Rex Murphy and Big Oil: friends with benefits?

Feb 4, 2014

Source: Press Progress

Rex Murphy has long admired Canada's oil and gas industry from afar, it seemed.

Like the protagonist in William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, Murphy has delivered many romantic soliloquies to the tar sands from his weekly soapbox on The National, the flagship news show of Canada's public broadcaster.

And he's penned many eloquent, passion-stirring opinion pieces denying climate change in the newspapers. Many. Many, many, many.

But has it really been from afar? Have Murphy and Big Oil — to borrow a term from the parlance of millenials — been hooking up, unbeknownst to his viewers and readers?

More than just friends?

If you Google the heck out of Murphy's name, you'll discover that he's Newfoundland's most eligible keynote speaker at oil, gas and mining industry events all across the country. Since 2009, Murphy has been spotted or booked at the podium as a keynote speaker not once, not twice, but at least 25 times.

The latest came on Tuesday, when the Economic Club of Canada presented Murphy at a Toronto luncheon to talk about "Canada, Natural Resources and Our Future."

The event is sponsored by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Forest Products Association of Canada and the Railway Association of Canada.

Big Oil knows what they're getting with Murphy because the National Speakers Bureau, which negotiates Murphy's speaking fees, includes a snippet of his friendly views with an embedded YouTube video in his profile. It's called "Rex Murphy of CBC's Point of View Rips into Environmentalists."

It's impossible to know how much Murphy has collected in fees at these speaking engagements, but fees for high-profile speakers can range in the many thousands of dollars (plus expenses) a pop.

According to post-event reports, Rex usually pleases the audience with a mix of flattering comments about the oil and gas industry and polysyllabic denouncements of envious, green-eyed environmentalists who blame them for their success.

What we do know is organizers and sponsors of these events include major corporations and industry groups with investments in oil and gas projects across Canada.

They include: Enbridge; TransCanada; SunCor; the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers; Halliburton; First Energy Capital; Pipeline Contractors Association of Canada; the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum; Canadian Natural Resources Corp.; Esso; Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips, BP; and Chevron.

Here's some juicy details about Murphy's speaking engagements

  •     "Energy Industry Pride," the title of Murphy's passion-stirring keynote speech at First Energy Capital's 20th Anniversary Gala in September 2013.
  •     Murphy and his wing-man Ezra Levant spoke at the 2011 BC Oil & Gas Conference. According to one report, Murphy used "the slaughter of so many sperm whales in pursuit of oil for fuel described in Moby Dick to put the environmental record of the energy sector into perspective." Oh, and Texaco has done more to save the whales than Greenpeace.
  •     Murphy's speech, a warm-up act for Tea Party rock star Ron Paul, was called "Canada's spoiled children: why they bite the hand of capitalism," part of an event called "Making Alberta safe for Capitalism 2013: What the Energy Industry Needs," was sponsored by the Canadian Oil Sands Corp.
  •     Murphy was a keynote speaking at the 2013 Inuvik Petroleum Show, an event sponsored by major oil players. This also happened to coincide with a live broadcast of CBC's Cross Country Checkup from Inuvik on the topic of northern development. Talk about good timing.
  •     Murphy's "Climate Change 101," a lecture to students at the University of Calgary, was reportedly organized by an anti-climate change group called "Friends of Science." Postmedia News reported that the group received funding from Talisman Energy.
  •     The 2013 Canadian Oilmen's Conference, an event attended by top oil CEOs and executives. Murphy was such a big hit last year that the Canadian Oilmen's Executive Association is bringing him back to Calgary again this year.

Now compare and contrast Murphy's most recent rant on The National with a recent speech to oil executives in Calgary:


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