Posted by & filed under Ethics.

Newly-appointed Environment Minister Peter Kent is promoting a position advanced by Calgary author Ezra Levant. That position holds that Canada’s oil sands oil is “ethically superior” to oil sold by countries with repressive regimes and are known to support terrorism. The argument is a “better than” response to critics that claim oil sands oil production leads to higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions than more traditional methods of production. While Minister Kent is quick to reject that argument, even if it were true, he claims democratic countries have an obligation to consider how their money will be used post-sale. This position is very similar to the “fair trade” argument in other markets.


  1. When Environmental Minister Peter Kent labels oil sands oil as “ethical oil,” what is he attempting do (vis-à-vis other forms of oil around the world)?
  2. What alternative view of ethics can be associated with “ethical oil?”
  3. The comparison of Canadian oil with oil purchases from other countries raises this to a cultural level. Where would you place Canada’s argument for “ethical oil” on the cultural relativism-universalism continuum?
  4. What makes the decision whether or not to purchase Canadian oil sands oil an ethical dilemma for U.S. President Barack Obama?

SOURCE: S. Chase, “Peter Kent’s Green Agenda: Clean Up Oil Sands’ Dirty Reputation,” The Globe and Mail (Retrievable online at

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