Stephen Harper’s Petro-State Is Constructed On Tar Sands
This text first appeared within the Washington Spectator.
Late 21st-century graduate students of business studying the growing downside of stranded belongings will nearly actually concentrate on the historical past of Canada’s Athabasca Oil Sand (aka tar sands). The case studies they read will either describe the gradual abandonment of the world’s largest reserve of bituminous crude or they will learn about the tar sands’ miraculous last-minute escape from becoming the world’s largest stranded asset. For both outcome, the turning level they’ll look again on is nearly now.
After all, a few of Alberta’s crude has made its approach to market, but a lot slower than it might have, or was projected to, that producers, refiners, shippers, banks and other buyers in tar-sands growth are beginning to wonder whether they’ve backed a good play by investing over $160 billion to show tar into oil.
So the economic stranding course of has already begun. Five world energy giants–Shell, Whole, Suncor, Statoil and Occidental–have reduce bait on main bitumen deposits in Alberta, through which they’d already invested billions. Suncor has just slashed another billion dollars from its justice league t shirts walmart jp capital spending program and $800 million extra from operating expenses. And as oil prices slide decrease, commercial and investment banks are reconsidering future underwritings. An industry that recently envisioned doubling production over the next 20 years is now taking a look at one thing nearer to the alternative, a halving of manufacturing or worse in far fewer than 20 years.
American media coverage of the tar sands has targeted totally on the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which, if accomplished, would carry 830,000 barrels of Athabasca crude, daily, to the world’s largest refining middle close to Houston next to a booming export hub. As a result of American and Canadian politicians and oil execs have lobbied so hard for its approval, Americans tend to imagine that development of Keystone will secure the way forward for the tar sands. Not true. To even approach break-even, at least 4 other pipeline routes can be wanted to carry bituminous crude to the world’s market: two to the Canadian west, one to the east and one north. If two or three of these strains are one way or the other stopped, and that is fairly likely to happen, the stranding of the tar sands will escalate, Canada will stop being a petro-state, and its enterprise leaders will begin their search for one more staple to drive its nationwide economy.
Canada has always been what economists name “a staples economy,” reliant almost fully on one staple resource after another. Fur was followed by cod, then wheat, potash, minerals, timber, and hydropower. Today, Canada’s staple useful resource is carbon, a few of which derives from coal but most of it from oil. Oil, in fact, represents forty six percent of Canada’s commodity production. Unfortunately, over 90 % of its reserves are bitumen, the costly production of which nets only four percent to Canada’s GDP. But oil represents 40 percent of the country’s exports. So the urgency to develop and export the tar-sands oil has grow to be a national priority.
Canada’s tar-sands booster-in-chief is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an Alberta-primarily based petrolero who rose to prominence in politics as Chief Coverage Officer of the Reform Occasion, Canada’s model of the American Tea Party. Based in 1987, Reform merged in 2000 with the floundering Progressive Conservative Occasion to type a brand new and nearly unbeatable nationwide coalition calling itself the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance (after including “Party” to its name, it became CCRAP, and was nicknamed “see-crap”). Harper turned occasion leader of CCRAP, which has since gained two nationwide elections. It’s as if Ted Cruz grew to become the Republican front-runner and won the White House twice.
Map by Kevin Kreneck
As soon as a member of Canada’s Young Liberals and a supporter of Pierre Trudeau, Harper went west as a younger man, worked in Alberta’s oil fields and adopted his father into employment with Imperial Oil, Canada’s second-largest petroleum firm (69 p.c owned by ExxonMobil). There, like so many other western Canadians, he grew to despise Jap Canada, reasonably like the scion of a prominent American household moving from Connecticut to Texas. In Calgary, he turned an outspoken and eloquent opponent of Trudeau”s National Power Plan, which appeared set upon nationalizing Canada’s last staple useful resource. Whereas there is still speak of nationalizing oil and tar-sands oil in Canada, and in some polls a majority of Canadians support the thought, that could not probably occur with Harper in energy.
