Thursday, April 04, 2013

Canada's Journey to Energy Superpowerhood: Voyage of the Damned.

Pity poor Calamity Joe. He just can't get a break. Or so I attempt to show in my Ottawa Citizen column today. In sum: Out west, where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were born, all you can hear these days is the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth in Alberta, and in British Columbia it’s mostly just the sound of people laughing at Joe Oliver.

A year ago, Joe was on such a roll. Canada's oil is ethical, organic, locally-raised, fairly-traded and shade-grown! And yet Canada's oil industry is under attack by a network of Ducks Unlimited sleeper cells directed by a cabal of radical billionaires commanded by Leonardo diCaprio from a secret underground bunker in Hollywood!

Then there was the sound of pennies dropping. Hey, wait a minute. If Petro-Canada was so sick and wrong back in the day, how come it's suddenly okay when the outfit Ottawa is inviting in to buy up all the oil sands is Petro-China? Don't the princeling-directors of the Chinese Communist Party's overseas corporate acquisitions arms count as radical billionaires? What's so "ethical" about oil that comes from companies owned by police-state gangsters who order their troops to shoot live rounds into groups of protesting Buddhist monks?

At some point the worm started to turn, and now, it's the sound of everybody laughing at Joe Oliver. And I mean everybody, not just the eco-fruitcakes we're all supposed to mock. I mean British Columbians, for starters, of all political persuasion - the very people whose province is the necessary portal to untold riches in China. Vancouverities across the board, pretty well the entire aboriginal leadership, and even the wicked mainstream media. The Globe's Gary Mason gets it dead right: 

"With so much at stake, both environmentally but also in terms of the enormous wealth contribution energy exports make to the Canadian economy, it’s regrettable that a cogent conversation on this subject isn’t occurring. Instead, any attempts at lucid discourse are being drowned out by overly dramatic, self-serving rhetoric that provides no good purpose at all. And we all lose in the process."

Dramatic self-serving rhetoric of the green sort is not in diminishing supply, either, and I am seriously beginning to wonder whether the Keystone hubbub in Americaland isn't mostly a means by which righteous and upstanding Yankees hope to make Canada pay for their own grotesque volumes of Kyoto-ignoring  greenhouse-gas effluvia.

A good case could be made, especially after that State Department report absolving Keystone of any particular role in apprehended oil sands emission hikes, that anti-Keystone activism in Americaland is largely about catharsis, and is rather an avoidance of the hard work involved in confronting America's own gargantuan Obama-led responsibility for global warming. Just a thought. For now.

In any case, this is right: "There is plenty of room to improve the environmental record of companies in the oilsands which requires more effort from Ottawa and there should be increasing vigilance about the safety of pipelines — especially older ones. But Keystone is not the key to any of that. Turning it down would be a costly, symbolic gesture."


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