President Barack Obama’s veto this week of a U.S. Senate bill that sought to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline “underscored the folly of Canada’s catastrophic quest, in recent years, to transform itself into a dirty-energy ‘superpower,’” writes Tim Dickinson, national affairs reporter at Rolling Stone, in an excellent chronology of the Harper government’s push for tar sands/oil sands development.
“Riding record-high oil prices—$107 a barrel as recently as last June—Harper’s big bet on Canadian crude appeared savvy,” Dickinson writes. “But today, with the price of oil cut in half, the Canadian economy is staggering. Tar sands producers have clawed back billions in planned investments and begun axing jobs by the thousands. The Canadian dollar, recently at parity with the U.S. dollar, has dipped to about 80 cents. Instead of a federal budget surplus, economists are now projecting a C$2.3 billion deficit.”
Rolling Stone details the impact of federal energy policy on Canada’s manufacturing sector, its currency, and its environmental regulations. “Under Harper, investment in the tar sands has surged more than 140% to C$59 billion. And the value of Canadian crude exports has more than doubled, to C$82 billion,” Dickinson writes. “In the process, northern Alberta has become an environmental sacrifice zone: Tar sands strip mining has created an apocalyptic landscape of oil-scarred tundra and toxic wastewater ponds.”
With Harper’s economic plan in ruins and a federal election due to take place this year, “none of Canada’s major political parties are providing the leadership” to put the country on a low-carbon path, he reports. “But the free market and depressed oil prices could force such changes all the same. A study of the national oil and gas industries published in January by investment research firm CanOils warned that fewer than 20% of Canada’s oil firms ‘will be able to sustain their business long-term.’”