You are hereCanada's energy insecurity: We have no plan if shortages hit, yet we're talking about selling more of our oil to U.S.
Canada's energy insecurity: We have no plan if shortages hit, yet we're talking about selling more of our oil to U.S.
The Toronto Star, Gordon Laxer - Today and tomorrow, a prominent right-wing think-tank based in Washington is the lead host to two closed-door meetings in Calgary. The meetings are to discuss ways to enhance American energy security by getting more Canadian oil and gas.
Why are Canadians involved in discussing American energy security when Canada has no energy policy, and no plans for ensuring oil for Eastern Canadians during a supply crisis?
The roundtables, two of seven planned meetings led by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), are part of the "North American Future 2025 Project."
It is intended to feed into the Security and Prosperity Partnership, begun in Waco, Texas, by the "three amigo" governments of North America in 2005.
The stated goal is to enhance the security and competitiveness of North America. The real goal is more about integrating Canada and Mexico into the American way of doing things. It's also about getting our energy and water and Canadian participation in U.S.-led, pre-emptive wars.
The CSIS roundtables are funded by the U.S. and Mexican governments, but not by Canada.
CSIS bills itself as being launched "at the height of the Cold War, dedicated to the simple but urgent goal of finding ways for America to survive as a nation and prosper as a people."
The Conference Board of Canada, and CIDE, a Mexican think-tank, are co-hosts.
These roundtables are part of a broader, largely subterranean process to pull this country deeper into the U.S. orbit. There is buy-in from elites in invitation-only meetings, but the public is left in the dark, because most would be opposed.
Why isn't Parliament debating this initiative and the government holding public hearings?
While rising Canadian oil exports are helping to wean America off Middle Eastern oil, the Canadian government is shirking its responsibility to protect Canadians. Rising Canadian oil exports are, perversely, leading Canadians to rely more on Middle Eastern imports.
The National Energy Board, whose mandate is to "promote safety and security ... in the Canadian public interest," admitted to me in an email: "Unfortunately, the NEB has not undertaken any studies on security of supply."
This is shocking.
In reference to my question on whether Canada is considering setting up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve under its membership in the International Energy Agency, the NEB stated that Canada "was specifically exempted from establishing a reserve, on the grounds that Canada is a net exporting country whereas the other members are net importers."
But it is not safe to assume that Canada is immune to oil shortages because we produce more oil than we consume.
Last year, Canada imported 850,000 barrels of oil per day, to meet 90 per cent of Atlantic Canada's and Quebec's oil needs, and 40 per cent of Ontario's. A rising share, 45 per cent last year, came from OPEC countries, primarily Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Meanwhile, a falling proportion (37 per cent) of Canadian imports come from safe North Sea countries – Norway and Britain.
Thus Canada neither supplies its own market, nor has a Strategic Oil Reserve like the United States and 21 other countries in the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The U.S. is doubling its reserves to withstand an international oil crisis beyond the 67 days supply it currently has.
Of the 24 countries in the International Energy Agency, only Norway and Canada have no reserve. Norway doesn't need one. Sensibly, it supplies its own needs, before exporting surpluses.
Canada then, is the most exposed member of the IEA, established by industrial countries in 1974 to counter the boycott power of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
What would Canada do in a supply crunch during an Arctic cold front?
We do not have enough pipeline capacity to bring Western oil to meet Eastern Canadian needs.
Strategic petroleum reserves are good for short-term energy crunches, but not long-term shortages. The best insurance for Eastern Canadians is to bring back the rule of no energy exports unless there are 25 years of proven supply, and build another oil pipeline on Canadian soil.
Rather than pledging allegiance to U.S. energy security in secret Calgary meetings, Canada should look after the security needs of Canadians.
Canada had a National Energy Program, flawed as it was, but buried it in the Free Trade Agreement. Now, we have a new NEP – "no energy policy."
Ironically, Canada's current position was eloquently expressed in a popular, Alberta bumper sticker in the early 1980s – "Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark."
Is this what is meant by a security partnership?
Gordon Laxer is a political economist and the director of Parkland Institute, a research policy network at the University of Alberta. He is writing a book on energy security and climate change.