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It’s necessary to team up with dictators, oil sands firm says

The CEO of French energy giant Total, a major Alberta oil sands investor, sees no problem making deals with dictators and corrupt regimes, so long as the oil and gas keeps flowing.

"It is nice to be in charge," Christophe De Margerie told Forbes magazine, "to travel and meet these people."

Some of those people, according to a profile appearing in the latest issue, include South Sudanese energy and mining minister Garan Diing Akuong; Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh; Congo-Brazzaville president Denis Sassou Nguesso; and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

De Margerie, unlike many energy executives, publicly believes global oil supplies will peak in only a few years.

He invokes looming energy crises to justify Total’s involvement in some of the world’s most precarious – and repressive – countries.

The energy giant is one of six privately-owned “supermajors” who used to rule global oil markets, but have seen their influence dwindle in recent years as state-owned firms gain prominence. (Click here to read a Tyee story about the trend).

A recent Oil Change International report suggests Total and its supermajor competitors are relying on major Alberta oil sands investments to help maintain stagnating stock values.

De Margerie’s company recently received government approval to build its $7-billion to $9-billion Joclyn open pit mine 70 km north of Fort McMurray.

“This decision continues the practice of allowing oilsands development despite increasing adverse effects,” Ecojustice staff lawyer Melissa Gorrie said Friday in a press release.

Green groups including Greenpeace and the Pembina Institute have “condemned” the project, saying its full ecological impacts have not been considered.

Canada’s new environment minister, Peter Kent, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper both refer to Alberta’s oil sands as “ethical oil.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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