Canadian politician slates Vettel’s ‘hypocrisy’ over tar sands criticism

2022 Canadian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel’s criticism of Canada’s exploitation of the Alberta tar sands has drawn a fierce response from the region’s minister of energy.

The Aston Martin driver is sporting a new helmet this weekend bearing the slogans “Stop mining tar sands” and “Canada’s climate crime.”

The vast tar sands of Alberta, west of Quebec where Vettel is participating in this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, are mined for their oil reserves. The extraction process has contaminated the surrounding environment and endangered wildlife, as well as displaced the area’s indigenous communities.

Alberta’s minister for energy Sonya Savage, a member of the United Conservative Party of Alberta and supporter of oil pipeline construction, slated Vettel’s stance in a series of posts on social media.

“I have seen a lot of hypocrisy over the years, but this one takes the cake,” Savage wrote, pointing out Saudi Aramco is a title sponsor of Vettel’s Aston Martin team.

“A race car driver sponsored by Aston Martin, with financing from Saudi Aramco, complaining about the oil sands.

“Saudi Aramco has the largest daily oil production of all companies in the world. It is reputed to be the single largest contributor to global carbon emissions, of any company, since 1965.

“Rather than demonising the oil sands, which is on a path to net-zero, people could look to lowering their own personal carbon footprint. Perhaps a pedal-car for Formula 1?”

Formula 1 has announced a plan to become a net-zero emitter of carbon by 2030. Vettel defended his description of Canada’s exploitation of the tar sands as a “crime” during Friday’s press conference at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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“I find this – fascinating might be the wrong word – but there’s a lot going on. We live in a time and age where we are so much aware of a lot of things.

Feature: Vettel’s unexpected route from hybrid critic to low-tech eco activist
“I think what happens in Alberta is a crime because you chop down a lot of trees and you basically destroy the place just to extract oil and the manner of doing it with the tar sands mining, oil sands mining is horrible for nature.

“Obviously Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have gone up since they started doing it. The site has only been, as far as I read, found like 20 years ago.

“The prime minister said that no other country would find these resources and not pick them up; I think in principle every country and every person has their opinions and their stance. My personal opinion is I disagree.”

Vettel said it’s important to draw people’s attention to the problems of dependence on fossil fuels.

“There’s so much science around the topic that fossil fuels are going to end. Living in a time that we do now these things shouldn’t be allowed anymore and they shouldn’t happen.

“So it’s just in principle to raise awareness of what’s going on in the first place. I think a lot of people in Canada, a lot of people around the world don’t know about it.”

“It’s just to think about future generations and the world we leave in their hands once they’re old enough to carry on to take care of it,” he added. “I think it’s only fair to to look after it and not destroy it.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Will Wood
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57 comments on “Canadian politician slates Vettel’s ‘hypocrisy’ over tar sands criticism”

  1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    18th June 2022, 12:48

    Sonya Savage’s argument is essentially ‘but THOSE people are doing it worse!’ and that Vettel’s a hypocrite for participating in an arguably environmentally unsafe sport? I assure you that Vettel’s carbon footprint is nothing compared to what Aramco or Canada are doing so bringing it up is at best a false equivalence and at worst a cynical attempt at deflecting blame.

    Vettel & F1 should bring environmental concerns to the world stage and if it makes those uncomfortable it’s because it should. Just because they participate in society doesn’t mean they have the active power to change a part of it, but you Sonya Savage, you do. And you choose not to. That’s kinda the point he’s making.

    1. Canada has the potental to build many ofthere own type of nuclear plants.
      yet they choose tarsands before that the worst possible way to gain oil.

      And want to shutdown a large nuclear station in 2025.

      1. Nuclear Power generates electricity, Oil is used for fuel, very different markets. Either way Nuclear is the most expensive form of Electrical power generation, while clean when running they have numerous long term environmental problems.

