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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by Greg Klein | November 5, 2014
Even after the Kimberley Process banned diamond imports from the Central African Republic last year, the country exported an estimated 140,000 carats worth $24 million, according to a November 5 Reuters story. As violence escalates again, a UN panel wants mining sites monitored by troops and drones.
Following an outbreak of sectarian fighting in late 2012, Muslim Seleka rebels established regional strongholds. Between December 2013 and last August, about 3,000 people were killed amid reports of looting, kidnapping and rape. Mining licences and commodity taxes help fund the carnage, the UN found.
About 8,000 peacekeepers out of a 12,000-strong commitment are currently deployed in the CAR, Reuters added.
Diamonds are a rebel’s best friend in CAR, as armed groups smuggle blood diamonds and trade them for arms.—Sasha Lezhnev,
senior policy analyst
with the Enough Project
In August at least 25 illegal miners died after an open pit collapsed at or near AXMIN Inc’s (TSXV:AXM) Passendro gold project in the south-central CAR. It was the second such accident in the area since June 2013, when at least 37 people died. AXMIN had already suspended its exploration and pre-development work at the location, declaring a force majeure in December 2012.
“The victims of the deadly collapse were artisanal miners, who use their hands and cheap tools to dig minerals out of the earth in illicit operations that help finance the violent conflicts in the war-ravaged country,” the Globe and Mail reported.
French uranium giant AREVA pulled out of the CAR in 2012, where its 90%-held Bakouma project began test mining in 2010 and was scheduled for full production in 2014 to 2015.
A May report from the Enough Project blamed illicit diamonds, oil and ivory for funding weapons, fuel and poaching equipment.
“Diamonds are a rebel’s best friend in CAR, as armed groups smuggle blood diamonds and trade them for arms,” said Sasha Lezhnev, the project’s senior policy analyst.
CAR diamonds “are sold to traders in the Darfur region of Sudan, as well as Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the report stated. “The traders circumvent the international Kimberley Process certification scheme and [the diamonds] are likely sold on the world market in the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
by Greg Klein
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This is the second of a two-part interview. Read part one here.
Uranium stocks surged on the February 25 news that suggested Japan was reinforcing its long-term nuclear commitment. In part one of an interview with ResourceClips.com, energy expert Thomas Drolet discussed the Japanese situation and its effect on uranium prices. In part two of this interview, he covers several other aspects of nuclear energy from the perspective of a chemical engineer whose career with electrical utilities, including a term as president/CEO of Ontario Hydro International, gives him insight into the global energy picture.
Uranium prices in perspective
While miners understandably fret over uranium’s dismal price, the commodity itself means very little to the cost of nuclear power. Drolet says uranium contributes about 1% of the price of Candu energy, and about 2% to 3% of electricity produced by the average light water reactor, which requires enriched fuel.
Therefore utilities aren’t overly concerned about uranium’s price—“except do they want to keep all their cost inputs down? You’re darn right they do.”
Megatons to Megawatts has ended—or has it?
The Highly Enriched Uranium agreement ended in December, an event that was predicted to threaten supply. So far it hasn’t, Drolet maintains.
“One of the common opinions in the media is that that would mean an instantaneous falloff of 26 million pounds of U3O8 a year. That’s not true,” he says. “There were some amendments to the original contracts that allowed some continuing supply to the world, not just the U.S., to continue for about three to eight years. It’s not 26 million pounds that were lost to the world, mostly the U.S. It’s something like 14 or 15 million pounds.”
But he adds, “In several years that will be a major event.”
The source of that HEU supply has ambitious plans
“Russia’s into a very aggressive internal nuclear building program and exports to former East Bloc countries, south Asian countries and Turkey,” Drolet points out. “That will sop up a lot of supply from Kazakhstan and from Russia itself, and probably from Africa, where Chinese and Russian buyers get a lot of their sourcing. The very fact that Russia is building so much for itself and for export means that the world will have to get replacement uranium from somewhere else. And that’s why I think eventually all these shuttered mines will come back.”
Chinese nuclear expansion, he emphasizes, will be the primary reason for increased uranium demand. Russia holds second place, both for domestic use and export. The country’s state-owned Rosatom builds and operates reactors, enriches fuel and, through its subsidiary ARMZ, mines uranium in Russia and abroad.
“They have a marketing strategy that’s unique in the world, in that they’re supplying a turnkey service,” Drolet says. “Not only do they supply the reactors but they operate them or train local operators to work along with their staff. They supply the fuel and they’ll take back the spent fuel for disposal. It’s a very marketable package. Nobody else has adopted that, but I think some people will start to consider that model.”
Other countries ramp up nuclear
India ranks third for global uranium demand. “They have four or five reactors coming online this year and something like 13 under construction. Close behind them are the new commitments by South Korea in the UAE, for example, where they’ve sold four reactors. The first of those will be coming online in a couple of years. Saudi Arabia announced they’re going to construct 10, and they’re currently out with preliminary bid documents to the world suppliers. I can assure you that people like Toshiba, Westinghouse, General Electric, the Russians, the Chinese and the South Koreans are likely preparing to have a go with Saudi Arabia. Then there’s Jordan and Turkey, but we’re getting back to smaller numbers.”
What about the U.S.?
Ambivalence might characterize American policy. “The current administration has said it supports a balanced mixture of energy supply, including nuclear power,” Drolet says. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a very strong institution with a prescriptive set of policies and procedures. It’s a very onerous burden for reactor operators but good for the public.”
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