Why Barack Obama is bad for Canada

The new President’s ambitions could have a devastating effect on our economy

Why Barack Obama is bad for CanadaWhen Barack Obama met with Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Feb. 19, his message on the oil sands sounded like it could have been written in Calgary. He talked about the need for government investment in new technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and he wanted to work together to achieve it. “I love this country and think that we could not have a better friend and ally,” Obama said. “And so I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that our relationship is strengthened.” He added: “We are very grateful for the relationship that we have with Canada, Canada being our largest energy supplier.” Tom Corcoran, a former Republican congressman from Illinois and head of a Washington lobbying outfit for the oil sands and other “unconventional” fuels, remembers the day: “It was encouraging and made us feel good.”

But it turns out that Obama has a knack for making people feel good when perhaps they ought to be watching their back. “Then the realities begin to take root when you look at what is taking place here in Washington,” says Corcoran. The reality is that Obama is leading an aggressive effort to remake American energy policy with potentially severe consequences for the oil sands, and by extension, the Canadian economy.

ALSO AT MACLEANS.CA: Did you hear the one about Obama? No? That’s because the comics are giving the President an easy ride.

The oil sands currently export about half of their production of 1.2 million barrels per day to the U.S. Over the next 25 years, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute in Calgary, that production will more than double, to four million barrels per day, with most of that oil going to the U.S. For Canada, that will mean 380,000 new jobs—and an additional $1.4 trillion in GDP, which will kick off $252 billion in tax revenues, more than half of which would go to Ottawa.

So Canada has a lot at stake in the process that Barack Obama set in motion by calling on Congress to pass climate change legislation this year. In the House of Representatives, where the American clean energy and security bill has been drafted, Democratic leaders such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California’s Henry Waxman, the chairman of the energy and commerce committee, have Alberta’s oil patch squarely in their sights.

Oil sands production emits up to 15 per cent more greenhouse gases than the production of conventional oil, not to mention the toll it takes on the landscape. These concerns have caused American policy toward the oil sands to undergo a complete U-turn under Obama and congressional Democrats. The Bush administration saw the oil sands as a strategic continental resource. George W. Bush dispatched his energy secretary to Fort McMurray, Alta., to see the operations for himself, and the 2005 energy bill even included a section to partner with Alberta to share information on developing oil from U.S. tar sands and shale. But the 1,000-plus-page climate change bill now wending its way through Congress is full of potential uncertainty for Alberta and Canada.

The legislation, written by Waxman and Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, calls for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 80 per cent by 2050. It also includes a cap and trade system, and a requirement that utilities get at least 15 per cent of their electricity from renewable fuels. “Alberta has an uphill battle,” says Liz Barratt-Brown, a senior attorney for the environmental group, National Resources Defense Council in Washington, who has been closely watching the oil sands issue. “These are large reductions. They change the way we use fuels. You can see the writing on the wall for tar sands.” Even more distressing for Canada, the bill includes provisions that would punish imports from countries whose carbon regulations are deemed by Washington to be less stringent than those of the U.S.—making it a potentially much more broadly protectionist act with implications for other sectors of the economy as well.

Those measures are meant to address the potential “competitive imbalance” created for some U.S. industries by the costs of compliance with the new cap and trade regime. In order to protect domestic industry and to mitigate so-called “carbon leakage”—factories moving to countries with less stringent rules—the legislation calls for a tariff to be imposed on imports of manufactured products from countries whose carbon reduction regulations are deemed not to be “at least as stringent” as those of America. Canada’s environment minister, Jim Prentice, has denounced the measure as “green protectionism.” He told Maclean’s that he is “confident that Canada at the end of the day will have environment legislation that is commensurate with that in U.S.” However, he warned, the legislation leaves open the possibility of abuse. “Once you have protectionist authorities in the legislation, there is always the possibility for mischief in the application in a way that is prejudicial to Canada.”

The provision would apply to goods, ranging from steel and pipes to pulp and paper, from a nation whose rules are not deemed “commensurate” with that of the United States. Obama may be a self-proclaimed multilateralist, but the provision holds the potential for a unilateral economic wallop—or at least allowing Washington a very heavy hand in the writing of climate rules of its trading partners. Worries Prentice, “Like beauty and fairness, the definition of ‘commensurate’ will apparently lie in the eye of the American beholder.”