      2. Canada already invest a lot of small and advanced nuclear reactors as well as fusion energy. We Canadians do have a good foundation when it comes to nuclear energy. But, in order to keep the society operates, energy is only one of the vital elements. Medical PPE can only come from petroleum. Carbon fiber won’t be possible if petroleum isn’t existed. There are also lots of chemical products vital to us must come from oil, at least for the next decades.

  2. What NWO/WEF master is pulling Vettels strings. …?

    1. oh dear

    2. Neil (@neilosjames)
      18th June 2022, 15:18

      Well, I did see a suspicious-looking lizardman scuttle out of the back of the Aston Martin garage at Silverstone last year…

      1. I don’t think Lawrence would appreciate that being out in the open..

  3. Apart from climate change, I would think that mining the Canadian Oilsands has a different impact on the local environment compared to mining Arabian desert oil.

    1. Frank Smith
      18th June 2022, 18:02

      Why think? Why not investigate prior to commenting. Mining was the traditional method for oil sands production, no different than any other commodity mining operation (rare earths for batteries, copper, nickel, gold, etc.) the human species use. The Oil Sands operations in northern Canada are world class, have similar footprints to any conventional energy/oil play on the planet. Their goal is to be ‘net zero’ by 2050. No other energy operation has that goal.
      More importantly, mining is a very low percentage of how energy is extracted from the oil sands. Stripping boreal forests, wetlands, etc., to mine then replace once the sub surface is cleaned up, is replaced with in-situ operations.
      Canada’s oil sands are a treasured resource for the 380 million people that utilize its energy in North America. One only has to ask Europe today what happens not to have energy security.
      The human species will continue to use oil and natural gas for many decades to come. Canada is the preferred supplier because of its ethically, environmentally produced.

      1. Unfortunately, this is not true. Despite a stated aim to be net carbon zero (which is not possible for a carbon extraction process unless it was to embark on staggering amounts of carbon capture) the oil sands are the worst polluting oil extraction site in the world:

        1. @hazelsouthwell +1

          Frank Smith -1

          1. Excellent reposte Hazel.
            Either Sonya Savage and Frank Smith are spouting total rubbish about the tar sand mining being on a path to net zero, or they’re following Vettel’s advice to stop mining them…

            And Adam’s point of “Just because they participate in society doesn’t mean they have the active power to change a part of it, but you Sonya Savage, you do.” That absolutely nails it on the head.

            Incidentally here is a great story about a campaign to make out that The Hobbit’s Mordor scenes were filmed in the Alberta tar sands, culminating in Peter Jackson stating that they were too flattering to Mordor:


  4. Sonya is the alberta provincial minister of energy not a member of the Canadian government.

    She makes good points. Will vettels principles bring him to quit a team sponsored by a huge carbon emitter ? Didn’t hear this kind of criticism when he was at the Saudi race.

    1. Thanks I’ve revised the article to make that clear.

    2. Bruno Verrari
      18th June 2022, 14:49

      All teams are sponsored by one, or seversl huge carbon emitter(s)..!

  5. Weird & somewhat funny complaining.

  6. MAJOR CORRECTION here: she is a minister in the provincial government of Alberta and her party would gladly be led by Trump if only they could. She is trying to score easy political points by belittling criticism of the tar sands, but her claim of hypocrisy is total BS. The extraction process used in tar sands is unbelievably toxic for basically all life in the surrounding areas and have been decried as such for decades, predictably to no effect, of course.

