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Analysis – Does Ethical Oil fit into Ethical Obligations?

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Today we look at part two of the energy situation unfolding about in British Columbia.

In a letter, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver recently stated, “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project, no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydroelectric dams. These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.

The oil sands in Alberta are home to one of the world’s biggest oil deposits and has also been America’s safe haven for energy security. At the heart of the issue though is not diplomacy or lobbying, but forecasted GDP growth numbers. Canada is looking to increase output from oil sands despite the views of the US and Europe because China is not only one of the biggest investors in oil sands, it is also a consumer for all the planned increased output. With all of the planned economic growth forecast for China, this would seem like a win-win for their economy, as well as ours. But not quite so much for the ecology.

Our Tory Conservatives have already been battered with a weak environmental track record, having withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocols and turning a blind eye towards asbestos mine fields in Quebec. On the news of Canada’s departure from Kyoto, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin even described Ottawa’s decision as being “against the efforts of the international community“. He added, “We hope Canada will face up to its responsibilities and obligations, honor its commitments and actively participate in relevant international cooperation against climate change.” And this is as China, the world’s largest emitter of green house emissions.

A few days ago, Harper remarked, “We have to have processes in Canada that come to a decision in a reasonable amount of time and processes that cannot be hijacked.” Here, Harper is objecting to the amounts of people filling up the hearings with the National Energy Commission on the pipeline project because of his belief that these individuals have an intent in delaying the proceedings. However there are numerous groups of people that although foreign, would have valuable insights to share. Would Harper care to address the Enbridge oil leak in the Kalamazoo river? Many Americans living near the river already had trouble selling their homes due to the implosion in the housing and mortgage market, but with the spill, their real estate value plummeted even further. Enbridge did offer to buy up the homes and pay the owners, however they would only pay the full market value of the homes to Americans already placed their houses up for sale before the spill actually occurred. For those homeowners that decided to sell after the oil spill, Enbridge would engage in consultations with appraisers to “Assess” the price of the home. Harper insists on their being “foreign interests” at play. However what might the motive behind the interests be? Harper hasn’t spelled  it out yet, but what counter arguments are there? That Aboriginals and BC residents that favour their shores would want to live in caves? Hardly the case. As explained in my last blog post, the evidence is already standing very tall that the risks of an oil spill are much more probable than Enbridge would like to have you or anyone else believe.

Funding

The foreign-funding issue is clearly a sensitive one for green groups. One of the major recipients of American foreign foundation backing is the Dogwood Intitiative, a leading anti-pipeline group that has received funding from the U.S. Tides foundation and the Hewlett and Packard foundations. They have put in more than $50-million into the Dogwood’s Great Bear Rain Forest program that has aims to shut down oil tanker traffic to the B.C. coast, and ultimately block access to any Gateway pipeline. However, we should probably also ask how much foreign funding the oil sands has been receiving as well, and who exactly is funding it. The amounts of Chinese cash flowing into Canada is many times larger.

Canada is a nation rich with commodities, and in times when market prices for commodities are higher, Canadian commodity firms reap big rewards with larger cash piles for mining companies. Increasingly large and wealthy Chinese companies see Canada as a “buy”.  As Jeff Gray has mentioned, in the Merger and Acquisition space, Chinese state owned enterprises and sovereign wealth funds have been pouring in billions towards Canadian companies. In the past, Chinese buyers would seek only minority stakes or small companies, to avoid creating controversy or attracting the attention of federal regulators, but now China is going after entire companies out right. One such example is the buyout attempts by Minmetals Resources Ltd on a $6.3 billion buyout for Toronto’s Equinox Minerals Ltd. Announcements were also made of Chinese oil giant Sinopec’s 2.2$ billion deal for Daylight Energy Inc.  These types of acquisitions may be great news for company shareholders, and  Bay St law firms…but is it good news for ordinary Canadians? Consider this the million dollar question moving forward. And Sinopec is China’s second largest energy company, part of a group that recently invested 100$ million in the pipeline project. The terms of which also enable it to buy an ownership stake in the future. This is China procuring their own economic growth and safety. But will it come at the expense of British Columbians sea shores and marine wildlife?

The last worry Canadians would want, is their mining sectors under Chinese control. The Chinese have been good at procuring energy investments while the Americans have been out comandeering wars of occupation. It seems British Columbians are aware of this however, since a recent poll conducted on British Columbians showed 73% were worried or very worried, about China investing in or owning Canada’s natural resources. The study was conducted by Strategic Communications and commissioned by the following groups: BC Sustainable Energy Association; Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – BC Chapter; Conservation Northwest; Dogwood Initiative; Ecojustice; ForestEthics; Georgia Strait Alliance; Greenpeace; Pembina Institute; Sierra Club BC; West Coast Environmental Law; Wildsight. The poll was based on a random online sample of 830 adult British Columbians, and the results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.4 percent 19 times out of 20.

Eaves hit it right on the head with his comments, “If the Northern Gateway pipeline were built, the influence of foreign money into Canada – especially from China, would increase – not decrease.”

At the present time, the Tory governments stance, is that since the foreign money coming in to environmentalist groups is grinding the pipeline project to a halt; by criticizing those who oppose the oil sands as “radicals”, they would seek to engage in a type of strategy. A strategy to circumvent the due process that should be done on this issue, and the dialogue that should be engaged. And if  other foreign individuals shouldn’t have the right to speak for Canadian affairs – so neither then, should foreign corporate interests have the right to seek profits from Canadian resources and leveraged buy outs. Or are we going to allow this go on in the name of cooked GDP growth figures, and a temporary job creation program? Why not engage in investing in our own geothermal industries, and become an alternative energy powerhouse such as Iceland? That’s right…it isn’t “Feasible”.

Pro oil sand advocates such as ethicaloil.org, and ourdecision.ca, have tried to create a wedge between Canadians. They have wedged the debate on “the decision is on us – not them”. A leak in the Pacific ocean would not only affect B.C. shores, but also western US shores, and other nations because the oil would drift and wind would carry it forward. It’s time to stop thinking of these sorts of things with a narrow lens. From past experience, many of these big energy corporations have played public sentiments against each other, and then swooped in to secure contracts. And then pay their executives big handsome payouts, and engage in stock market options in order to take advantage of tax loopholes. In worse economic times, they receive government subsidies to stay afloat, and some even secure tax havens in order to protect themselves from paying their proper share of taxes. This then leads to a reduction in federal income which then leads to lesser amounts of funds available for healthcare, education, social support programs, etc. And at the very end, when these large corporations are threatened, they seek a publically funded bailout in order to protect ‘the jobs” of ordinary Canadians.This does not in any way implicate that Enbridge may follow this method of conducting business, but this is the bad rep of big corporations.

Undoubtedly, oil drilling will remain a dirty and dangerous operation. Our true benefit as a society derives from us learning from our previous mistakes – not to commit to them again (BP Oil, Exxon Valdez, Enbridge). The best way to attack this issue is with innovative solutions, thus extracting more oil and using immense amounts of water to filter it is not creating an innovative strategy.  Canada must come up with a logical, rational, national strategy. I for one support the transition towards Geothermal technology. Geothermal must be in the cards for our nation’s energy infrastructure, it just makes good practical sense.

The oil sand advocates should be in shame, they have turned the pipeline issue into an “us vs them” dynamic. It is a despicable tactic and they are counting on pulling the strings of the worst of human sentiments : Nationalism.

 

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  1. Pingback: Analysis – Canada’s Code of SilencePrudent Press

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