For as much as Canadians love Obama, is it possible he doesn’t love us back? His climate change legislation comes at a time of severe protectionist sentiment in Congress and an erosion of trust in Canada in response to “Buy American” provisions in the US$787-billion stimulus bill. When he met with Harper, Obama vowed that his administration would adhere to commitments in international trade agreements. But American municipalities and states have demanded only American-made steel and manufactured goods in their procurement contracts. Canadian municipalities voted this month to retaliate by excluding U.S. suppliers from municipal contracts unless the Harper government can negotiate an amended trade agreement with Washington within four months.

Notably, the Buy America provision was born in Congress, the same body that’s been tasked by Obama to work out the exact details of the climate bill. So the President’s position on Canada may be less antagonism than a case of not-so-benign neglect. Either way it’s worrisome for a country that relies on the U.S. for 70 per cent of its exports. “The problem for foreign countries is they need the President to exercise leadership and restraint on the legislatures. He’s still got to be a check on sectional interests,” says Chris Sands, a specialist in Canada-U.S. relations at the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank. “I think there was a mutual exchange of goodwill in February, which was encouraging, but goodwill alone is not enough if it doesn’t translate into actions. Friends don’t cut each other off at the knees.” He adds: “We are running out of the honeymoon period with Obama both in the U.S. and Canada where people are willing to cut him slack. And the frustrations are beginning to build.” Or perhaps Canadians are getting what they asked for: a centre-left politician who promised to do something about climate change and even mused about amending NAFTA. After all, it was his opponent, John McCain, who in the middle of a presidential campaign trekked to Canada to give a speech defending free trade.

On a trip to Niagara Falls on June 13, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and defended the Buy American provisions, saying the bill is “not being enforced in any way that is inconsistent with our international trade obligations.” Technically, she is correct. NAFTA does not preclude measures like the Buy American provisions. (It was the Canadian provinces, in fact, that chose not to bring government procurement into the deal in 1993.)

Clinton, however, said the administration would “take a hard look as to what more we can do to ensure that the free flow of trade continues.” And earlier this month, Canadian diplomats from across the U.S. were rounded up and deployed to Capitol Hill for a series of close to 80 meetings with lawmakers and staff members, armed with maps of individual states and congressional districts that showed precise numbers of American jobs that depend on trade with Canada. But the battle is certain to be a long one. For its part, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to Obama arguing that U.S. water and waste-water manufacturers alone stand to lose US$3 billion if the provisions are enforced, while hundreds of steelworkers in Pennsylvania could lose their jobs because their employer produces some of its steel abroad. Meanwhile, at least two other bills in Congress are copying the language and its supporters want the provisions to remain intact long after the recession ends. Stephen Harper has called the increase in protectionism “the biggest risk we have to global economic recovery.”

The fact that the Democrats control Congress, and that they’ve historically been more protectionist minded, is part of Canada’s problem. The other part is that Canada is trying to promote what many Democrats consider “dirty oil” at a time when Washington is finally ready to do something about climate change. Henry Waxman, co-author of the pending climate bill, is a hard-charging Democrat whose southern California district includes Hollywood. He’s long been sounding alarms about the oil sands. After the Democrats took over Congress in 2006, he interpreted a provision of a 2007 energy bill to ban the U.S. government—America’s single largest consumer of fuel—from buying from refineries that use fuels producing more emissions than conventional oil. Initially, the law was aimed at preventing the U.S. Air Force from contracting to buy liquid fuels made from coal. But Waxman declared it also banned the U.S. government from purchasing fuel extracted from oil sands. Despite aggressive lobbying by Canada and Alberta, the law remains in place—while efforts continue to modify it. “It was a sneak attack,” says Corcoran.

