Keystone supporters go bananas over Chiquita’s no-oil-sands pledge

Chiquita Brands International, the well-known banana company, is coming under fire from supporters of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline for the company’s decision to curb its reliance on fuels derived from Canadian oil sands crude.

ForestEthics, a nonprofit that works to protect endangered forests in the United States and Canada, said Thursday that Chiquita agreed to stop using fuel derived from oil sands, often called “tar sands” by environmental groups, to ship its bananas.

“Canada’s tar sands is all risk and no benefit for leading American brands like Chiquita that are resolved to reduce environmental problems, so they are working hard to get tar sands out of their transportation footprint,” said Aaron Sanger, director of U.S. campaigns at ForestEthics, in a statement.

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ForestEthics has been pressing Chiquita and other companies for months to abandon its reliance on oil sands crude.

In a November letter to ForestEthics, Manuel Rodriguez, corporate responsibility officer at Chiquita, said that the company is “committed to directing our transportation providers to avoid, where possible, fuels from tar sands refineries and to adopt a strategy of continuous improvement towards the elimination of those fuels.”

The Alberta Enterprise Group, a Canadian business advocacy organization that is a vocal proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, called for a boycott of Chiquita bananas over the decision.


“We respect and support any company, Chiquita or otherwise, in their effort to improve their environmental performance,” Alberta Enterprise Group spokesman David MacLean told The Hill. “That is not the issue. What is the issue is unfairly targeting Canadian oil sands.”

Ethical Oil, a nonprofit that promotes Canadian oil sands, joined the call for a boycott Friday.

The calls for a boycott come as lawmakers included a measure speeding up a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in a package to extend the payroll tax cut.

TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline would carry Canadian oil sands crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas. The State Department delayed a final decision on the project — which was supposed to come by the end of the year — until 2013, a move that infuriated proponents of the project, including Republicans in Congress.

While the Keystone project has won the support of Republicans, some centrist Democrats, industry groups and some unions, it faces intense opposition from environmental groups and top Democrats in Congress.

Environmental groups, who are key supporters of Obama, have long raised concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production and they’ve warned of the potential for oil spills from the pipeline.