  7. She does have a point. To be honest I don’t like activisms of any sort getting into F1. I just want to enjoy a sport. F1’s contribution to the global carbon footprint is negligible. The real problem nobody talks about is consumerism, planned obsolescence, disposables, non-repairables, non-recyclables, etc. That’s what drives demand for energy and resources. Once I went to a shoe shop to buy another pair of a particular shoe model that I liked. I learned that it had been discontinued, and after my protest, the lady said very naturally, something like “but if we don’t do that we don’t sell”, despite me being there to buy the “old” model. That’s the whole problem. Just making new for the sake of making new. Which is not better, just different. Fashion is terrible for the environment. I just need a pair of jeans, a shirt, underwear and good shoes, and I need them to last. I’d wear the exact same thing like Homer Simpson if the market allowed me to. No need to change anything. But our entire economy runs on this premise that people must keep buying constantly and being dependent, in order to keep it going. There’s fashion with clothes, with mobile phones, computers, consoles, cars, everything. If you propose to change that mentality, everyone will treat you as if you had committed heresy towards the holy economy. Things will only really change, when business really, seriously, starts thinking about people’s interest, instead of trying to brainwash us into believing that their business interest are our interest.

    1. ” The real problem nobody talks about is consumerism, planned obsolescence, disposables, non-repairables, non-recyclables, etc. ”

      You do realise there’s major activism against these too around the world, yeah? Just because they weren’t talked about in this particular article (since they’re unrelated to the topic being discussed here) doesn’t mean nobody talks about them…

    2. While the fashion industry does have a large environmental impact, they are catering to a need that they stimulate but did not create. For the purposes of changing this, it’s certainly easier to try to influence a few companies (like H&M, Zara, Boohoo or the worst of the lot Shein) rather than attempt to alter the views of their millions of customers, but the people who have a closet filled with dozens upon dozens of things worn maybe two or three times do also have a large role in perpetuating this industry.

  8. Tar sands are a crime but Vettel is indeed a hypocrite.

    1. I would be inclined to disagree. Why can’t he advocate for something like this whilst also being involved in a motorsport? A motorsport which has aided the general motoring world with the development of batteries, fuel consumption and energy recovery systems?

      I personally drive a petrol car, yet I advocate for renewable energy. Why? Because Fossil fuels are a finite resource and renewables are definitely the future. Fossil fuels are pollutants and things like tar mining/fracking etc are devastating to the environment.
      Right now I cannot afford an alternative method of transport, but eventually electric cars (or whatever ends up winning), will be the main stay, and I will definitely be driving a renewable car in the future.

  9. playstation361
    18th June 2022, 14:11

    Vettel should suppport the opposition party for the next election.

    1. Hopefully everyone will after the dictatorship WEF puppets the current party have become!

      1. playstation361
        18th June 2022, 14:36

        Seasonal. These politics.

  10. As the French economist Frédéric Bastiat once quipped; ‘The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.’

    Vettel in his sponsor-filled outfits makes an almost uniquely bad defender of an environmentally conscious agenda. There are of course a lot of issues with the type of resource extraction taking place in Canada, but Vettel’s position in this makes him an easy target for politicians like Sonya Savage, allowing them to dodge the issues being raised.

    1. Nicely put

    2. If we could vote for COTD, I’d vote twice for you. :)

    3. Very well said, showing an appreciation of the context of what is happening.

      Personally I feel the likes of Vettel and Hamilton within F1 but many other people in the entertainment/sport industry are something of a corporate dream. Vettel’s disingenuous attitude regarding his own position in life (and the sponsors that help maintain it) , and his high standing in the public consciousness combine to create something new and easily malleable: the person who accepts protest as a part of corporate life.

      To be clear, I feel – perhaps not entirely rationally – Vettel is positing himself as something of an inside agent doing his best to change some things he doesn’t agree with, using his fame, influence or public image, but without ever saying or doing anything that truly risks anything, or that may have consequences for himself beyond a mild talking to regarding his tone.

      To the outside world one could see this type of situation setting a dangerous precedent for people to refer to, and potentially making this kind of semi-passive lip service protest the norm and just an accepted thing – and in doing this devaluing protest itself as a tool.

    4. Oh, so they have to shut up, only the pures can speak

  11. Vettel be like: “Blood oil are better than dirty oil”

  12. All you need to know about oil extraction in that region can be summarized by this:
    “The vast tar sands of Alberta, west of Quebec where Vettel is participating in this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, are mined for their oil reserves. The extraction process has contaminated the surrounding environment and endangered wildlife, as well as displaced the area’s indigenous communities.”

