Thursday 5th December 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘gas’

Over a Barrel: Documentary now online about Vivian Krause vs. the U.S.-funded campaign against Canadian oil

October 25th, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 25, 2019

What they’ve done to us is actually brilliant—it’s pure brilliance. Because they’re not doing it to themselves. They’re getting Canadians to do it to ourselves. And I don’t think Canadians understand that this is what’s happening to them. On a larger scale, they’re doing to Canada what they did to my community. So I don’t think Canada really understands that the real war here is an outside force pitting Canadians against Canadians.—Ellis Ross, B.C. MLA and former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, from the documentary Over a Barrel

The impressive work of a singularly remarkable activist has come to the screen, both in movie theatres and on computers. Over a Barrel presents a half-hour documentary on the research of Vivian Krause into the American-backed anti-oilsands campaign. Having already appeared in Alberta theatres, the film’s now online and, until October 31, for free (although donations are accepted).

Starting November 1, and in lieu of rich U.S. backers, an online viewing will cost $4.99.

Through well over a decade of perseverance, Krause has documented a money trail leading to powerful American interests whose more than half a billion in funding, tactics of disinformation, and interference in Canadian elections targets Albertans and other Canadians to the benefit of Americans and their oil industry.

The documentary also portrays a human cost to the campaign, as native spokespeople discuss how foreign interference and urban activists deprive their communities of badly needed economic development.

Click here to watch Over a Barrel online, for free or by donation until October 31 and for $4.99 after that.

Read an October 22 op-ed by Vivian Krause: Obama wasn’t the only American interfering in the Canadian election.

Read more about Vivian Krause and her work.

Canada election 2019: Fragmented results from a fragmented country

October 21st, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 21, 2019, updated October 22, 2019

Updated results (numbers in parenthesis show seats at dissolution and 2015 popular vote)

  • Liberal Party: 157 seats, 33.1% of the popular vote (177 seats, 39.5%)
  • Conservative Party: 121 seats, 34.4% (95 seats, 31.9%)
  • Bloc Québécois: 32 seats, 7.7% (10 seats, 4.7%)
  • New Democratic Party: 24 seats, 15.9% (39 seats, 19.7%)
  • Green Party: 3 seats, 6.5% (2 seats, 3.4%)
  • People’s Party: 0 seats, 1.6% (1 seat, N/A)*
  • Independents: 1 seat, 0.4% (8 seats, 3.4%)
  • Co-operative Commonwealth Federation: N/A (1 seat, N/A)*
  • (5 vacant seats at dissolution)

* The People’s Party was created in 2018 by MP Maxime Bernier after he resigned from the Conservatives. The name of the historic CCF party was adopted in 2018 by expelled NDP MP Erin Weir, who didn’t run for re-election.

 

The two top parties got just a third of the popular vote each, the party that won the most votes came in second, Quebec separatists made great strides, the traditional left-labour party shed seats and Alberta defied The Great Big Cause of Our Time (2019 edition). One interpretation might find that the election demonstrated Canada’s growing status as a failed nation. But another might say that, united at last, Canadians found a common enemy: Alberta.

At least that was the case for most of Canada outside the West.

Canada election 2019 Fragmented results from a fragmented country

Justin Trudeau: Holding power with which
party’s support and under what conditions?
(Photo: Liberal Party of Canada)

The campaign could have emphasized issues such as housing affordability, rental affordability, student debt, the gig job market, urban decline, deficit spending and national unity, just to mention a few. And such matters did pop up. But if anything took precedence other than the incumbent prime minister’s tarnished halo, it was climate change. The way to counter that, four of five parties agreed, was to shut down Alberta industry.

Lost in the rhetoric was any serious discussion of whether this country can substitute its resource-based economy for a vaguely imagined green economy, and whether doing so would appreciably affect climate change.

