Photograph by: Larry Wong , Edmonton Journalnbridge
CEO Patrick Daniel speaks at an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton on September 23, 2009
EDMONTON - Environmental groups opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline have seized control of the public debate, Enbridge Inc. CEO Patrick Daniel told a radio audience Monday.
"Everything that we say sounds defensive and self-interested, and on the other side, everything they say ... is really taken as gospel — and it isn't," Daniel said on the Rutherford Show.
"I think we're facing a very strong, almost revolutionary movement to try to get off oil worldwide, and it creates a lot of passion and drive in those revolutionaries that are trying to change the environment in which we work.
"They know that going after the end user, going after you and I when we drive our cars, ... won't work. So they're coming after what they consider to be the weak link in the whole process, and that's the infrastructure part of it."
Calgary-based Enbridge wants to build the pipeline to the B.C. coast to export Alberta's oilsands products to booming Asian countries.
The company is mounting its own public relations offensive, taking out newspaper advertisements and pressing its leaders into the public spotlight, highlighting the company's long safety record and decades of "dependable service" to Canadians.
The Enbridge advertisement published last week in B.C., Alberta and Ontario newspapers says the company has transported almost 12 billion barrels of crude oil in the last decade, with a safe delivery record better than 99.999 per cent.
"That's good, but for us, it's not good enough. We will never stop striving for 100 per cent," the ad says. "Decades of experience has shown that pipelines are by far the safest, most efficient method of transporting large volumes of oil."
In 2011 the company spent $400 million to ensure the integrity of its system, the ad says, a figure that will double to $800 million in 2012.
Enbridge's pipeline proposal is also under attack from aboriginal groups for its plan to build the 1,177-kilometre pipeline from Hardisty, Alta. to Kitimat, B.C.
The criticism intensified last month when the U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board released a scathing report that said Enbridge's handling of a massive spill in Michigan was akin to the Keystone Kops for its bumbling.
In the wake of that report, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said her province wouldn't support construction of the pipeline unless it gets its "fair share" of royalties in exchange for taking on the environmental risks associated with the project.
Last week, former Encana CEO Gwyn Morgan criticized government and oilsands producers for failing to come to Enbridge's defence in the public relations battle.
"The pipeline industry's self-inflicted wounds, along with complete failure by the Alberta government and oilsands producers to understand the realpolitik of B.C., have made Premier Clark's stance politically inevitable," Morgan wrote.
Travis Davies, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the organization is engaging Canadians through print advertising, public consultations and performance.
"You can win (the public relations battle) with performance, and finding solutions, which is something they don't do," Davies said. "They're not spending billions on research and development to figure out how to use less water and produce less emissions while increasing the amount of energy for North Americans.
"They are profoundly not interested in finding ways to be more proficient with our oil and gas resources. We understand the onus is on us and it's our role to find those solutions and throw resources at tough challenges. And that's what we do."