    Vettel may be a hypocrite but what his message is right on point.

    1. COTD for me

    2. I hadn’t heard of this issue before now. It might well have remained an issue solely for local consumption had it not been for Vettel and people him acting to promote discussion. I for one thank him for shaking the cage.

  13. Thanks, Seb for raising awareness for this topic!
    I never heard of such a kind of oil extraction before and certainly wasn’t aware of how bad it’s not only for nature, but the indigenous population as well.
    Quite frankly, I think it’s disgusting what’s going on there (air & water pollution, destroying hunting grounds of indigenous people, endangering wildlife) and I can’t believe that international communities haven’t imposed any kind of sanctions on Canada, especially since they’ve been extracting oil from tar sands since the mid 90s(!).
    All this talk about environmental sustainability isn’t leading anywhere, if we have some people just not giving a damn about it and making matters 10 times worse than what they already are.
    As much as Sonya Savage’s point is understandable, given the extracted oil is securing the government and the companies involved an income, it’s morally very wrong.
    Seb’s definitely not a hypocrite, he just wants to raise awareness for topics that are important to him. He’s not responsible for Aramco being his team’s title sponsor nor that his sport is causing environmental pollution. He’s only in F1, because he wants to race the fastest cars on the planet. There’s nothing more to it.
    Criticizing Seb for his activism is like going to a butcher or car dealer and complaining about how their industries are causing harm to nature/wildlife and various people on our planet. They aren’t the ones responsible for our societies’ major problems.

  14. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    18th June 2022, 15:26

    Vettel turning into an even worse version of Hamilton with this ‘I’m against topic X and did my research through Facebook and wikipedia!’

    Still not as bad as Hamiltons protection of a convicted felon, but it’s close…

  15. Simon Backley
    18th June 2022, 15:29

    “The vast tar sands of Alberta, west of Quebec where Vettel is participating in this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix,” should probably read “The vast tar sands of Alberta, 2,700km west of Quebec, where Vettel is participating in this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix,” At this point it sounds like it’s right next door to Quebec.

  16. I found the beginning of your comment uncalled for.
    Vettel is right to raise awareness and he should have to quit to do so, driving in F1 is what allows him to do it in the first place. The opinion of non- famous people don’t have the same effect. Surely you must see that?

    It’s not just about fossil fuels or not, tar sands are about the worst way to extract fuel from the earth. From an environmental point of view, it’s better to use fuel from traditional oil wells.

    1. I meant shouldn’t instead of should. Sorry for the typo.

  17. Chris Horton
    18th June 2022, 16:22


    Easy to criticise anyone who states what they believe in. Also, Vettel has nothing to do with his team’s sponsorship. We all use fossil fuels in one form or another, so we ‘sponsor’ their production regardless of our stance personally.

    The system makes it almost impossible for us to do otherwise, and that’s what needs to change

    Go Seb. I’m with you 100%.

  18. The trouble is we’re all hypocrites to some extent and Vettel admits he is one too. We’re all passengers in the world that the decision makers want us to live in. Vettel is merely making us aware of these issues, in the hope that a resistance grows to the way things are done and can result in future change.

  19. It takes intelligence to make distinctions. We are ALL complicit when we burn fossil fuels in a car. But some fossil fuels – like Canada’s (or anyone’s) tar sands – release far more greenhouse gases than others – like Saudi Arabia’s (or anyone’s) high grade petroleum. I have no problem with someone highlighting that distinction.

  20. I suspect this kind of discussion will only become more frequent in the coming years. But I’m glad Vettel has spoken up for what he believes in, otherwise I never would have heard of tar sands mining at all! He’ll face plenty of low-effort rebuttals in response, but his effort is better than doing nothing. I say that as a compliment because doing nothing is what 99% of us already do.

  21. Yes, he’s a hypocrite. He said so himself in the BBC discussion show some weeks ago. And we all are hypocrites for that matter.
    But it’s no argument to defend a very a toxic industry. Pure whataboutism.

