It's hard to imagine, but some investors are swayed by what environmentalists say and do. There are people who won't invest in the oilsands because they are either persuaded mining oil and degrading the earth in the process is evil, or who worry the environmental movement can actually hurt the industry and their investment.
It doesn't help that industry seems to acknowledge this. Oil producers are extremely sensitive to criticism from the so-called environmentalists.
That's a pity and a costly attitude for investors. The fact is the environmental movement has very little if any influence on oil economics. In fact, the whole thing is pretty much a sham.
Consider first what "environmentalist" means. Is there an official association that tests for intelligence, knowledge and ethics before bestowing this powerful title on someone? Nope. An environmentalist is someone who decides he is one. Any halfwit ignoramus can be an environmentalist, and while many of them are knowledgeable and bright, as many if not more -- especially the grassroots variety -- are either foolish or deeply dishonest.
Not long ago, James Cameron flew to Alberta at the behest of environmental groups. He came on a jet and pulled up to his news conference in a big car. He toured the oilsands and met politicians (not because he's an expert but because he's a Hollywood star).
Then he said in an interview the United States should stop buying Mideast oil and maybe the lesser of two evils was to have more oil from the sands -- which is inevitable if they stop buying from the Middle East. His point was it should be produced in as clean a manner as possible.
So, effectively he was for the oilsands, but stressed the industry's footprint should be smaller (if that were possible, it would happen, but at any rate that's his perspective).
But that's not the way the story was spun. By the time the environmentalists were done, Cameron was anti-oilsands.
That's not the worst of it, though. It's a matter of common sense that to stop the development of the oilsands, there is only one thing to do: stop people from driving. Picketing an oilsands plant and harassing people who work in the industry with sanctimonious attacks will do nothing to stop the work going on in the North -- work that, incidentally, benefits all Canadians financially.
Even the supposed environmentalists know this. Yet there are no pickets at gas stations in Florida or San Diego. There are no personal attacks on motorists. Not even the Hummer drivers get the treatment.
It's just so much easier to attack big, greedy corporations. It's also more lucrative, and that's the real rub. These publicity stunts are intended to raise money for environmental groups. The media, of course, play along. James Cameron as brought to you by the green movement is a nice and cheap clip for the 6 o'clock news.
Oil is a dirty business -- no argument here. So is environmentalism.
Fabrice Taylor is an award-winning financial journalist and analyst and author of the President's Club Investment Letter. Email him at: