"A corrupt petro-state" - Macleans.ca

“A corrupt petro-state”

George Monbiot says Canada is the major obstacle to a deal in Copenhagen


Stephen Harper’s foot-dragging on climate change (or if you rather, prudent political strategy of waiting until the US announced its own reduction targets) has brought his government its fair share of domestic criticism. But few would predict the sort of loathing unleashed in this Guardian column by British author and environmentalist George Monbiot. Canada, he proclaims, is to climate change “what Japan is to whaling” and “the”—not “a”— major obstacle to a deal at the upcoming Copenhagen summit. “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.” Monbiot says the Harper government has done everything in its power in recent months to wreck the talks, and in turn, has earned the enmity of the world’s environmentalists and many of its political leaders. And he identifies Alberta’s tar sands, and the vast amount of money they generate, as the reason Canada is being transformed into “a corrupt petro-state.”

The Guardian

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“A corrupt petro-state”

  1. Canada's Back!

  2. I am unaware of Canada's influence/power to get Americans, Indians, Chinese, Russians, Brazillians … etc. to agree on anything.

    I am sure his absurd claims have nothing to do with Monbiot's appearance at Munk Centre tonight. How many polar bears had to fall out of the sky for Monbiot to break his 'self-imposed ban on flying'?

  3. Canada’s back, baby.

    • Last time I checked our 35 million strong population is just a drop in the bucket globally. We really don't mater at all to anyone. I think this Monbiot Ass-hat can move to Africa and commune with the trees and leave the rest of the adults in the room to make some real decisions.

  4. It's too bad that we don't have more writers like George Monbiot here in Canada. He's the kind of writer you read to see what crazy thing he's going to say next. In his piece in the Globe yesterday he compared Jim Prentice to Dick Cheney. Absolutely hilarious.

  5. I'm pretty sure the Conservatives would be saying the same thing regardless of the oil/tar sands…

  6. I do love how he flew to Toronto to evaluate the oil sands. Kind of like flying to Kuala Lumpur to figure out what's going on in Sydney.

  7. Hopefully Canada does block the progress at Copenhagen, then we can look back in 20 years when temps and sea-levels are still normal and take credit for saving the west from economic disaster.

  8. We're the eight largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Population-wise, we're pretty small, but pollution-wise, we're a big fish.

  9. Still doesn't change the fact we don't live in a vacuum. Creating our own emissions policy is foolhardy if it harms us competitively in comparison to the US. We're in 10th on a per capita basis (UN 2005) not bad when you consider how much energy we produce.

    And besides market dynamics will solve this emissions issue within the next 20 years regardless of Government policy. Remember those pesky 150$/BBL prices last year. I think there's a good chance prices like that will become a permanent fixture on the economic landscape and drive the market toward achieving efficiency. I remember how much my own employer freaked out about energy usage at 50$ and when things hit 150$ we were trying to get all we could out of every drop.

    My point is Monbiot, bestows on us a power we do not have. Nobody is following Canada's lead on energy policy because ultimately we don't matter. We're followers by necessity.

  10. As if you have the slightest clue whether or not temps and sea levels will be normal.

  11. We're 10th in the world only when you include countries whose economies are nothing but oil (UAE, Qatar, etc.) and small island nations that have populations the size of Guelph (Aruba, Dutch West Indies). Of industrialized countries, only the US and Luxembourg generate more emissions per capita.

    Market dynamics won't be enough on their own, because the producers of oil know plenty about market dynamics and fight to make sure that their product is, at a minimum, affordable in the long-term. Unless the cost of polluting stays high enough over a long enough period to make the return on investment for low-emissions energy sources worthwhile, it won't be done. Even at $150 a barrel, oil consumption merely got dented (and that was partially due to the economic collapse) – it's already coming back. Besides, oil isn't the only concern – coal remains the cheapest energy source, and the dirtiest. Without intervention, CO2 emissions will continue to rise.

    We may not be the biggest player on the market (that's the US and China), but we're hardly insignificant. No, the world won't say "how high" when we say jump, but we're a large enough economy that produces enough CO2 emissions and enough energy that our voice matters, even if it's one of many. Even being a follower would be a step-up from what we've done, which has been to stall and to disrupt – if we just followed America's lead, Prentice wouldn't have indicated that we won't put any real emissions polices in place for years – even with the US indicating they're willing to at least try to do something (Congress not withstanding).

    You're right on one poin though, nobody's following Canada's lead on energy policy – they're doing something, we're not.

  12. This kind of overheated rhetoric hurts the chances of a deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Proponents of a deal would be better off focusing on a more nuanced strategy, including de-emphasing (although not discarding) the global warming theory and instead relying on the more common-sense argument that it's a dumb strategy to rely on non-renewable energy sources to power our economies.

    I would also put a lot more focus on the potential economic benefits of switching to cleaner, more renewable, forms of energy.

    Focusing the entire Canadian debate on the tar sands is a bad approach. It's too important for the Albertan (and Canadian) economy. They're not going to be abandoned. Demonizing them does nothing but harm national unity and harden positions.

  13. "Market dynamics won't be enough on their own, because the producers of oil know plenty about market dynamics and fight to make sure that their product is, at a minimum, affordable in the long-term."

    I have to say I completely disagree, resources companies could not care less about affordability. I tend to subscribe to the view that the era of cheap energy is over. I would cite the work of someone like Jeff Rubin as supporting opinion. Really I see a world coming where there will be such scarcity that hydrocarbon pricing will be completely beyond any measure of control and alternative will win-out by necessity. Sure coal will continue to be a base element in our energy supply but I do think in 20 years the use of oil (at least in the developed world where we actually pay the full price for it) will fall off a cliff and a good portion of emissions right along with it.

  14. "You're right on one poin though, nobody's following Canada's lead on energy policy – they're doing something, we're not."

    That's true. Even Alberta is doing something with a $15/tonne charge on CO2 in the oilsands which is 70% of the current carbon price in the EES. Funny, how that little fact never enters Monbiot and other enviros screeds against the oilsands. It's also funny how people attack Alberta when quite clearly Ontario is the problem. How did the Liberals do with that carbon tax, again?

  15. Indeed. George Monbiot is drunk on his own hyperbole.

    Cute example of this from wiki:

    In The Guardian, Monbiot wrote: ‘flying across the Atlantic is as unacceptable, in terms of its impact on human well-being, as child abuse'. Later he conceded that he did himself fly 'hypocritically or paradoxically, depending on your point of view' and landed in Toronto on 29 November to challenge Canada's climate change policies.

  16. Frankly, nobody does. Not me, not you, not him, and certainly not George Monbiot.

  17. Thwim, I take it you agree with Monbiot's wild assertions about Canadian villainy?

  18. He reminds me of another George: Mr. Galloway.

  19. Well said, Anon Liberal.

  20. I would agree except for the fact that none of these " GHG reduction schemes " even tries to reduce CO2 , the only focus is on who pays whom for the right to expand their economy .

  21. Exactly my point.

  22. Although in the absence of certainty the smart thing would be to assume the worse.

  23. Thanks. It's rare you and I agree but I think there's a lot of rigid, ideological thinking on all sides when it comes to this issue. People have to think a little more freely and tone down all the doomsaying.

  24. Not gonna defend Monbiot, because he is talking out his butt with all the hyperbole.

    As for the blame game between the provinces, Ontario has a lot of work to do and emissions to cut, but with less than a third of the population, Alberta's still emitting more than Ontario.

    As for Alberta's charge, it's really just a gesture – all it does is force R&D investment by Alberta's oilmakers, often going to CCS technologies which, far from being green initiatives, are just a way for oil companies to squeeze more oil out of their land. It's not doing really anything to control emissions. Alberta does get villified perhaps more than they should in global warming talks, but let's not skew the numbers – Alberta, in large part thanks to the oil sands, produces more CO2 than any other province and a reduction in Canada's emissions requires a reduction in Alberta's emissions.

  25. "As for Alberta's charge, it's really just a gesture"

    No, it's $15 a tonne which is about $15 a tonne more than emissions in Ontario and about 70% of the cost of emitting a tonne in Europe. Your per capita arguments are a red herring since the whole point of the cap and trade schemes is to commoditize CO2 which will increase the efficiency of its reduction. The current Albertan regime would have the same environmental effect on the oilsands whether the whole economy was capped and carbon was trading as $15 a tonne.

    As for the R&D fund, it's not really up to you, me or a bunch of environmentalists to tell the Albertan government how to spend money it raises through their carbon pricing mechanism. If they want to spend that money on carbon sequestration rather than windmills then that's there perogative. And I would humbly suggest that environmentalists should spare Alberta the lecture about how the oilsands are a symbol of environmental destruction when they are paying similar carbon prices to those being paid in Europe. Perhaps they should stand in front of Queen's Park and ask the McGuinty Government why Nanticoke is not paying $15 a tonne.

