Environmental group starts gooey online game

CALGARY — There’s lots of tar, but no feathers.

CALGARY — There’s lots of tar, but no feathers.

An environmental advocacy group is hoping people will want to virtually blitz Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff with tar in a new online video game that protests the oilsands.

Tar Nation was launched Monday on Facebook, online game sites and numerous other websites, including www.tarnation.ca.

The game is set in a cartoon version of an oilsands refinery and gives players a target that can be aimed with the mouse at Harper and Ignatieff. Once players finish oiling the two leaders, they are directed to an electronic letter tool that sends emails to both politicians, urging them to rethink their position on the oilsands.

The title screen reads: “Get Stephen TARper and Michael OILRIGnatieff out of the tarsands.”

“Many Canadians conduct political advocacy online and many Canadians play games online. This combines both of those,” said Joe Cressy, a spokesman for the Polaris Institute in Ottawa.

“The game was launched to highlight Canadian politicians ongoing support for the tarsands.”

In the first few hours after launch, there were 2,000 hits on the Tar Nation website. Cressy called that number “remarkable.”

“We’re starting to see e-letters and personal emails flying through to the two leaders,” he said. “It is a serious issue and right now we have five political parties, but two in particular continue to support the tarsands to the detriment of a clean energy future.”

The Calgary-based Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers sent out a response Monday with the headline “Activist marketing of oilsands is pure fantasy.”

“Lets call it what it is — it’s a marketing ploy. It does not give Canadians the credence they deserve,” said spokesman Travis Davies.

“The oilsands is a vital resource and it’s very extremely important to this nation to get it right in terms of the economy, environment and energy. This video game and/or marketing ploy looks through not only the environmental lens, but also a very shallow look through that lens.”

Alberta’s oilsands, which contain the second-largest petroleum reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia, has been increasingly under attack from environmentalists.

They call oilsands crude dirty oil because of the amount of greenhouse gas and other pollutants that are produced when the tar-like bitumen is mined and refined.

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