The Corner

Canada: Rogue State

According to the EUrocracy, the world would be better, heck the world would be great, if only we were more like our little brother to the North, Canada. They’re nice, deferential to the U.N. and Europe, and they have exactly the right attitudes on everything from diversity to the backwardness of the US of A (a “Northern Puerto Rico with an EU sensibility” was how I described it in one article). And yet, it appears that Canada, not America, is the greatest threat to a Copenhagen accord on global warming. Why? Because they want to exploit their enormous (and particularly filthy in parts) oil reserves.

George Monbiot is out of his gourd about it. No, really:

When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

A few months ago, I wrote a cover story on offshore drilling for the magazine. In it I wrote:

…Which brings us to the futility of the “Stop Me Before I Drill Again” mentality that characterizes the Democratic party and the environmental movement. We are constantly told that America must “take the lead” on global warming in order to persuade the rest of the world to cut their own emissions. But America has restricted domestic drilling for decades. Has anyone—anywhere— followed our example? No. Everywhere in the world, governments jump for joy when they discover new oil fields to exploit. Tell a Brazilian official that he should stop drilling because drilling is just wrong, and, once he realizes you’re not joking, he’ll throw his caipirinha in your face.

No serious student of energy and development economics thinks that oil will become less important in at least the next several decades. Every forecast shows demand—domestic and worldwide—going up steadily, or even sharply. Perhaps more importantly, this is also true of coal. China, which is building a new coal-fired power plant every 10 days, has surpassed the U.S. to become the biggest CO2 emitter in the world, and very soon India and Brazil will overtake America as well. They have no intention of abandoning cheap, reliable, and powerful fossil fuels—that they own—in favor of incredibly inefficient, unproven, and expensive “alternative” energy that they’d have to buy from America or Europe. This is true not only because fossil-fuel energy is cost-effective in its own right, but also because they’ve already paid for the infrastructure. Peter Huber writes in City Journal, “Ten countries ruled by nasty people control 80 percent of the planet’s oil reserves— about 1 trillion barrels, currently worth about $40 trillion.” Then he gets to the heart of the matter. “If $40 trillion worth of gold were located where most of the oil is, one could only scoff at any suggestion that we might somehow persuade the nasty people to leave the wealth buried. They can lift most of their oil at a cost well under $10 a barrel. They will drill. They will pump. And they will find buyers. Oil is all they’ve got.”

Look, if Canada — CANADA! — can’t be relied upon to “lead by example,” particularly when leading by example makes America look bad and Canadians feel good about not being Americans, how on earth does anyone expect Brazil or China to play along?

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