The first draft of the climate change bill was even tougher on the oil sands. Waxman wanted to create a new national version of the bold new “low carbon fuel standard” regime that had been adopted in his home state. California law limits the carbon content of gasoline sold in the state—and requires that the “carbon intensity” of fuels be reduced by 10 per cent by 2020 with greater cuts thereafter. The cuts are achieved by blending the fuel with more expensive biofuels, or by paying for offsets. The rub for Alberta was that in measuring the “carbon intensity” of a fuel, California looked not only at the tailpipe emissions—which is the same for oil sands and conventional fuel—but took a sweeping “cradle-to-grave” approach from production to combustion. Because the energy-intensive production process of the oil sands emits more greenhouse gases than drilling for conventional oil, their “carbon intensity” is higher. Canada advocated against the law and Ambassador Michael Wilson wrote to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to argue it discriminated against oil sands. But environmentalists say that’s the point. “In order for the standard to be effective, it has to discriminate. Otherwise you are missing a huge part of the carbon intensity,” said Barratt-Brown.

The California standard itself was relatively harmless since Alberta ships very little oil to California. (Most U.S-bound oil sands production goes by pipeline to the Midwest or the Great Lakes regions.) But more than a dozen states have already said they will follow suit. An early supporter of the policy was Barack Obama, who in May 2007, while still a senator, introduced his own legislation calling for a low-carbon fuel standard (it did not pass), and now applauds California’s efforts. When Waxman included the same standard in Washington’s climate change bill, Canada and Alberta lobbied fiercely against it. But Obama brought in all the Democrats on the energy committee to a personal meeting at the White House and pressed them to pass the bill out of the committee by the end of May. This time Alberta got a reprieve. The bill passed out of committee by Obama’s deadline, but the fuel standard provision was dropped in order to secure enough votes.

Nonetheless, the idea of a national low-carbon fuel standard is not dead. “The expectation is the Democratic leadership in the House will attempt to put the low carbon proposal back in the bill,” says Corcoran, the lobbyist. Whether there is enough support to pass it is unclear. “The issue is not going to go away. [Oil sands] are viewed as big emitters and any big emitters are going to be on a list in the mind’s eye of a lot of people,” says Sheila Hollis, a Washington lawyer who specializes in energy and has advised several provincial governments.

The potential impact of the U.S. legislation poses another dilemma for Canada: should it wait to see what its biggest energy customer comes up with before setting in stone its own legislation—or should it forge ahead independently, and be a leader not a follower? For Obama, climate change legislation is one of the hallmarks of his ambitious agenda. He has said he wants a climate change bill on his desk to sign in time for the mid-December United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, both to show that the U.S. is making progress and to pressure countries such as China and India to do their share.

Between then and now, the bill has to go through eight other powerful House committees, and the Senate has to draft, debate and pass its own legislation that will have to be reconciled with the House version. There is still a lot of horse-trading to be done, in other words, and even once a final bill is passed and signed by Obama, many of its provisions will be open to interpretation by various executive agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some in the oil patch argue Ottawa should wait to see what Washington comes up with. “There are so many uncertainties still lingering over this issue that to race into a final design without seeing the impact on trade, commerce, and energy transfers would be premature,” says Murray Smith, a former Alberta energy minister and former representative in Washington who now sits on the boards of several energy companies. Gary Mar, Alberta’s representative in Washington, says it is crucial that the Canadian system is deemed comparable to the American: “The concern is that if you don’t have a system that is recognized as comparable then you get into the possibility of the U.S. putting up all kinds of trade barriers—things like carbon duties as material enters the U.S.” But at the same time, Alberta’s environment minister, Rob Renner, warns that Canada should “not get so far ahead of the U.S. in implementation of a climate change initiative that we become uncompetitive and impose significant costs on our economy.”

Prentice plans to have announced a greenhouse gas emissions plan for all sectors of the economy before the Copenhagen meeting. The details of the regulations will be worked out in 2010, with an eye on what the U.S. is doing, and will be implemented in 2011. “Those decisions will be made on the basis of Canada’s national interests. But we will be fully mindful of what is going on with our major trading partner. It is certainly the case that we will want to know what U.S. legislation looks like.”

