By Andre Carrel
Not long ago (in historical terms) the Government of Canada launched a national energy program in response to the 1973 oil crisis.
The objective was to promote Canadian ownership of our oil resources and to develop alternative energy sources. Events did not turn out as anticipated. Global oil prices collapsed and the program triggered a constitutional conflict between national and provincial authorities.
The program was abandoned and the field was once again dominated by global corporate giants such as Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP.
Foreign money in Canada’s petroleum resource industry is not a new phenomenon. What is a new is that another national energy program, that of the People’s Republic of China, is gaining a growing interest and control over Canada’s oil resources.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is a proposal for a crucial connection between Alberta’s bituminous sand deposits (often referred to as oil or tar sands) and the Pacific region.
Without extensive foreign investment in the exploitation of Canada’s oil resources, a project such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline could not be imagined.
The Enbridge project is controversial not because of the sources of its financing, pro or con.
It is controversial because of the high energy consumption and environmental risks associated with extracting oil from bituminous sand, the risks to northwest British Columbia rivers and streams from possible pipeline breaks or leakages, and the risks associated with oil super tanker traffic in Northern Pacific inlets.
The People’s Republic of China’s expanding ownership of our resources should also be of concern, but it does not appear to be, not to the Government of Canada.
Under Canadian law the construction of the proposed pipeline is subject to public hearings in communities along the proposed route. Our Prime Minister has expressed a concern that “foreign” money may have a negative impact on these hearings.
The Prime Minister is not concerned about the impact “foreign” money spent by supporters of the project may have on the hearings, but he is concerned that “foreign” money may be of assistance to those who oppose the project.
The primary beneficiary of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is the national energy program of the People’s Republic of China.
Canadian supporters of the project have created their very own and distinct designation for the subject oil. They have attached the label “Ethical Oil” to Alberta’s bitumen-based oil, treating it as a legitimate crude oil designation alongside West Texas Intermediate, North Sea Brent, and UAE Dubai Crude.
How long will Ethical Oil retain its noble quality once China’s authoritarian communist government uses Alberta’s Ethical Oil to oppress the people of Tibet?
It is a fair question to ask of Enbridge Northern Gateway Project promoters and supporters.
Why did Enbridge supporters choose the adjective “ethical” to describe bituminous fuel?
Was it to shift the public’s focus away from their project’s horrendous environmental costs? Equivalent terms such as “moral” oil, “principled” oil, or “righteous” oil would have been laughable.
Do they believe that the public can be made to swallow the idea of oil being ethical? Will we soon see attempts to dodge conflicts in other controversial economic transactions by linking products to noble human qualities?
How long before we see reports about the economic merits of exporting “compassionate asbestos” or “virtuous raw logs”?
The time has come to step off the “economy über alles” treadmill and reflect on the reality that resources such as oil, coal, and gas are not renewable, they are finite and the consequences of their use extend far beyond the benefits derived.
We get one shot at such resources: once used, they are gone – forever.
The Prime Minister’s position on this subject helps to condemn future Canadians to serve as drawers of water and hewers of wood for autocratic regimes that jail political dissidents and exploit their own workers in the pursuit of economic domination.
Andre Carrel is a retired public sector administrator living in Terrace, BC.