Given the relatively low union presence in Alberta’s oil patch, New Democrats felt confident in joining the Greens’ oilsands opposition. So prominent was the issue that Quebec separatists and federalists alike tried to turn it to their advantage, at Alberta’s expense. As noted by Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet proposed another tax that would hit Albertans the hardest. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau actually made it an ethnic issue, inviting the Quebecois to rally against Alberta’s economy. Reporting on a French-language debate, Braid wrote:

Blanchet comes across like an old-school Quebec nationalist, hard as nails and firm in his beliefs. He also knows how to talk to the younger climate-change activists.

Trudeau clearly knows his majority is most endangered in Quebec. Hence this remarkable statement on climate change: “It’s necessary to have a strong government, full of Quebecers, full of francophones, who are going to be able to continue the fight” against conservatives who, in his view, “wouldn’t do anything.”

No leader in my memory has ever promised a government full of Ontarians, or British Columbians, or Albertans—or, for that matter, full of English speakers. It’s extraordinary.

The question now remains which party will prop up the Liberals’ minority seat count and even lower vote count. The Greens, rising from two to just three seats despite their extravagant optimism, failed to match previous advances in a federal by-election as well as provincial and, in the Vancouver area, municipal contests. That leaves the New Democrats or Bloc. The separatists, with considerably more seats than the NDP, lean ideologically much closer to the Liberals than the Conservatives, but might hold fratricidal animus. The NDP, a severe loser in this campaign, has to consider whether sleeping with the boss would embellish or tarnish its reputation.

Meanwhile Alberta’s Conservative support (sweeping 33 of 34 seats) might best be considered a Quixotic protest. Could a Tory victory have realistically revived pipeline proposals?

Currently led by a messianic kid, environmentalism has taken on a religious zeal, although it’s pushing a belief system based not on cosmology, morality, transcendence or salvation, but on doom. A mono-apocalyptic faith, it tolerates no rivals—for example economic collapse, infrastructure failure, terrorism, civil breakdown, Malthusian catastrophe or plain old-fashioned war.

Those are just some of the possibilities. Of course they can interact with especially nightmarish consequences.

Canada election 2019 Fragmented results from a fragmented country

Segregated blocks of Liberal red, Conservative blue, Bloc Québécois pale blue
and NDP brown suggest a politically balkanized country.
(Image: Elections Canada)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney calls an inquiry into the foreign-financed anti-oilsands campaign

August 16th, 2019

…Read more

Site visits for sightseers II

July 23rd, 2019

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

by Greg Klein

Our survey of mining museums and historic sites continues east through the prairie provinces. Although some oil and gas sites have made this list, generally not included for reasons of space are museums of mineralogy and museums not mostly dedicated to mining. Keep in mind, though, that local museums in mining regions often merit a mining buff’s attention.

Be sure to confirm opening hours and inquire about footwear or other clothing requirements for industrial sites.

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Alberta

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

A family follows in the footsteps of coal miners at Bellevue.
(Photo: Bellevue Underground Mine)

Don a lamp-equipped miner’s helmet and descend into Bellevue, a Crowsnest-region mine that gave up over 13 million tons of coal between 1903 and 1961. Forty-five minutes of the one-hour tour consist of a guided walk (accessible for strollers and wheelchairs) along 300 metres of what was once a 240-kilometre network of tunnels. Dress for temperatures as low as zero, even when it’s summer on surface.

Located in the community of Bellevue in the municipality of Crowsnest Pass, off the Crowsnest (#3) Highway. Access road starts at 2501 213 Street, by the Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe parking lot. Tours begin every half hour from 10:00 to 5:00, daily to August 31. During September and October every half hour from 9:00 to 4:00; from November to April group tours by appointment; from May to June 9:00 to 4:00 daily. More info.

 

Maybe four kilometres southeast of Bellevue, Leitch Collieries offers “graceful ruins” of a processing plant for a “glorious failure” of a coal mine that lasted eight years up to 1915. Although the actual mine—beneath a former cattle rustlers’ haven 1.5 kilometres away—is off limits, visitors can learn about the operation from listening posts, storyboards and summer guides.