Meanwhile, Alberta is engaged in a delicate task of trying to influence America’s domestic climate change legislation to go easy on oil sands while still trying to look green. Mar insists that Alberta is not flat-out opposed to cap-and-trade or even a low-carbon fuel standard. “We don’t necessarily object—it depends on what principles are set out in the bill,” he says. The best case scenario for Alberta would be a bill that does not single out oil sands or unconventional fuels for tougher treatment, and an outcome that would recognize Canada’s own efforts, whatever they end up being, as “comparable” to the U.S. system. So far, Rob Renner thinks the province is not getting a fair shake. “We believe we are not getting a fair reflection in the court of world public opinion about what we are doing here in Alberta. We are more regulated and responsible than what is being portrayed. But we can do better. And we are striving,” Renner told Maclean’s.

He wants American legislators to know that Alberta has a $15-a-tonne tax on CO2 and is putting the money into an emissions management fund aimed at developing carbon capture and sequestration technology, not to mention billions more in climate change initiatives. “Our premier is committed,” Renner says. “I’m committed to staying as visible as I can in Washington. We simply have to be cognizant of the fact that we are a relatively small sprocket in this giant wheel.”

Alberta has assembled a cavalcade of officials and hired lobbyists—including former American ambassadors to Canada—to track the issue aggressively as the bill moves through Congress. At a cost of US$40,000 per month, Alberta has also hired two firms—DLA Piper, with former U.S. ambassador Jim Blanchard, and MCapital, with Paul Frazer, a former senior official at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, to provide “strategic advice” and to help monitor the legislation. (Saskatchewan has also gotten in on the act, hiring David Wilkins, Bush’s ambassador to Canada, to watch its own oil sands and uranium interests.) This mobilization has drawn fire from U.S. environmentalists. “It’s discouraging to see them so actively engaged in promoting the tar sands when I think they know it’s incompatible and will undermine our efforts to address one of the serious threats our planet faces,” says Barratt-Brown, who recalls seeing Canadian and Alberta officials popping up at hearings all over Capitol Hill. But those on the other side of the debate say the Canadian effort is not nearly enough. “We need help,” says Corcoran. “I think it would be beneficial for the Canadian commercial interests to get involved in this battle. You have to get around to every legislator to educate them, answer any questions they have, respond to arguments in favour of low carbon fuel standards that Waxman and Pelosi and others are making. It’s hard work. It requires resources. I think it would be money well spent.”

Alberta’s and Canada’s representatives are currently touting two recent studies. One, by the respected Cambridge Energy Research, notes that the emissions profiles of the oil sands are comparable or better than some other sources of U.S. oil supply. And another report by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations makes the case that the oil sands are a strategic source of energy and more secure than sources in the Middle East, Venezuela or Nigeria. It also makes the point that American economic interests are better served by importing oil from Canada—because for every dollar spent, more gets returned to the U.S. through cross-border trade and even direct profits. Smith argues that the U.S. will need to keep importing oil even as it transitions to a greater share of renewable sources: “Conventional oil supply in North America continues to decline by at least three per cent per year. You have to replace that and right now oil sands are still your best bet,” said Smith.

There are many other potential impacts of the legislation on Canadian energy producers. The climate change bill includes a provision to hand out free emissions credits to the coal industry, rather than auctioning them, which reduces the relative attractiveness of the clean-burning of natural gas over coal. (The legislation’s emphasis on developing solar and wind, however, could help natural gas, since both those sources can be unreliable and natural gas is used to cover gaps in generation.) Canadian officials are also fighting to get hydroelectricity from Canada approved as a renewable resource. “We have the capacity to bring on as much as 25,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity over the next 25 years from Newfoundland, Quebec, Manitoba, and B.C. It’s a significant contribution. We need to make sure that it is a continental regime that develops,” says Prentice.

Some observers say the Alberta oil patch needs to hedge its bets. “I think it’s a great opportunity for Canada to start exploring a Canadian energy market strategy,” says Murray Smith. “Right now we import 1.3 million barrels a day from places like Kuwait, Algeria, Norway and the North Sea. With the new pipeline structure going in, it is conceivable that we could send Alberta crude to Eastern Canada and we could work on our own carbon profile.” The other strategy, of course, is to explore new markets—such as sending oil to West Coast ports where it can be exported to Asia. “We think the U.S. is the natural market for Canadian energy exports. But if that good relationship was threatened in some way, and if it made sense in the market, then folks would find ways to export to other markets,” says Tom Huffaker, vice-president for policy and environment at the Canadian Petroleum Producers’ Association. That, of course, would mark a stark shift from the decades spent focused on the United States. It might also mean that U.S. climate legislation resulted in Canadian oil being sent to Asia by tanker, which would increase emissions even more. “You’d end up with an outcome that would be less economically efficient and less carbon efficient,” said Huffaker. “I think irony is a reasonable word for that.”




