent of the annual budgets of the charities involved.15 Further investigations found that the campaign to oppose the oil sands (the Tar Sands Campaign) was initiated in Canada by a small group of Canadian activists and Indigenous leaders, as opposed to being launched by US foundations.16 The work to oppose the oil sands was Canadian led and overwhelmingly, Canadian-funded despite Krause’s efforts to suggest a foreign-funded anti-oil conspiracy. 

In addition to the questionable evidence Krause presented about her theory, she ignored any market forces impacting the export of Canadian bitumen. National newspaper and award-winning reporter Andrew Nikiforuk focuses on the market forces to debunk the myth that American oil companies are financing anti-pipeline groups so that Albertan oil will keep going south and not reach Chinese markets where it can get higher prices. Nikiforuk writes: 

Over decades the US has built more than half of the world’s heavy oil refining capacity in the Midwest and Gulf Coast… Asia owns but 23 per cent of global capacity to refine heavy oil. It’s not willing to pay more for bitumen than the US, because it costs more to ship it there. 

Alberta’s low royalty policy encouraged the industry to strip and ship diluted bitumen instead of adding value by building more upgrading facilities and complex refineries. The province’s dependence on US markets and pipelines is a direct product of what was billed in 2006 as Alberta’s “give-it-away” strategy.

As Mexican and Venezuelan supplies of heavy crude decline, the demand for Canadian bitumen will actually increase in US refinery markets. Contrary to Alberta’s propaganda claims, not all heavy oil is discounted and Canada often gets good value for its junk crude in US markets. Even last year, when discounts really hit hard, the price of Canadian heavy oil in Houston often traded at a premium to West Texas Intermediate. 

According to a prominent US research firm, Canadian heavy oil imports “will be increasingly in demand in the United States… however, the pace of Canadian heavy oil growth is set to slow owing to the declining level of oil sands projects.”

China, the world’s largest oil importer, gets lots of heavy and high-carbon oil from Russia and Venezuela. Unless replaced with cleaner forms of energy, “imports of contaminating oil” will make it impossible for China to achieve its environmental goals, according to World Energy Magazine. China has recently pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060, which means it may become less attractive to use carbon-intensive oil sands fuels.

US capital in the oil sands 

While Krause painted a conspiracy of foreign funding leading a campaign against Alberta’s oil sands, it’s striking the extent to which she ignores foreign investment in the Alberta oil patch and the revenue flowing out to foreign shareholders.  

The big five oil sands producers – Suncor, CNRL, Imperial Oil, and soon-to-be merged Cenovus and Husky Energy – are majority foreign-owned, controlling 60 per cent of bitumen production. As a result, the majority of oil sands revenues benefit foreign investors. 

While 10 of the 14 publicly traded oil sands companies have Canadian headquarters, only two – Athabasca Oil Corporation and Pengrowth Energy – are majority-owned by Canadians. More than 52 per cent of “oil sands production” is owned by American shareholders. 

In addition to foreign ownership of oil sands companies, Krause ignores how pro-oil interests from the US are bringing money into the public relations sector in Canada. For example, Resource Works, a British Columbia group created to build support for petroleum projects and its executive director has been funded by Devon Energy, an Oklahoma company that until recently was connected with the oil sands. Chicago-based public relations firm Edelman was hired to undermine opponents of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline and manufacture fake grassroots groups, or astroturf groups, that would give the public the fake impression of genuine community support for the pipeline project.17 American interests are trying to influence Alberta’s oil patch – just not in the way Krause suggests. 

In summary, Krause’s theories were found to have many shortfalls, which derailed her argument. Despite renewed criticisms in line with Krause’s theories, many Canadians continue to voice opposition to the expansion of the Alberta oil sands due to oil sands-linked pollution of the land, air, water and climate.18

Oil sands industry behind closed doors

Like many sectors, Canada’s oil sands companies seek to influence Canadian policy. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil sands industry association group CAPP lobbied senior government officials and some Opposition MPs, 33 times including 30 times after the World Health Organization declared that there was a global COVID-19 pandemic. What’s especially striking is how the industry wants to evade public disclosure about this work. During the early days of the pandemic, CAPP’s requests included delaying requirements to report on lobbying, delaying plans for a law that would protect indigenous rights and delaying Canada’s plans to fight climate change. During a podcast hosted by the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said that “now is a great time to be building a pipeline” because COVID-19 restrictions prevent protesters from gathering. 

Sources

  1. Krause, V. (2013) 12 March. Available at https://twitter.com/fairquestions/status/311484446048149505 (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  2. Garossino, S. (2013) The World According to Krause [Online] Huffington Post [Accessed Aug 2020].
  3. The Georgia Straight. (2020). Report shows 70 percent of Canadian oilsands production is owned by foreign companies and shareholders. [online] Available at: https://www.straight.com/finance/report-shows-70-percent-of-canadian-oilsands-production-is-owned-by-foreign-companies-and#:~:text=More%20than%2052%20percent%20of [Accessed 7 Jan. 2021].
  4. The Narwharl (2020) Vivian Krause [Online] The Narwhal [Accessed Aug 2020].
  5. Desmog (2020) Vivian Krause [Online] Desmog Blog [Accessed Aug 2020].
  6. Gilchrist, E. and Linnitt, C. (2014) Convenient Conspiracy: How Vivian Krause Became the Poster Child for Canada’s Anti-Environment Crusade [Online] The Narwhal [Accessed Aug 2020].
  7. The Narwharl (2020) Vivian Krause [Online] The Narwhal [Accessed Aug 2020].
  8. The Narwharl (2020) Vivian Krause [Online] The Narwhal [Accessed Aug 2020].
  9. Gilchrist, E. and Linnitt, C. (2014) Convenient Conspiracy: How Vivian Krause Became the Poster Child for Canada’s Anti-Environment Crusade [Online] The Narwhal [Accessed Aug 2020].
  10. The Narwharl (2020) Vivian Krause [Online] The Narwhal [Accessed Aug 2020].
  11. Gilchrist, E. and Linnitt, C. (2014) Convenient Conspiracy: How Vivian Krause Became the Poster Child for Canada’s Anti-Environment Crusade [Online] The Narwhal [Accessed Aug 2020].
  12. Hislop, M. (2019) Debunked: Vivian Krause’s Tar Sands Campaign conspiracy narrative [Online] EnergiMedia [Accessed Aug 2020].
  13. Garossino, S. (2019) A data-based dismantling of Jason Kenney foreign-funding conspiracy theory [Online] Canada’s National Observer [Accessed Aug 2020].
  14. Hislop, M. (2019) Debunked: Vivian Krause’s Tar Sands Campaign conspiracy narrative [Online] EnergiMedia [Accessed Aug 2020].
  15. Garossino, S. (2013) The World According to Krause [Online] Huffington Post [Accessed Aug 2020].
  16. Hislop, M. (2019) Debunked: Vivian Krause’s Tar Sands Campaign conspiracy narrative [Online] EnergiMedia [Accessed Aug 2020].
  17. Narwhal, T. (n.d.). Edelman and TransCanada Part Ways After Leaked Documents Expose Aggressive PR Attack on Energy East Pipeline Opponents. [online] The Narwhal. Available at: https://thenarwhal.ca/edelman-and-transcanada-part-ways-after-leaked-documents-expose-aggressive-pr-attack-energy-east-pipeline-opponents/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2021].
  18. Cattaneo, C. (2017) ‘We don’t give a damn’: Anti-oil activists step up opposition as honeymoon with Trudeau ends. [Online] Financial Post [Accessed Aug 2020].
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