Located just off the Crowsnest (#3) Highway near the eastern limits of Crowsnest Pass municipality. Open all year but guides are available 10:00 to 5:00 daily until September 2. More info.

 

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Coal mining, processing and shipping
infrastructure survives at Brazeau Collieries.
(Photo: Government of Alberta)

Once Alberta’s most productive mine, Brazeau Collieries operated in the Rocky Mountain foothills between 1914 and 1955. Now two different two-hour guided walks take visitors through parts of the 31-hectare site. Tour A checks out workshops, houses and external workings, and also enters the mine shaft. Tour B goes through the 1950s briquette plant.

Tours begin at the Nordegg Heritage Centre on Stuart Street in the town of Nordegg, off Highway #11, about 80 kilometres west of Rocky Mountain House and 60 klicks northeast of Banff National Park. Each tour runs a few times daily, except Wednesdays. More info.

 

The Rockies’ Bow Valley had hosted numerous coal mines since the early 1880s, with the last shutting down in 1979 at Canmore. Mining awareness continues at the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre through a number of programs and a permanent exhibit called From Coal to Community.

Located in the Canmore Civic Centre, 902b Seventh Avenue. Open Monday to Friday noon to 4:30 and weekends 11:00 to 4:30 until September 2. Then open to October 14 Monday to Thursday noon to 4:30 and Friday to Sunday 10:00 to 4:30, then to June 1 Monday, Wednesday and Friday noon to 4:30, and weekends 11:00 to 4:30. More info.

 

Further into the Rockies, in fact right inside Banff National Park, the coal town of Bankhead once overshadowed the neighbouring tourist town. Little remains of Bankhead’s 20-year life but mining enthusiasts already visiting the park might take the interpretive trail featuring explanatory signage, exhibits in the transformer building and a mine train. The C-level Cirque Trail passes ventilation shafts and the skeleton of an old mine building, along with unmistakably Banff-style scenery.

More info here and here.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

An historic vehicle takes a trip through history.
(Photo: Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site)

 

The last of 139 operations in the Drumheller Valley Badlands from 1911 to 1979, the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site features numerous buildings, rail lines, machines and other artifacts within a 31-hectare property. In a number of separate tours, visitors look at a mine tunnel and Canada’s last wooden tipple, or they travel around the site via antique locomotive.

Located on Highway #10, 20 minutes southeast of Drumheller. Tours run daily to early October. Click here for schedule updates.

 

Coal was once Alberta’s main extractive commodity but a 1914 natural gas discovery turned attention to another type of fuel and a new petrochemical industry at the Turner Valley Gas Plant. Guided tours, an exhibit hall and historic buildings present western Canada’s first commercial oilfield and processing plant.

Located on Sunset Boulevard SE in the town of Turner Valley. Open weekends and stats from 10:00 to 5:00 until September 2. More info.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

A tribute to tenacity, Leduc #1 followed 133 dry wells.
(Photo: Canadian Energy Museum)

 

Alberta’s energy industry changed again in 1947 when a geyser of oil erupted at Leduc. The nearby Canadian Energy Museum “celebrates Canada’s relationship with energy past, present and future.” A summer exhibit portrays the lives of those who experienced Leduc’s sudden boom, while a fall exhibit will look at the model town of Devon, a boom-time creation.

Located at 50339 Highway #60, Leduc County. Open Monday to Saturday 9:00 to 5:00. Book ahead for individual or group tours.

 

The history, science and technology that unlocked another rich source of fuel comes alive in Fort McMurray’s Oil Sands Discovery Centre. Demonstrations, films and exhibits include an 850-tonne bucketwheel excavator and a 150-tonne truck.

Located at 515 MacKenzie Boulevard, Fort McMurray. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00 until September 2. Off-season hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 4:00. More info.

 

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Exhibits and mine simulations relate potash from
extraction to application. (Photo: Tourism Saskatchewan)

Saskatchewan

“Just like being in a potash mine without the dust and heat” was how one visitor described it. The Saskatchewan Potash Interpretive Centre showcases the geology, how the stuff gets mined and refined, and what it’s used for. The centre comprises one of a number of attractions in Esterhazy Historical Park.