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Why Barack Obama is bad for Canada

  1. Who says all Canadians love Obama? Those of us who were listening to his words rather than swooning at his velvety voice knew there would be problems the moment he talked about killing NAFTA, only to claim it was actually a politically calculated lie when he was called on it. When a guy says he's going to hit your economy, and then backtracks by saying "Trust me, I was lying" you know there is a serious problem. Unless, of course, you're in a cult-induced euphoric swoon.

  2. Who says all Canadians love Obama?
    Those of us who were listening to his words rather than swooning at his velvety voice knew there would be problems the moment he talked about killing NAFTA, only to claim it was actually a politically calculated lie when he was called on it.

    When a guy says he's going to hit your economy, and then backtracks by saying "Trust me, I was lying" you know there is a serious problem.

    Unless, of course, you're in a cult-induced euphoric swoon.

  3. Who says all Canadians love Obama?
    Those of us who were listening to his words rather than swooning at his velvety voice knew there would be problems the moment he talked about killing NAFTA, only to claim later that it was actually a politically convenient campaign lie.

    When a guy says he's going to hit your economy, and then backtracks by saying "Trust me, I was lying" you know there is a serious problem.

    Unless, of course, you're in a cult-induced euphoric swoon.

    • Damn, that was well said..

    • My sentiments exactly, as I was reading the article. When are the media going to get out of the tank for this guy–it is getting embarrassing

    • "Unless, of course, you're in a cult-induced euphoric swoon. "

      Are you referring to the American or Canadian Press? Both?

      • Both, and a good portion of the public.

  4. May I remind all of you that the well being of Canadian is not and should not be tied to to well being of the Alberta treasury. There is lot of cleaner energy elsewhere (Hydro electricity in Manitoba to name just one) The oilsands are an an increasingly and incredible expensive source of energy and frankly unsustainable. Sun, wind, and water are just better options for pure energy. In the years to come oil will become too precious to burn.

    • "May I remind all of you that the well being of Canadian is not and should not be tied to to well being of the Alberta treasury."

      I second that!

    • I think you need to understand that Alberta already gives to Canada the sum total it collects in royalties every year. You don't think its a coincidence the equalization formula always seems to match that amount every year do you? In case you also missed it, the Federal Government is the single greatest beneficiary of Oil Sands revenues, approximately $250 billion over the next 25 years. Ontario's take alone is in excess of 100 billion. Of course, $1.5 trillion to our GDP means nothing at all, does it? Neither does 380,000 new jobs across Canada, right? Give your head a shake.

    • MBtoday appears to miss the fact that neither sun nor water nor wind can provide transportation fuel. If, as he suggests, oil will in the future be too precious to burn then the price of oil will provide that signal. His statement regarding 'incredibly expensive' is simply meaningless. Oil produced from tarsands or shale has a rather well defined cost, and to describe them in this way shows that he does not understand the concept of sustainability either.

      • let's talk about hydrates, improved technology and less reliance on the oil sands, shall we? how about the lives of the Dene and so many others that the oil sand have ruined? What's the word? Oh yeah, cultural genocide.

    • You sir are an ignoramus of the highest order. Do you have any idea, what-so-ever how toxic the process is to make solar panels? The process is vile and produces toxins so vile they need to be buried for eternity. Hydro electric is equally as vile in its destruction of vast amounts of land. Get a grip on reality buddy.

      • There's no nut like an Enviro-nut!

    • May I remind all of you that there is a substantial environmental cost associated with Hydro development. The loss forever of vast amounts of habitat for wildlife, the loss of land and the down stream ecological impact on the damned river systems surely should be cause for concern. I feel that spitefulness blinds advocates who wish to destroy not only the lively hood of 3.2 million citizens of Alberta but are also totally oblivious to the positive economic impact and huge contribution Alberta makes to the overall well being this flawed country. Heaven protect us from people who wish to drive wedges between us rather than work to achieve an equitable balance.

