Canada should reject American hypocrisy and Saudi blood oil, says Stewart Muir
by Stewart Muir, posted with permission of Resource Works
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Don’t miss a new PBS exposé out March 29 featuring human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, which sold $100 billion worth of crude oil to Canada between 2012 and 2015. Those who have seen the documentary say the footage is shocking to behold.
It’s a mystery why Canada is content to import billions in blood oil from Saudi Arabia while at the same time pursuing policies at home aimed at eliminating Canadian oil from the market.
Just before Christmas, the Saudis beheaded Filipino Joselito Lidasan Zapanta because he could not pay a ridiculous $1-million fine.
Policies aimed at curtailing western Canadian energy development will only make us more dependent on bloodthirsty Saudi oil, while eliminating tens of thousands of our best-paying jobs.
If we are content to let eastern Canada source its oil from a country that executes citizens who question the government, and at the same time sell armaments to Saudi Arabia, what does that say about our own democratic system?
Yet if Ottawa has any particular concern over the soaring suicide rate among Canadian oilpatch workers, that would be news to me.
For those who don’t believe you have to give up the economy to save the environment, the resulting question is simple: What is the way to stand up for Canadian families and stop rewarding Saudi princes for their despicable practices?
One practical step we can take today is simply to ensure that every Canadian policy on fossil fuels applies equally to all of our energy imports.
Until 100% of our imported products are in compliance, no Canadian products should face domestic prejudice.
I understand we need international trade, but Ottawa’s eagerness to source oil from a savage regime while taking measures to curb the oilsands remains a sore point with me.
One possibility is imposing a blood tax, much like a carbon tax, that rewards social responsibility. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our parliament and our courts provide a yardstick that we could use to measure others against.
Obama’s Arctic vision and what we could learn
On a similar topic, last week saw a major existing supplier of Canadian oil take strides to massively increase its own oil production. I’m talking about the United States and its decision to pursue a long-term exploration plan for the high Arctic.
Come again? Isn’t U.S. President Barack Obama a climate crusader working hard to end the burning of hydrocarbons and stop Canada from building pipelines?
No, actually, he’s not. In case you thought moral suasion from Canada on addressing climate change was having any effect whatsoever on the U.S., think again. The fact is, the U.S. is obsessed with its own energy security and there is no way it will jeopardize a long-term supply of the fossil fuels that provide about 80% of its needs.
Last week’s news from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will result in new oil and gas leases off the coast of Alaska. The map of the area that could be opened to drilling includes offshore territory Canada claims as its own.
Why is the U.S. doing this now? Simple: because Americans have a long-term plan for energy.
“If development starts now, the long lead times necessary to bring on new crude oil production from Alaska would coincide with a long-term expected decline of U.S. Lower 48 production,” reported the National Energy Council, which advises the U.S. government. “Alaskan opportunities can play an important role in extending U.S. energy security in the decades of the 2030s and 2040s.” (See page 13 of the report.)
So while the U.S. is taking pragmatic steps for long-term viability as an energy-intense nation state, in Canada we seem to be at risk of basing energy planning on “100% carbon-free” slogans that appeal strongly to some voters. The March 22 federal budget was heavy on climate and clean-energy promises that require (and deserve) focus. Yet as the budget also recognizes, our national future depends on the ability to evolve and improve the solutions we already have in place.
A National Energy Council for Canada
Much work is now required for Canada to figure out what it means to look for new ways to “expand and green” the economy and create opportunities for citizens. For now, the lack of a coherent Canadian energy strategy also means, as CBC pointed out last week, that questions are being raised as to whether U.S. energy development in the north threatens our very sovereignty.
Americans are no fools. They know that the longer time frame required for arctic projects is the result of remoteness, long supply chains, short exploration seasons due to ice, regulatory complexity and potential for litigation. The Americans know that it can take more than 30 years to line up all the necessary success conditions and that’s why they are getting cracking now.
In Canada, we also have the potential to ensure that beneficial energy sources, ones that will be subject to unwavering environmental controls, are developed.
What we totally lack is a coherent national political vision—one that acknowledges the need to green our energy supply and lower our impact on the planet, one that also recognizes the economic realities of the present day.
An attempt at a national energy strategy, developed by the premiers at the Council of the Federation, represents a weak vision compared to the clear path that American energy planners are following. Placing national sovereignty far down the list of priorities is not a mistake that other countries are making today. Also unlike most countries, Canada occupies an enormously privileged position when it comes to the natural assets it possesses.
Last week, the National Energy Board reported that a heretofore wallflower of Canadian natural gas plays, the Liard Basin, is suddenly the belle of the ball. This source of gas (the cleanest fossil fuel) now turns out to be one of the biggest in the world. It straddles the Yukon, B.C. and the NWT. The upgraded estimates say the Liard has enough natural gas to meet Canada’s needs at 2014 levels of consumption for nearly 70 years. Meantime, the NWT is sitting on 200 billion barrels of oil identified in two NWT shale formations alone.
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