An oilsands mine in Alberta (Photo: Alberta Energy Regulator).

“The fossil fuel industry … is the biggest obstacle to real action on climate change today,” says the co-director of the Corporate Mapping Project, which this morning published an eye-opening list of the 50 most influential players in the industry and a publicly accessible database with information on more than 200 extractive corporations with assets over $50-million.

The reason is easy to understand, explained Bill Carroll, a sociology professor at the University of Victoria: The industry’s “economic interests are served by continued expansion of oil and gas production.”

Corporate Mapping Project Co-Director Bill Carroll (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Corporate Mapping Project, partly funded by the federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, has spent most of the past four years plumbing the interlocking directorships and other relationships that link entities within the Canadian fossil fuel industry with one another and the wider corporate sector in Canada and abroad.

The online Fossil Fuel Top 50 list published this morning contains in-depth information and profiles of the most influential players in the Canadian fossil fuel industry, which the Corporate Mapping Project defines as emitters, enablers, and legitimators.

Emitters are described by the project as corporations mostly based in Western Canada that extract, process and transport oil, gas and coal. Nineteen of the top 20 emitters listed in a handout with today’s publication are based in Calgary.

Enablers are defined organizations that enable fossil-fuel production, such as big banks and industry-friendly regulators including the National Energy Board and the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Corporate Mapping Project Co-Director Shannon Daub (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Legitimators are designated in the documentation as organizations whose job is to persuade the public and decision makers that business as usual must continue and that a shift away from the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is unnecessary or infeasible. The Corporate Mapping Project names the Calgary-based Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and such market-fundamentalist “think tanks” as the Fraser Institute, C.D. Howe Institute, and Macdonald-Laurier Institute as top legitimators. It also names the publicly financed University of Calgary, which really ought to be embarrassed to find itself on a list that also includes Rebel Media!

A Corporate Mapping Project study published in the fall of 2018 suggested centralized ownership in the fossil-fuel sector partly explained the pressure to complete the Trans Mountain Pipeline, despite the weak business case for the project. Industry decision makers, Dr. Carroll said then, “are really leaning toward maximization of their long-term investments. They want to get the full value out of their major corporate investments.”

The public database unlocked yesterday was created in partnership with, a U.S.-based online corporate watchdog whose name is an ironic tribute to author George Orwell’s creation Big Brother. LittleSis tracks the relationships among corporations, their leaders, politicians, lobbyists, financiers and affiliated institutions.

Each of the Fossil Fuel Top 50 profiles includes network maps based on information from Corporate Mapping Project data.

The data gathered by the project “allows us to see the network of fossil fuel industry influence, track the close connections between this industry and other economic sectors, and uncover the links between powerful corporations, governments and advocacy groups that support them,” said Co-Director Shannon Daub, who is also director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ British Columbia office.

Formally known as Mapping the Power of the Carbon-Extractive Corporate Resource Sector, the Corporate Mapping Project is a six-year research initiative jointly run by the University of Victoria, the B.C. and Saskatchewan branches of the CCPA, and the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute.

It is financed by a $2.5-million partnership grant approved by the SSHRC in 2015 during the final days of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, plus $2 million in matching funds from partner organizations. Alberta Premier and fossil fuel enthusiast Jason Kenney was minister of defence in Mr. Harper’s cabinet at the time.

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    1. Let’s not be pedantic. It’s pretty clear this usage means greenhouse gas emissions resulting from fossil fuel extraction and use. You remind me of the B.C. Forest Service guys I worked with years ago who insisted on calling airplanes that dropped fire retardant on forest fires “fire bombers” on the grounds they didn’t drop water and it was the fire that was getting bombed. The fly in that ointment, of course, was that everybody knew what a “water bomber” was, whether or not the term matched forestry school logic, and almost everybody thought a fire bomber was a guy with a bottle of gasoline in his hand and malice in his heart. Which is a long way to say, I’m good with this usage and I’m not changing it. DJC

      1. Thank you for that comment. It kind of reminds me of people who sit around discussing why someone who’s drowning in front of their eyes asking why it is that the person didn’t take swimming lessons. Christ we’re killing ourselves and people want to discuss god damn insignificant trivialities.