Located at 701 Park Avenue (Highway #22), Esterhazy. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00 until August 31. For off-season visits, phone 306-745-5406 or 306-745-3942.

 

Manitoba

Heavy duty equipment befitting a hard rock heritage goes on display at the Snow Lake Mining Museum. Exhibits include jackleg drills, battery-powered trammers, rocker shovels, mock-ups of mining drifts and a mine rescue centre.

Located at 163 Poplar Avenue, Snow Lake. Generally open Mondays 10:00 to 5:00, Tuesdays to Saturdays 10:00 to 6:00, and occasional Sundays, until August 30. Phone 204-358-7867 to confirm hours.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Rugged gear reflects the rugged life of northern Saskatchewan’s Snow Lake region.
(Photo: Snow Lake Mining Museum)

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Crediting Vivian Krause, Alberta calls inquiry into foreign-funded anti-oilsands campaign

July 4th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 4, 2019

Forsaking a slingshot to work “from my dining room table, using Google on my own nickel,” independent researcher Vivian Krause took on an extremely well-funded Goliath. Now her findings and the questions they raise should come to light in a formal inquiry. Alberta’s United Conservative Party government, elected last April, has ordered an examination of what Premier Jason Kenney said “amounts to a premeditated, internationally planned and financed operation to put Alberta energy out of business.”

Crediting Vivian Krause, Alberta calls inquiry into foreign-funded anti-oilsands campaign

After years of Quixotic efforts, Vivian Krause’s
research comes to prominence.

At risk for foreign-funded Canadian activist groups will be their eligibility for government grants or charitable status. But their credibility also faces challenges. Kenney directed the commission to determine whether foreign groups “provide financial assistance to a Canadian organization which has disseminated incomplete, misleading or false information about the Alberta oil and gas industry.”

Kenney questioned activists’ focus on Alberta while doing “little or nothing” about American oil production doubling over the last decade and global production rising from 90 million to 100 million barrels per day during the same period.

“We’ve seen huge increases in production and consumption from OPEC countries, from the Russian autocracy, from the Venezuelan dictatorship and even from our neighbours to the south but almost all of this political pressure [targets] this liberal democracy with the highest human rights, labour and environmental standards. And we want to know why, who and how much. We want to know what exactly lies behind this campaign to defame and landlock Canadian energy.”

Kenney blamed the campaign for the loss of tens of thousands of Albertan jobs, thousands of business closures, negative economic growth and a massive increase in public debt.

Headed by forensic accountant Steve Allan, the commission will interview witnesses as well as review existing info and conduct further research. A public hearing may follow. Backed by a $2.5-million budget, the commission must deliver an interim report by January 31 and a final report with recommendations by July 2, 2020.

The premier emphasized the inquiry comprises one aspect “of a comprehensive plan to fight back against those seeking to hurt our prosperity and kill our jobs while applying a hypocritical double standard to other energy producers.” His government also plans an “energy war room” to counter disinformation, legal action against bills C-48 and C-69, and the creation of a coalition of provincial and territorial governments, first nations and business groups to encourage resource development.

Crediting Vivian Krause, Alberta calls inquiry into foreign-funded anti-oilsands campaign

Along with energy minister Sonya Savage,
Kenney announces the inquiry on July 4.
(Photo: Government of Alberta)

Kenney praised Krause’s “valiant research” in tracing over half a billion dollars from American foundations to Canadian activists. He also noted U.S. and NATO evidence that Russia provided money and used social media tactics to encourage opposition to North American and European oil and gas projects.

On the same day as the Alberta announcement, the Calgary Herald reported a recent speech in which Krause accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of preventing the Canada Revenue Agency from auditing politically active charities and then having retroactively changed legislation to allow political activism. One week after she testified before a House of Commons committee on the subject, she said, the CRA deleted 14 years of tax records from its online database, leaving only the last five years on the Web.