    Keep going, Seb!

    1. You know it! The “hypocrite” thing is such a boring, lazy argument. We’re all hypocrites by existing. People who pedal that line.. they sure showed you, Seb! Any danger of some original thoughts? And perhaps help create some systems where there is far, far less hypocrisy? That’s the problem.

  22. Hard to believe he used to be my favorite driver. I wish he’d just retire so he can become a full-time, leftist, environut simp rather than masquerading as an F1 driver. He’s far surpassed Hamilton on the annoyance factor.

  23. All these counter arguments of “but you’re is hypocrite” is pointless because everyone can be a hypocrite. If Vettel left, someone else would take his place. The carbon footprint would probably rise since Vettel cycles, takes the train or drives. It’s not as if him leaving will improve anything.

    And she’s a politician, does she not travel for work? I work from home so my carbon footprint is probably a fraction of hers. So I guess anyone who talks about the environment is a hypocrite. Truck drivers, Uber drivers, pilots, politicians; it’s all just silly.

  24. “Next Vettel will be dating Greta and they can read one sided inaccurate environmental booklets on their dates!”

    What a disgrace of a comment

  25. Thats Mr Ecclestone to the likes of you and i, only his friends call him lizard man

  26. Wow that’s the classic retort. Point to others, throw in a net-zero and blame everyone for their ‘carbon footprint’.

    I like this video about ‘carbon footprints’ though:

  27. While I understand and appreciate that the Tar Sands are a source of dirty oil, it is not as simply as just ‘stopping it’ as Vettel would have us do. Now I haven’t heard him speak on this at all, but I’m wondering if he has suggestions and answers as to a few questions.

    What would he do about the economic impact to Canada if the Tar Sands were shut down tomorrow? What would he do when suddenly Canada and the US particularly, but other countries who get our oil exported to them, would do when they now have to depend heavily on foreign oil being shipped into their country? What impact would that have on the globe?

    Those are just a few key questions amongst many, and I would like to think that Seb isn’t just up on his podium saying ‘Stop’ but also has a plan as to what the economic and environmental consequences would be in Canada and around the globe if he got his wish. After all we (as a globe) do still need fossil fuels and the ore that we mine here in Canada in order to make solar panels and wind turbines and EV’s and batteries etc etc. Just curious if Seb has a plan beyond ‘STOP.’

    1. Its called a just transition, When the call to stop using fossil fuels is made most rational people understand that stopping is a process not an immediate event, Even an F1 car cannot “stop” the instant the brake pedal is hit.
      Whenever there has been major technological changes in society there have been winners and loosers. Did anyone protest when the video stores closed once streaming services took over? Was there extensive government retraining and reinvestment to help the video rental industry or were the just left to close?
      If you work in the fossil fuel industry now you can’t claim ignorance to the change that is coming then plead victim when you get left behind, we have known about the impact of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for over 100 years with proof the things were changing for over 50 years and comprehensive predictions on the future for 40 years, which is all the more noble that “a just transition” is even being considered especially considering that call has been by environmentalists so those loosing jobs are looked after. I myself am retraining at from a fossil fuel dependent industry to use my skills in renewables and EVs to be part of this transition. Its not for Vettel to come up with a plan but the entirety of humanity.

      1. @theoddkiwi Fair comment.

  28. charles Harper
    19th June 2022, 6:45

    So somebody who has an immense carbon footprint…an F1 car burns 75 litres per 100 km…thinks he has a moral right to lecture the oilsands.
    Sponsored by the Saudis…who have one of the worst human rights records on earth…and Aramco…an oil company who is a direct competitor.
    I suggest this fool go back home to Germany…the country that funded Putin’s war machine by guzzling Russian oil and gas…and demand they stop burning lignite coal…the filthiest carbon fuel on earth.

  29. playstation361
    19th June 2022, 9:38

    Well said Vettel.

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