  1. All I see listed here are right-wing organizations. No “progressives” on the list?
    What about nominally left-wing “legitimators”, like the AB NDP, pre-eminently Rachel Notley, Senator Paula Simons, and the Pembina Institute? And all their supporters.

    Former Pembina executive director Ed Whittingham wrote a recent op-ed in the Globe & Mail in support of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. Parroting CAPP’s talking points.
    Current Pembina executive director Simon Dyer writes op-eds in The Edmonton Journal preaching “responsible oilsands development”. An oxymoron, if ever there was one. No scientific basis.
    The Pembina Institute is largely funded by oil & gas companies, and the Big Banks that back them. Financial Post energy columnist Claudia Cattaneo details Ed Whittingham’s role (Pembina Institute) in forging the fatally flawed compromise between industry and ENGOs that sabotaged Canada’s climate plan. Pembina is “the green group that the oilpatch can work with”. (Financial Post, April 21, 2016)

    Lots of “progressives” on the oilsands train.
    Placing their bets on climate disaster – the only scenario in which oilsands expansion makes sense.

  2. Legitimators? The Broadbent syndrome at work – endorsement was never good enough for him – endorsation it had to be. Apparently legitimizers are not as grand as legitimators to this crowd. Who knew? And in a country where pronunciation is mispronounced as pro-noun-ciation by even learned scholars.

    Nice list of organizations that are convinced we’ll never die from climate change – melted glaciers and weather records notwithstanding. Like the motorist who tells you to mind your own business when you yell at them for cutting you off, you share the road with me, so your business is my business, you nitwit. Same here. We’re getting steam-rollered by people who give not one sh!t about our rights, and there’s less of them than us. But we sit on our hands for the most part and only a very few actually squawk in public. The populace is easy meat.

    No surprise about the U of C being on the list of dumb-dumbs — I thought their right wing outlook was well known. Yee-haw! harper in a Stetson – so gen-you-ine.

  3. So, here is also the core of the issue that faces us in rural & “rurban” Alberta: virtually every one of the “Emitters” on this list is a major employer in areas like the Peace Country, either directly or as a prime contractor hiring dozens of sub-trades and small service businesses. Cenovus? Check. CNRL? Check … for instance, my son’s employer does millions of dollars a year of work for CNRL. Enbridge? Check. Encana? Check. Pembina? Check. I could go on and on, but I think you see where I’m going.

    I haven’t yet seen one credible plan for how we will keep those tens of thousands of oil & gas workers working while we transition off fossil fuels; all they’ve seen so far, is—for all intents & purposes—“we don’t want the product you produce, so go away”. I really don’t give a tinker’s damn about the fat cats in the glass towers in Calgary or Houston, or wherever they might be, and we do need to find a way to wean our economy and our society off of fossil fuels if we’re going to save the planet, or at least the low-lying coastal parts of it. But, there needs to be a plan to support those workers while we do it, and so far, I haven’t seen one. Remember, the economic problem with renewable energy is, it’s renewable: once the solar panels or wind farms or whatever are built, there is little or no work needed to keep them generating, so they don’t support large-scale, long-term employment, whereas extractive industry does.

    1. Jerry: there have been plans mooted for gainfully employing oil and gas workers to clean up the huge mess on the land left by the oil and gas sector. Here is one of them:

      We could also hold a proper inquiry into the extent of this mess:

      The Notley NDP had an obligation to present that honest appraisal when they were first elected and then develop a realistic plan to cope with the future including putting in place the Stelmach royalty review findings. They blew that generational opportunity and now Kenney is trying to turn the clock back to the 1970s. It’s over. Time to recycle the disco shoes.

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