According to the Herald, Krause also alleged that the CRA had been concerned about an approximately $400,000 severance payment from the World Wildlife Fund to Gerald Butts when he left the charity to become Trudeau’s principal secretary.

Exactly what power Alberta might have to counter anti-oilsands funding remains to be seen. But “sunlight makes the best disinfectant,” Kenney said. Additionally, Krause’s years of research now gain considerable attention as the country faces a federal election.

Read more about Vivian Krause.

B.C. minister of energy and mines Michelle Mungall exaggerates deeply in a Black Press interview

May 10th, 2019

…Read more

Vivian Krause discusses her one-person campaign to expose wealthy American interests bankrolling Canadian environmentalists

April 26th, 2019

…Read more

Alberta fights back

April 16th, 2019

New government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

by Greg Klein

Updated results (seats at dissolution shown in parentheses)

  • United Conservative Party: 63 seats, 55.2% of the popular vote (25 seats)
  • New Democratic Party: 24 seats, 32.2% (52 seats)
  • Alberta Party: 0 seats, 9.2% (3)
  • Liberal Party: 0 seats, 1% (1)
  • Independent candidates: 0 seats, 0.5% (3)
  • Freedom Conservative Party: 0 seats, 0.5% (1)
  • Progressive Conservative Party: 0 seats, 0% (1)
  • (One vacant seat at dissolution)

 

The outcome wasn’t as surprising as last time, when the once-marginal New Democratic Party swept to power in what had long been a moderately conservative one-party province. Yet this was probably Alberta’s most dramatic election since 1935, when a victorious upstart tied to the economic movement known as Social Credit grabbed international attention. Rarely has Western alienation played out so strongly as in this campaign, provoked by Ottawa’s stance on, among other issues, the ongoing war against Canadian resource industries. Foreign interference in the form of U.S. money also came to light, while aspects of the culture wars helped inflame passions.

The new government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

Back in the ’30s, however, William Aberhart’s Social Credit failed to enact the radical reforms intended to deal with the Great Depression. The results of incoming premier Jason Kenney’s bold talk remain to be seen, despite the overwhelming victory of his United Conservative Party. Kenney’s biggest challenge will be to overcome the opposition to pipelines and tankers that deprives Albertan oil producers of Asian markets and consequently much higher prices.

Certainly Kenney won a decisive mandate. Barely half an hour after polls closed, media projections called a UCP majority. The party comprises a 2017 merger of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party, which together polled 52% in 2015, compared with only 40.6% for the NDP. But that year the New Democrats took 54 of 87 seats.

Much of Kenney’s success came from his portrayal of “the Trudeau-Notley alliance,” in which he blamed the prime minister and incumbent premier for wrecking Alberta’s economy through a combination of appeasement, indifference and outright animosity. Notley, at best an ineffectual supporter of Alberta oil and at worst an ideological enemy, made an easy target. So did Justin Trudeau, struggling with an image tarnished by SNC-Lavalin, that scandal’s revelation of favouritism towards Quebec jobs, and policies towards Alberta jobs that evoked memories of his father’s National Energy Program, often blamed for wrecking Alberta’s economy during the 1980s.

The new government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

Kenney found easy targets in the “Trudeau-Notley alliance”
but victory might give him tougher battles to fight.
(Image: United Conservative Party)

Allusions to the NEP surfaced in Kenney’s description of Bill C-69, “the Liberals’ ‘No More Pipelines’ Law” and “a federal sucker punch to an already-reeling Alberta economy.” Kenney promised a constitutional challenge.

He portrayed Notley’s opposition to Ottawa’s Bill C-48, banning oil tankers from northern B.C. ports, as an insincere and tardy effort.

Kenney committed to ditch Notley’s carbon tax and sue Ottawa if it tries to impose the federal carbon tax on Alberta, as Trudeau’s government has done to provinces that didn’t enact their own carbon taxes.

Addressing an especially sore point for Albertans, Kenney promised a referendum on equalization. Consistently punishing Alberta through good economic times and bad, the inter-provincial transfers of money consistently benefit Quebec through bad times and good.