At the 2012 World Financial Discussion board, in Davos, Switzerland, Harper introduced that the expanded production and export of tar-sands bitumen was a national precedence. Canada, he predicted, was set to turn into an power superpower. In Ottawa, he took rapid and aggressive steps to weaken environmental protections just like the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was hindering pipeline construction, and to quick-track tar-sands production.
But Harper’s focus remained on Europe, the place in 2012 the European Parliament and member European Union governments were debating phrases of a revised Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) and contemplating an official ban on the import of “dirty fuels” — oil shale, liquid coal and tar sands, all of which have excessive extraction impacts, releasing more greenhouse fuel than typical oil via their “well to wheel” life cycle. A Stanford University examine that many members of the EU Parliament relied on projected a 23 p.c increase of lifecycle carbon emissions from tar-sands production.
Harper and his advisers instantly noticed the hazard of that research and the catastrophe a European ban on dirty gasoline represented for Canada’s largest new staple. One vote in Brussels may depart the tar sands stranded immediately and endlessly, even if oil producers found a route to the Chinese market.
During the 2 years leading up to the EU parliamentary vote on the issue, Harper mobilized Canadian oil executives and his cabinet behind a $30 million nation-to-nation lobbying effort. Their first target was the Stanford study, which they drove into the ground with their own trade-funded research.
Week after week, planeloads of oil execs and PR flacks crossed the Atlantic, Harper aboard each time he might be, laterally threatening a commerce warfare with Europe if the vote went the mistaken means. Aspect journeys had been made to Washington. And members of the European Parliament were flown to Ottawa and Alberta for gold-plated junkets.
With out Harper’s effort, the Parliament in Brussels would nearly definitely have voted to ban dirty fuels. After two years of intense lobbying, the measure lost by a 12-vote margin justice league t shirts walmart jp 337 to 325, with 48 abstentions. A few months later, in the fall of 2014, the first shipment of tar-sands crude arrived in Europe, with many extra to observe, as a vote on the Gas High quality Directive won’t come up once more for not less than four years.
In the meantime, if a couple of EU member nations condemn tar-sands oil, and ban its import, more small nails might be driven into the tar-sands coffin. And if two of the proposed source-to-port pipelines on the drawing boards are blocked (see map and sidebar here), extra producers and investors will abandon the sands.
If Canada’s tar sands do sooner or later turn out to be stranded, the equal annual emissions of over sixty five coal-fired plants and 50 million passenger automobiles will stay underground. And a whole lot of the credit (or blame) will go to environmental activists, aboriginal communities, litigious farmers and teams like Greenpeace, 350.org, who have added to their anti-pipeline advocacy a marketing campaign to strain institutional buyers to divest their “Big Fossil” holdings. Even before divestment began, nine of 10 tar-sands producers’ stocks had underperformed the market. So they’re susceptible.
Strand Their Capital
In keeping with the Institute for Power Economics and Monetary Analysis, a assume tank in Cleveland, the campaigns of environmentalists and native communities have already value tar-sands producers $17 billion. But that has not stemmed the dedication of the North American fossil-gas industry to move Athabasca crude to refineries around the globe.
Despite the insistence of American Republicans and petroleros that everything rests on completion of Keystone XL, the pipeline means little to the U.S. economic system. In Canada, however, economists estimate that U.S. rejection of the pipeline may value the country as a lot as $1.7 billion a 12 months, way more vital than the lack of two or three hundred everlasting jobs the pipeline would create within the U.S. And by merely raising break-even increased than it already is for bitumen producers, stopping Keystone could place the tar sands in far better danger of being stranded.
While property like the tar sands ought to be stranded, because mining and burning them will elevate the temperature of an already overheated planet a degree or more, they are more likely to grow to be stranded, as a result of they’re both unable to succeed in market or have lost market worth.
The unhappy irony is that earlier than Canada chosen tar-sands crude to be its staple export, the nation was poised to turn out to be a significant world contributor to scrub energy. It had signed local weather treaties, promoted solar-power, developed hydroelectric power and had a prosperous renewable-power business under sail, for which the country possessed all the necessary pure and financial assets. Then one powerful neoliberal free-market zealot decided to double down on excessive-carbon fuels and announce to the world that tar sands would turn into the following nation-constructing staple for his nation.