It’s been a rough month for Canada. America’s biggest trading partner and overall non-jerk country just wants to sell some oil to its friends. Sitting on a black-gold mine, Canada’s oil selling is unable to keep pace with production—which will only increase as it further taps the Alberta Oil Sands and Arctic territories. Canada’s conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper understands that energy equals influence and independence. While it would be tough to argue that Canada is on a power trip, it’s not difficult to understand why the country is interested in establishing oil trade deals that would help its closest ideological allies retain their ideological independence.
Decisions by Europe and America in the past month have pushed away Canada and its oil overtures under the guise of environmentalism—which is turning out to be the new protectionism. And for what? So America and Europe can explore more “green-friendly” petroleum deals with dodgy Middle Eastern and African regimes? Meanwhile, it’s not like curtailing purchasing can stop production. China has expressed an interest in having it shipped in—shifting any environmental impact to another part of the globe with even fewer controls.
The latest blow came a few days ago when the U.S. government delayed the Keystone crude oil pipeline that would deliver Canadian oil to Texas. Officials cited concern over a water supply in Nebraska along the pipeline’s proposed route. Who knows now whether the project will ever see completion. In the meantime, Canada is gushing out more oil than it knows what to do with, while the American government ensures that its citizens remain at the mercy of Middle Eastern regional strife and whether or not a sheik wakes up on the right side of the bed.
So if you’re an American upset about the price of oil, blame the government. It just had an opportunity to lower the price, but gave it away—likely to the Chinese, who will gladly choke the polar bears that Westerners won’t.
A second anti-Canadian oil ruling came late last month from the European Union. Canada has been trying to work out a free-trade deal with Europe, but the bloc ruled last month that Canadian crude oil extracted from tar sands is more of a pollutant than other sources of oil, assigning it a bureaucratic rating to reflect this assessment. Canada is arguing that over the course of the entire production-to-delivery cycle, tar sand oil is no more of a pollutant than other alternatives, and criticizes the lack of transparency while threatening to appeal the decision to the World Trade Organization. Europeans, meanwhile, are selling their first-to-sixth-born children to put gas in their Renaults.
It’s not that Europeans couldn’t use Canadian oil. They’re currently negotiating for it with post-Gaddafi Libya, without really yet knowing whom they’re dealing with. They’ve been importing it from Russia, contributing to Putin’s oil-for-influence program. Not too long ago, Russia shut off Europe’s oil tap because it got into a tiff with Belarus, and the pipeline to Europe runs through that country. All these headaches and yet Europe doesn’t currently ship in any oil from Canada, although it quite feasibly could—if it weren’t for blatant protectionism cloaked in environmentalism.
It doesn’t help that domestic Canadian lobbying groups are actively working against their own economic interests, claiming oil sand products inherently damage aboriginals and perform unspeakable acts on Mother Nature. Over the past week I’ve seen two documentaries on the Kremlin-funded Russian international television network making similar claims about natural resource industrialism—all while Russia opens up its new North Stream natural gas line running right under the Baltic Sea from Russia directly into Germany, where it can provide an environmentally friendlier alternative to crude while not ceding an inch of crude-oil imperialism. No one’s telling Russia it has to make cars that plug into walls or put windmills atop the Kremlin. Instead, the West will probably just keep kicking Canada until its own toes bleed.
Rachel Marsden is an international political and communications strategist based in Paris, France. http://www.rachelmarsden.com