Turning his confrontational stance westwards, Kenney vowed to take on Trans Mountain pipeline foe British Columbia “on day one” by proclaiming Alberta’s Turn off the Taps legislation. Also known as Bill 12, it would stop Alberta oil shipments to an Alberta oil-dependent province that opposes exports of Alberta oil to Asia. B.C., on the other hand, stands ready to defend its convenient ethics in court.

Kenney also vowed action on foreign funding in Canadian campaigns. The issue gained prominence just days before the vote, with an April 12 Financial Post article by researcher Vivian Krause. American money, she stated, was helping finance efforts to defeat UCP candidates, part of a much wider, ongoing U.S.-funded campaign to “landlock” Albertan oil and gas, as well as destroy other Canadian resource industries.

From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.—Tar Sands Campaign
director Michael Marx,
as quoted by Vivian Krause

According to documents she’s made public, foreign money moved from activism and court challenges to specifically anti-UCP efforts that benefit the NDP.

A group called Progress Alberta was working against UCP candidates, while another group called Leadnow urged its supporters to join Progress Alberta’s anti-UCP efforts, she stated. Referring to U.S. tax returns, Krause reported that “both Leadnow and Progress Alberta are partially funded—US$62,843 (2016-2017) and US$162,587 (2013-2016) respectively—by the Tar Sands Campaign.” The Tar Sands Campaign gets its money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, she added.

Krause quoted Tar Sands Campaign director Michael Marx as stating: “From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.”

Krause charged that Notley knew about the foreign-funded activity but refused to act.

Kenney was quick to follow up. “We now know that for months Rachel Notley has been sitting on a legal opinion indicating that the government of Alberta could take action against groups behind the Tar Sands Campaign,” he declared. “Some have estimated that Alberta is losing up to $16 billion a year in value from the price discount that results from our oil producers being captive to the U.S. market. This is a direct result of the campaign to landlock Canadian energy supported by the Tar Sands Campaign, which in the last year has succeeded in delaying the Trans Mountain Expansion, Keystone XL and the Line 3 replacement project.”

Some have estimated that Alberta is losing up to $16 billion a year in value from the price discount that results from our oil producers being captive to the U.S. market. This is a direct result of the campaign to landlock Canadian energy supported by the Tar Sands Campaign.—Jason Kenney

Kenney pledged to challenge the charitable status of foreign-funded groups, cut off their provincial funding, hold a public inquiry into foreign funding that attacks Albertan energy, ban foreign entities from financing political action committees and urge Ottawa to pass Bill S-239, which would ban foreign money from federal politics.

Krause has previously stated that Rockefeller money helped fund Leadnow’s anti-Conservative campaign in the 2015 federal election.

Now that a provincial government intends to act on her findings, something that started as a Quixotic one-woman campaign could have enormous impact. According to her figures, U.S. interests like the Rockefellers have paid Canadian activists well over half a billion dollars so far.

Of course the extent to which Kenney’s tough talk produces results remains to be seen. Still Notley had nothing to show for any claim of supporting Alberta resources. Kenney found it easy to associate her with the prime minister, the UCP’s continual target. The anti-pipeline Bill C-69 “is just one of the terrible consequences of the Trudeau-Notley alliance,” Kenney argued. “Alberta’s NDP gave Justin Trudeau licence to kill Northern Gateway, to surrender to a U.S. veto of Keystone XL, to change regulations that led to the death of Energy East and to fold in the face of the B.C. New Democrats’ obstruction of the Trans Mountain expansion. On top of that we’ve got Trudeau’s tanker ban, Bill C-48 and a cap on our oilsands.”

Krause pointed out that heavy-handed enviro-activism persisted despite Notley’s attempts at appeasement. The NDP increased the carbon tax, capped allowable emissions and created the world’s largest boreal forest preserve. “Surely the campaign against Alberta would finally be over,” Krause wrote. “But, again, no.”