  26. I dont doubt that Harper is attending so that he can do his best to ensure there is no meaningful agreement. As to whether or not he gets his way is another matter. Mr. Monbiot does go a bit overboard but his basic idea is probably (unfortunately) sound. The core constituency for the Harper Conservatives is the Alberta oilpatch and their interests must be served no matter what it costs the rest of Canada.

    • Patriot, interesting handle it must be another country you are a patriot of its quite clearly not Canada as your comment is most certianly against what best for Canada.There is no dought Mr. Harper has Canada's best interest in mind at this farce called Copenhagen or any other meeting of world leaders.Alberta's wealth is Canada's wealth, its people like you that help fuel the devisions in this country you should think long and hard before you toss around such stupid statments as above as they may just come true and leave the likes of you freezing in the dark.

  27. To a degree. We certainly haven't helped things.
    Although the comment was more about the recognition Canada has been receiving since Harper's party was elected. Whereas previously Canada was infrequently cited in foreign journalism, it was nearly always in a good light. These days, we seem to receive much more coverage.. but the impression isn't nearly as favorable.

  28. The bad coverage is a good sign. It means we aren't bending over backwards to go along with every new idea of the progressive globalist crowd.

  29. It's just that we used to be counted upon to go along with whatever progressive-minded "consensus" was reached on any given subject. Suddenly it's no longer a given that Canada will jump on board every feel-good initiative comes up at the UN General Assembly. We aren't the obedient little pushover anymore, and it's irking some people.

  30. Carbon prices paid in Europe go up to over $100 (American) per tonne, on every tonne emitted.

    Alberta's charge is –
    a) Only on oil sands emissions
    b) Only on those emissions that exceed the set intensity-based cap of a 12% reduction

    By the Alberta's government's own numbers and a bit of quick math, the fee has applied to, at best, about 1% of Alberta's total emissions, meaning they're charging an effective 15 cents a tonne. Furthermore, the fund they have to pay into goes to fund R&D that would, for the most part, be done willingly by the oil companies anyway, because it reduces costs and/or increases output (especially with CCS). Essentially, those companies make up the fee by cutting their own R&D. Basically, the charge is virtually nothing. You're right, this is slightly better than Ontario's actual nothing, but you're the one who brought up regional bickering, not me. Alberta still has a lot of cuts to make, as does the entire country.

  31. Yes, because countries that isolate themselves always fare better..
    ..oh wait.

  32. Yah, but he flies to fight global warming, whereas the rest of us fly for our own selfish reasons. Only superstars of the global carbonista movement like Suzuki, Gore, and Monbiot should be allowed to fly.

    • I agree, us Canadians are selfish because we want to go someone warmer when the temperature hits -45C in the middle of January! Monbiot is another useful idiot in the global warming fraud. But let him continue to talk, particularly as Canada heads into winter, – the more he jabbers, the sillier he sounds.

  33. So let's deep six what's left of our economy on an unprovable theory. Well, let the Chinese step off that cliff first.

  34. No, Harper's constituacy is the entire country. Alberta's wealth is propping the rest of us up for the time being. Can you imagine what a basket case Canada would be without oil and gas. We would be screwed. That's why Canadians keep electing him, even when they don't much like him. And that was why they sent Lizzie May and the Nutty Professor packing.

  35. I'll readily admit we are too wasteful with energy, and other materials. But the cure for that is to make energy more expensive. Period. Yet we have the same progressive hand-wringers who are demanding GHG reductions opposing the HST because people will have to pay another 8% on their hydro bill, and more for a tank of gas. (Yes I know Hudak is opposing it as well, but that is for his own little dog and pony show.)

    Why does every suggestion for cutting emissions have to include some complicated scheme of subsidies, rebates, "initiatives", "round tables", tax credits, and "education programs"? Just tax energy. ALL of it. Make it more expensive to consume it. Not all at once. Gradually over the years. And don't use the revenue to fund "green intiatives", use it to cut income taxes. (And DON'T bother trying to tell me that's what Dion's Green Dream did. His Green Whatever included some modest income tax cuts, and a raft of "green initiatives" that would have been grossly expensive and ineffective. Also, he wasn't taxing energy use, but "carbon".)

    But no. Such an approach would be far too simple, sensible, and a complete loser at the polls. People want feel-good initiatives, and they want someone else to pay. So we get $10,000 grants to by hybrid cars, and wind turbines going up all over the place. Greener by the second.

  36. Damn I'm proud of my country. Not just an obstacle, but the obstacle to the Copenhagen groupthink eh?
    Wicked cool.

