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Hey Leo, Big Fan, But I Have A Few Questions… : by Cody Battershill

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Hey Leo, Big Fan, But I Have A Few Questions…

Huffington Post, August 26, 2014 

I’m not going to lie. I am a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. From “The Departed” to Inception to “Django Unchained,” the man has earned his place at the top of the acting pantheon.

And let’s face it; Calgaryism always welcomes every visitor to Calgary, the fifth most livable city in the world for five years in a row, with typical, genuine western hospitality. Mr. DiCaprio recently flew to Fort McMurray to carry out some research on Canada’s oilsands while he prepares to shoot his new picture, “The Revenant,” near Calgary and Vancouver this fall.

So, to Leo, I say: I love your films, I respect your truly remarkable career arc, and I have a lot of respect for your impressive acting abilities. I’m hoping your stay here will be nothing but a positive experience for you. I might add that I know a thing or two about Calgary restaurants and as such I’d love to show you around when you’re in Calgary.

But, as you might have guessed, Leo, first I have some questions for you:

I noticed that you borrowed a $725-million super-yacht from your friend and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Deputy Prime Minister Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan so you and your entourage could watch the recent World Cup in style.

Is using Sheikh Mansour’s super-yacht part of your research into the human rights of Middle Eastern oil regimes? For example, as a public advocate for gay rights, did you learn that homosexuality in the UAE is illegal? Were you able to establish, as any superficial Google search would have shown you, that flogging is used in the UAE as a punishment for criminal offences such as drug use, adultery and prostitution?

Did you read media reports that, in 2008, an Australian woman working in the UAE reported a rape to the authorities and was imprisoned for eight months for having sex outside of marriage?

Closer to home, Leo, are you aware that researchers for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard found there are 13 oil fields in California plus crude oil blends originating in at least six other countries that generate a higher level of upstream greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) than that of our Canadian oilsands blends?

Did you know that same study found the “dirtiest oil in North America” is not produced in Canada, but just outside your own hometown of Los Angeles, where the Placerita oil field generates about twice the level of upstream emissions as Canada’s oilsands? Actually, the title of “world’s dirtiest oil” goes to Brass crude blend from Nigeria, where the uncontrolled release of methane during the oil extraction process generates upstream GHG emissions that is over four times higher than Canadian diluted bitumen.

If, as your latest documentary project “Carbon” suggests, you’re a committed opponent of the use of fossil fuels, then why are you not conducting research in any of these other countries where human rights, environmental stewardship and continual improvement through science and technology are in real question?

Did you take note while you were visiting the Fort McMurray region last week that engineers at Devon’s Jackfish operation have, for more than a decade, been tapping into a deep reservoir of saline, non-potable groundwater for its steaming process? Not only is this water unsuitable for drinking, it’s also unsuitable for livestock or irrigation.

Did you notice that at Cold Lake, Imperial Oil is working on a technology that could remove bitumen from sand without the use of steam at all? Removing heat from the process would dramatically reduce the energetic cost of extraction — as well as the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions.

Leo, a recent industry study compared Alberta to other oil and gas jurisdictions around the world on environmental laws, government processes and stringency (how comprehensive are the environmental laws?), transparency (how easily can the public get information?), and compliance (which country has rules to ensure compliance?)

Alberta was a consistent leader in comparison to all other study locations: North America (USA North Dakota and USA Gulf of Mexico), South America (Brazil), Australia (Queensland), Asia-Pacific (Malaysia), Middle East (Oman), Africa (Ghana) and Europe (United Kingdom and Norway).

That’s right. Alberta was a leader in every category.

And finally, Leo, did you know Canada’s oilsands generate economic benefits on a scale greater than Canada’s fifth largest economy, the province of Saskatchewan? Estimates are that in 2012, oilsands contributed C$91 billion to the Canadian economy, or five per cent of GDP, and to 478,000 jobs, or three per cent of all jobs in Canada. This is no small matter to a country and an economy only one-10th the population of the U.S.

Leo, every person I talk to loves your movies and I’m really happy you’re filming in our area. The motion-picture industry is a key to our economic health, and that in turn helps families and communities prosper.

But as I’ve already said, the oilsands are a crucial ethical and economic part of not just Alberta or the west, but of our country. So while I’m a fan of your acting, I have to say I’m kind of relieved you’re not “king of the world.”

Still, like they say in your hometown, “Let’s do lunch.”

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