The UCP victory adds considerable weight to moderate conservative provinces, now stretching from Alberta to Ontario and including New Brunswick. Along with the federal Conservatives, they could present troublesome interference to the federal Liberals’ re-election efforts in October. In fact as a six-term MP who served a number of cabinet positions in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, Kenney could overshadow federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

On the other hand, a strong conservative bloc might discourage the Liberals from almost any interest in economic issues, thereby freeing them to campaign exclusively on their Trudeauvian zeitgeist.

Deep thoughts from B.C.’s energy and mines minister

April 12th, 2019

by Greg Klein | April 12, 2019

Proving they could sink lower than anyone else, Russians spent 24 years drilling their world-record 12,261-metre Kola Superdeep Bore Hole. But northeastern British Columbia’s oil patch seems to have reached something like 25 times as far. And in doing so, they must be employing super-durable materials impervious to intense heat and pressure but unknown to the outside world.

Deep thoughts from B.C.’s energy and mines minister

A reference work for B.C. cabinet ministers?

Or so you might think on reading a comment by B.C.’s minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, Michelle Mungall.

Discussing the natural gas industry, she told Black Press legislative correspondent Tom Fletcher, “In B.C. we’re drilling about 300 kilometres below the surface.” That would mean reaching about 5% of the distance to the planet’s hot, liquid inner core and well within temperatures that would melt any metal known to mankind.

“Wildly inaccurate,” Fletcher responded. “In fact, the gas and petroleum liquids-rich Montney shale formation that runs under Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and into Alberta is from two to four kilometres deep, similar to the Marcellus shale in the U.S.”

But if Mungall knows something that isn’t common knowledge, numerous possibilities arise, and not just in mining and geothermal energy. If drilling’s possible at such fathomless depths, why not tunneling and why not continue right through the globe to the Southern Hemisphere? That might open up trade links to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Meanwhile borehole champion Russia, always vain about its accomplishments and now along with China officially considered a security threat to Canada, no doubt will be watching closely for any credible signs of one-upmanship in a downwards direction.

‘The Asian century’

April 4th, 2019

East has surpassed West, whether the West knows it or not, says Peter Frankopan

by Greg Klein

East has surpassed West, whether we know it or not, says Peter Frankopan

“Silk roads” can refer to the process of connecting people and cultures
through trade, according to Peter Frankopan’s recently published book.

 

Less than two years ago tensions along an especially sensitive border area sparked fighting between Chinese and Indian troops. Outside Asia, who knew? “As most of the world focused on the Twitter account of the US president and the circus surrounding Brexit, the threat of the two most populous countries on earth going to war was not just a possibility, it looked like becoming a fact,” writes Peter Frankopan. An uneasy truce eventually stalled hostilities but the West’s ignorance of the wider world remains. That’s both symptom and cause of the West’s decline, the author says.

The decisions being made in today’s world that really matter are not being made in Paris, London, Berlin or Rome—as they were a hundred years ago—but in Beijing and Moscow, in Tehran and Riyadh, in Delhi and Islamabad, in Kabul and in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, in Ankara, Damascus and Jerusalem. The world’s past has been shaped by what happens along the Silk Roads; so too will its future.—Peter Frankopan

Relatively few Westerners realize the extent of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Actually a complex suite of alliances concerning resources, infrastructure, trade, security and even culture, the BRI forms just part of an Asian awakening that’s shifting the planet’s centre of importance while strengthening Eastern influence beyond Asia and Africa to make inroads into Europe, the Americas, the Arctic, cyberspace and outer space.

That’s the message of historian Frankopan’s latest book, The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World. While present and future aren’t normally the precinct of historians, it was historical perspective that brought Frankopan to the topic. In context, Western global supremacy has been a recent, short-lived development.

Since announcing the BRI in 2013, China has promised nearly $1 trillion, mostly in loans, for about 1,000 projects, Frankopan reports. That money could “multiply several times over, to create an interlinked world of train lines, highways, deep-water ports and airports that will enable trade links to grow ever stronger and faster.”