  37. Countries that allow their own interests to get trampled for the "greater good" won't fare any better. Chretien and his Environment Minister David Anderson believed Canada would receive credit for its massive boreal forest "carbon sinks" – and therefore be exempt from taking any costly measures – right up to the final days of the Kyoto Accord negotiations. Suddenly the EU pulled the rug out, and we were left with an impossible, and therefore meaningless, target. Playing the nice guy sure worked that time.

    • You don't understand how it works in these circles, Ranter. It's not what you actually do, it's what you say you're going to do. Empty promises are gold. The wilder and more implausible the promise, the more they will revere you.

  38. And what type of fuel did the plane use when Monbiot flew here? Any idea where that would come from if not Canada? Eventually there will be alternative fuels, but that won't be for awhile. As for now, the world needs petro products (including Monbiot) and Canada can deliver.

  39. Does Monbiot rhyme with idiot?? Like the world is waiting to hear what Harper has to say!!! Perhaps Ontario gas and oil users MIGHT, but without meaningful reductions in air and water pollution from China and India (not to mention Russia, Brazil and other South American nations) these talks will go on forever…..Even if we are successful in cleaning up our own
    "backyard", we have to keep an eye on our global "neighbours" as well. Jim D is just might be right…..

  40. He was loonier than that with Steve Paikin on TV Ontario. He said Canada was a greater danger to the planet than Iran

    ……. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh

    How can anyone take these whackos seriously?

  41. The Saudis, after the 80's oil boom/crash, have been fighting to keep the price of oil at a low enough level to prevent any efforts to move off oil as the standard resource for modern infrastructure. They want to make money, sure, but they've taken the long-term approach.

    Eventually, yes, oil prices will hit levels too high to be economically viable, but that will take time and in the meantime, our infrastructure and economy becomes more and more attached to oil (meaning the marginal costs for switching remain high, even if there are eventual savings). The best counters to this are essentially to speed up the process by creating a pricing gradient (either through a tax or cap-and-trade) to create a more stable economic incentive and to do it now.

    Scarcity is a real concern, but things aren't that scarce yet. I always think of it as deciding to deal with that eventual sarcity and economic upheaval now, when we have time and resources, or waiting until we have no choice and have to make changes more quickly and abruptly than can be done effeciently of effectively.

  42. Is Alberta paying carbon taxes on its fossil fuel (coal fired) power plants?

    As for the R&D fund, I don't suggest diverting it to windmills. I suggest diverting it to tax cuts.

  43. Ontario sources much more of its electricity from renewables than Alberta, for that matter.

  44. It's not "unprovable". The theory will be validated or disproved soon enough one way or another.

  45. The Green Shift was not perfect, but it was not so bad as you say. It did include some 'equity' measures for rural Canadians, as well as the agriculture and fishing lobbies. These are par for the course in our politics, and everyone does it. However, it did also include meaningful/significant personal and corporate income tax reductions.

    My ideal would be a straight carbon tax going to PIT/CIT cut + GST rebate increase. There have been several econometric analyses of the effects of a carbon tax on the Canadian economy. It is not doom-and-gloom. It won't even shut down the oil sands. With offsetting tax cuts, it is even projected to have a net positive economic impact after a few years for adjustment. Even more surprising is that it is not that important what the rest of the world does, in terms of exporting emissions. It would be tough if the US did not put some cost on emissions, but China, etc. are not a significant threat for carbon leakage.

  46. It would be cool or positive if we weren't a snake in the grass for the whole process. If the goal is to oppose it, oppose it and boycott the process. Our government is making statements about their desire for emissions reductions. You are applauding their lies and duplicity. What a great show our character that our PM is showing to the rest of the world.

  47. I think the general attitude of Canadians (and this is just extrapolation from those with whom I mix…which may not be a representative sample) is that reducing emissions is good, but (a) not in response to scare tactics from the climate-change lobby, and (b) not at all costs unless there is clear and present danger as the alternative.

    Since the predominant sanctimony-index at the Copenhagen Conference likely involves both (a) and (b), agreeing to the overall goal while backing away from the Goretastic urgency of it all is actually a pretty sensible approach that shows both character and level-headedness.

  48. They've also been less than opaque when it comes to how they report their reserves. I still content pricing and scarcity will necessitate change long before the most optimistic government targets will. Plus at that point it;s about saving money and everyone is for that.

