Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

U.S. foundations use money to pursue co-optation against Canadian environmental group

U.S. foundations use money to pursue co-optation against Canadian environmental group
Tue 2. Sep 2008
by Dru Oja Jay, Dominion writer

Since major foundations in the US began funding environmental groups in the late 1980s, many grassroots environmental activists have sounded the alarm about the rise of the “Big Greens.” Featuring six-figure salaries and foundation funding, critics say the large environmental NGOs co-opt grassroots movements and exercise control over what issues are brought up.

Recently, some activists are warning of a similar shift in Canada. In 2006, land-use planner Petr Cizek wrote an article for Canadian Dimension, calling attention to millions of dollars from US foundations being given to Canadian environmental groups.

The money comes from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is endowed by the fortune of Joseph Pew and his heirs, as well as more recent donors. Joseph Pew founded Sun Oil, now Sunoco, a US oil company with revenues of $36 billion in 2006. Under Pew, Sun Oil also founded Suncor, a Canadian counterpart to Sun Oil and currently one of the two largest operations in Alberta’s tar sands. Suncor has been independent since 1995.

Sunoco’s U.S. refineries process synthetic crude oil from the tar sands. According to a 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer report, a Sunoco-run Ohio refinery processes 100,000 barrels of synthetic crude per day.

The Pew foundation’s original mission reflects on “the evils of bureaucracy, the paralyzing effects of government controls on the lives and activities of people, and the values of the free market.” Pew money has funded many right-wing Christian groups and conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the John Birch Society, and the American Enterprise Institute.


Dru Oja Jay is the founding editor of the Dominion grassroots newspaper.

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