That would enhance China’s access to, and control over, resources ranging from oil and gas to mines and farmland; provide markets for Chinese exports including surplus steel, cement and metals, as well as manufactured goods; create projects for Chinese contractors; secure foreign ports and other strategic commercial and military locations; and build closer foreign alliances for geopolitical as well as economic benefits.

Backed by Chinese money and local sovereign debt, Chinese companies have pushed roads, railways, power plants, grids and pipelines through Africa and Asia at a much faster rate than ever seen through Western aid. Of course that can put the supposed beneficiaries at the mercy of their Chinese creditors.

East has surpassed West, whether we know it or not, says Peter Frankopan

In 2011, for example, China forgave neighbouring Tajikistan’s infrastructure-related debt in exchange for several hundred square kilometres of territory. A $7-billion rail line in Laos represents over 60% of the country’s GDP. A rail-building boom in Angola left citizens with a per capita debt to China of $754 out of a per capita income of $6,200. In 2017 a Chinese company got a 99-year lease in lieu of debt on the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, a strategic site for both commercial and military reasons. Other ports in Maldives, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Djibouti could face a similar fate.

Even so, something like 85% of BRI projects “have proceeded without difficulty,” Frankopan states. China conducts many of its most opportunistic acquisitions openly, like buying a controlling interest in Piraeus, the Athenian port since antiquity. Other seaport purchases have taken place in Spain, Italy and Belgium.

Strategic ports and an alliance with Pakistan help position China in the Indian Ocean, while China continues to expand its South China Sea presence by building artificial islands for military bases. This isn’t just “the crossroads of the global economy” but a ploy to extend military power thousands of miles farther, according to a U.S. Navy admiral. China’s ambitions continue in the disputed East China Sea, location of the 2010 Senkaku conflict, in which China’s rare earths tactics demonstrated yet another weapon in the country’s arsenal.

As an economic powerhouse as well as a “geopolitical alternative to the US,” China can profit from American sanctions on countries like Iran. Russia too challenges U.S. policies towards countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, while the latter shows its willingness to trade with Iran and buy arms from Moscow.

Military co-operation can create unlikely allies. Last summer, in Russian’s largest war games since 1981, Beijing contributed 30 fighter jets and helicopters along with more than 3,000 troops. Included in the exercises were simulated nuclear attacks.

While futurologists and networking pioneers often talk about how the exciting world of artificial intelligence, Big Earth Data and machine learning promise to change the way we live, work and think, few ever ask where the materials on which the digital new world [depends] come from—or what happens if supply either dries up or is used as a commercial or a political weapon by those who have a near-monopoly on global supply.—Peter Frankopan

Even India, America’s strongest Asian ally and the Asian country most wary of Chinese expansion, stands to undermine U.S. influence with proposed transportation connections and free trade with Iran and Afghanistan.

Yet obvious perils weaken any notion of a united Asia working harmoniously towards a common goal. Russian-Chinese military co-operation doesn’t preclude Moscow stationing its 29th Army 3rd Missile Brigade, with nuclear missile capabilities, near the Chinese border.

Time will tell whether other countries can overcome the Eurasian chaos that inspired this maxim of Canadian miners: “Never invest in a country with a name ending in ‘stan’.”

Then there’s extremist Islam. Uighurs from western China have fought in Syria for the Islamic State in numbers estimated “from several thousand to many times that number.” China risks wider Muslim anger by running a gulag archipelago for Muslims. The country’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region hosts “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”

Oddly enough for someone who knocks Western insularity, Frankopan seems to share the current preoccupation with the U.S. president. Among Frankopan’s criticisms of the West is its supposed opposition to immigration, even though that’s a marginal position within liberal countries but official policy in most of the East.

Nor does Frankopan mention the weird ideological zealotry that threatens to destabilize if not destroy the West from within.

Still, history’s greatest value might be perspective on the present. This historian’s view of the present and future can help Westerners understand their not-so-esteemed status in the Asian century.