Alberta sees oilsands tours as a way to educate international community (external - login to view)
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EDMONTON - The Alberta government offered a record number of oilsands tours to U.S. politicians, foreign diplomats, international reporters and others in 2011 to help curtail growing criticism.
“Oilsands tours over the past couple of years have sharply picked up,” government spokesman David Sands said Wednesday, pointing to 41 oilsands site visits officially hosted by the provincial government this year and an additional 23 to which the government contributed.
In the face of international criticism, the provincial government has often suggested people come north to see bitumen production for themselves, including tailings ponds and site rehabilitation.
Sands did not have comparable numbers available on visits to the Fort McMurray area in 2010.
But as debate grew louder in connection to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline expansion and European legislators considered a ban on fuel from the oilsands, Sands said Alberta’s invitation seemed to have more takers in 2011. In past years, the province had wrapped up all its tours by September. This year, they continued through December.
“It is our most effective tool for communicating on oilsands issues ... because you bring people up and let them see it for themselves,” he said Wednesday. “You realize the iconic image around the anti-oilsands movement, if you will, is simply a picture of an open-pit mine and how ugly that is. The only way to give people context for that picture they see is to...