    My point is that the government plans for serious reductions are at least 10-20 years away. In 5-10 years we will see substantive permanent increases in oil prices. You mentioned earlier how consumption barely decreased during the peaks of last year. I think you're forgetting just how fast that price both came and went, far to quick for meaningful lifestyle changes. If a barrel of oil were to have a nominal price of 150$+ /BBL for a period of at least two years you would see massive amounts of reduction out of sheer necessity. This could be devastation for the economy but at the same time will be great for those who seek efficiency.

    Plus there would be a strong incentive for the public to buy into these efficient technologies. Far more persuasive than any carbon tax although I will readily admit that one is indeed needed.

  49. Yes, big bad Canada. This is the latest ploy by the eco-nuts. Pick on a peacable country that is too polite to strike back. Find a straw man to knock down to show the rubes how powerful you are. I find it hysterical that China is now the darling of these hucksters. Mainly because they have agreed to vaguely hold discussions about carbon entensity, while they continue building 500 more coal fired plants they have on the drawing board. When Harper proposed the same thing he was vilified. By the way, Obama has stated, if anyone was listening, that the U.S. coal industry will be exempt from any agreement.

  50. And the worst case scenario is the interglacial period is ending and Canada will be a mile under ice in 50 years.

  51. Amazingly, I see no conflict between what you've described and the major suggestions of what to do about CO2 emissions (my own personal views included). Yes, destroying the economy on the alter of carbon emission reductions is beyond pointless and counterproductive.

    I think a lot of the issue now comes from what is considered something like having serious economic ramifications – a carbon tax, for example, has been vilified in the public mind, yet the economics behind it (especially if it's offset with other tax cuts), revolves around being economically neutral. I'm pretty sure I've shown myself to be one of the most adamant believers in AGW around here, as well as a major supporter of a carbon tax, but I don't believe that ocean levels are going to rise, I don't believe it will cause massive or even significantly worse storms, heck, I don't buy most of the doomsday-style scenarios thrown about are even remotely possible (worsening food production is about as bad as I think it'll get) – but the other factors matter enough to demand action.

  52. Then boycott it! Pretending to participate with the secret intent to derail everything for the rest of the world is not anything you could describe as a show or character or level-headedness. It is duplicity, lies, and cynicism.

  53. I concur. Those who say we're losing our influence have it exactly backwards. We actually count now. They can no longer just assume Canada will line up, bend over and take one for the planet.

  54. I think the rhetoric is absurd. Just makes me like Stephen Harper more when wacky radicals attempt to blame use for possibly ruining the world

  55. Good point. Lizzie and George are clearly on the same wavelength.

    • Lizzie is all about Lizzie. I have watched her self agrandizing style for decades. It's no accident she had to flee to the West Coast. She couldn't get elected dog catcher here on the East Coast. We all know her too well. I just hope these shrill loons get more hysterical by the day. They will eventually out themselves for the fraudsters, hypocrits and fanatics they all are.

  56. They appeared together last night on the Munk debates. The arguments he puts forth in his column could be straight out of her mouth – I wouldn't doubt she provided many of the arguments and backgtround material- both go over the top.

  57. Some might recall that when Elizabeth May got into trouble a couple of years back over referring to PM Harper as the moral equivalent of Neville Chamberlain, appeasing Hitler, she was quoting George Monbiot.

  58. It looks like the Univ. of East Anglea bombshell is a story that just wouldn't go away, even though mainstream media for the most part tried to ignore it. I see the head huckster there had to resign in disgrace. Best news I have heard all year.

  59. How any responsible journalist can write an article under the pretense that all of the governments in Copenhagen are there 'representing' their nations is ludicrous.
    Those governments are representing the interests of big business as related to their countries and political parties, as they do at home in their own countries. Canada, USA and British governments are at odds and at war with their societies, constantly harassing them for punitive incomes to supplement their inability to do their jobs, placing generations of debt onto societies so they can strut through their short tenure in office.
    There are always exceptions, yes, but Copenhagen isn't about world environmental groups representing their nations to work out some reductions in pollutants, it is about damage control for the current profit models and exploitation of the changes for increasing profits.
    I just can't wait to see what the social engineers of the new world order have decided is in our best interests this time!

  60. Monbiot is a beautiful writer, but a screeming loon. He makes Jack Layton look like a centrist. If indeed we are leading the world to stop the "climatofascists", whose methodology, data and statistics are all in serious disrepute, from kneecapping the our stumbling recovery with the same stupid tax and waste policies we see in the EU and elsewhere, I'll buy The PM and the boys and girls a beer.