Monday, June 30, 2008


God, we Canadians are pathetic. The American Congress bats an eyelash in the direction of a sane, low-carbon fuel policy, and our newspapers start throwing a nutty:
...when Barack Obama threatens to break America's addiction to “dirty, dwindling and expensive oil” and endorses a proposed “low-carbon fuel standard,” he is harming America's own national interests. Canada is the largest exporter of crude oil to the United States, surpassing Mexico and Saudi Arabia, and supplying almost 19 per cent of U.S. demand. If the U.S. eliminates its Canadian heavy-oil imports, which are now growing significantly, Canada will soon find other eager customers such as China, and will simply expand its pipeline system to supply them.
Two things: how is the size of Canada's energy export in America's interests? If Canada supplied 100% of America's energy, would that be in it's interests? Second, if it were "simple" to massively expand Canada's westward pipelines, we would be doing it already, wouldn't we? We aren't. Ergo...
The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 contains a controversial section 526, which bans federal agencies from buying alternative fuels that produce more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Efforts to amend the legislation, to specify that this section does not include Canadian heavy oil, have stalled. Worse, many view the section as a precedent for broader action.
Oh no! Broader action!? To combat climate change? Whatever will we do? (And why, for the love of God, should we expect an explicit exemption for Canadian tar sands? Why are Canadian leaders asking the US Congress to pass nonsensical laws?)
Meanwhile, California has a sweeping plan to reduce greenhouse gases, which would require a 10-per-cent cut to the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020. If Mr. Obama embraces this provision, as seems likely, U.S. refiners would hesitate to accept Canadian oil – because oil-sands production generates as much as three times more greenhouse gas than conventional oil.
Ah, so Canada is producing shitty oil. (Come on, you can admit it.) Canada is producing garbage. Crap. The hydrocarbon equivalent of, well, a GM car. It's dirty, inefficient, and it doesn't even really get us where we want to go. So naturally, we're demanding that America continue to accept it without any question.
Mr. Obama's advisers have not done the hard calculations. Canada's oil sands contain as much as 173 billion barrels of economically viable oil, which is second only to Saudi Arabia. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates that production will quadruple by 2020 to almost four million barrels a day, and there is the potential for more than 100 years of production. Canadian producers are also cutting emissions per barrel of production, unlike producers in most other nations.
If we have more than a century's worth of production, but all we can produce is crap (garbage, shitty oil, what have you) what does it matter? And as for those estimates that we'll massively expand the tar sands: riiiight. The CAPP estimates that, despite the fact that it's taken 30 years to get tar sands production to 1 million barrels per day, we're going to add another 3 million barrels per day in... under 12 years. They've maintained that estimate, btw, since 2002. This despite the acknowledged cost overruns and delays that are already causing oil majors to rethink their plans in Athabasca. It might have been worth the Globe and Mail mentioning that the CAPP is composed of... Canadian oil companies, who stand to lose a ton of money if the law is unchanged.

A less obviously corrupt source would be Canada's own national energy board, which predicts that, in a scenario of high energy prices and increased environmental concern, oil sands developent will stall well before 2030. [PDF here, p. 75] The situation is different if global politics become more fractious, according to the NEB, but does the Globe and Mail really want to sell oil based on increased global unrest and all its attendant death and destruction? Yes, yes it does.
So where could Mr. Obama turn for supplies? The North Sea is declining. Venezuela, Nigeria and much of the Middle East are not stable; anyway, the cost of transporting that oil adds to their emissions tally. Canadian producers plan to spend $16-billion on pipelines to bring more heavy oil south; U.S. refiners are spending $53-billion (U.S.) to handle it. If Mr. Obama wins the election and launches a foolhardy attack on his best supplier, it is the American consumer who will pay the price, not Canada.
Incredibly obtuse. Explain to me how, in the absence of an enthusiastic second customer (to whom we cannot sell this shitty oil, because we don't have the alternative routes to market) Canadians wouldn't also be hurt if Americans decided to do without our oil? For every seller, there needs to be a buyer. America is our only buyer, and because of the structure of our energy market, the only possible buyer of the volumes we produce. If they decide to do without us, we're fucked plain and simple. America, meanwhile, is rich enough to afford oil from whomever will sell it to them. (Note also that "simple" pipeline construction actually costs billions of dollars.) Americans are already conserving oil by driving less and driving smaller, and if you think those trends are going to stop you're crazy.

Or here's a different idea: instead of hitching our national wagon to the mirage of Alberta's shitty-oil based future, we could try and build cars that people want, fueled by things that aren't killing the planet (and ducks), at prices people can afford. Crazy, I know.

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