  5. With just a small change in perspective, this article could have been called 'Why the tarsands are bad for Canada'.

    If you believe that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced, it makes perfect sense that tarsands oil should have tariffs imposed on it. Prove that carbon sequestration works, implement it, stop making tailings ponds visible from space… then we can have a legitimate conversation about protectionism. Tarsands, as they are now, are shortsighted, inefficient, and stupid to the last drop. The USA in its efforts (already watered down) is not showing protectionism, they are finally showing common sense and should be applauded.

    • This type of smug ignorance simply has to be called out. Have you even read Waxman-Markey?

      Applauding gigantic, unread, barter-based legislation that is purported to be a 'fix' for a problem we aren't even sure exists – that's pretty firm proof you're an idealogue.

      If you worry day and night about CO2, then stop exhaling it. Giving the government more power over commerce isn't going to help us, and any hindrance they might actually pass on business will only allow China, India, and Russia to take the top tier. Meanwhile we'll all be going broke from the rate hikes.

      "Change" apparently means what will be left in your pockets.

  6. If people in the developed world are serious about addressing climate change, then ALL producers of carbon-based fuels are going to eventually have to feel the pinch: Wyoming, Texas, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and, yes, Alberta. Also, a bit of harmless pandering (Canada does, after all, run a pretty sizable surplus with the US) to the protectionist lobby in the US seems a small price to pay for an administration that is NOT interested in starting World War III, or enshrining Gestapo tactics in the US constitution, or making hostility to science official government policy. And at any rate, the Clinton years were hardly bad ones for cross-border trade.

  7. This article reads like it was written in Calgary.

  8. typical Albertan attitude,
    think about other resources than oil…….geez this is 2009 for God sake.

    • well, considering Maclean's ranking of Canada's smartest cities, Calgary also has the best intellectual resources in the country, so…oil may be non-renewable resource, but a smart population like Calgary's will continue to generate success long after the wells run dry. Oh, and it's a pleasure to meet to you, "notcalgarian." You're welcome to visit anytime you like.

    • Yeah, it's amazing that in 2009 there remains boobs like you who have no idea just how much your lifestyle is reliant on the cheap energy from fossil fuels.

  9. I would also like to state that either candidate for office would have probably been a disaster for us. We're just not that important.

    • hear, hear!

  10. All Canadians don't love Obama. Only the ones who don't know his policies, and their effects on Canada, do.

    • You're still allowed to mention the Canadian media by name. I think.

  11. The reality is that Obama is leading an aggressive effort to remake American energy policy with potentially severe consequences for the oil sands, and by extension, the Canadian economy.
    ——-

    Good for him. We Canadians need to invest strongly in our own destiny, even if it means a cut in our standard of living. The Sates do not owe us a living just as we don't owe them anything.

    In a sense, Canada has lost its way. Look at Ontario, which is dominated by unions, unions that have a disdain for competition. Ontario's education system is full of wonderful sounding philosophy, but is it delivering? No!!

    Mayor Miller's garbage union is on strike and is sticking it t the public by blocking access to designated drop off sites. And there;s an excellent theory that the garbage union is responsible for much of the illegal dropping of garbage in places such as the beeches.

    Perhaps a step back will do as some good, as long as we focus and reinvest in ourselves. And in order to do so, we need to end monopolies.

  12. This is a very well-developed article. Thank you.

    Right now, a lot of Alberta oil and gas goes South while eastern Canada imports some because that is the cheapest and most efficient mechanism. If the USA wants to go nutso over carbon, Canada can readjust its own internal distribution accordingly. It would be a shame, but Canada must be prepared for damaging decisions coming out of Washington, thanks to Canadians' alleged best friend in the White House and his party in Congress.

    Until renewable sources like solar and wind can become TRULY more economical, oil & gas & coal shall remain king. Say all you want about a dwindling resource: it's still the way to go for cheap energy if you're hauling logs or flying cross-country or shipping containers of widgets. Even making it more expensive through taxation will not make as big a dent as everyone hopes (sure, automobiles will marginally drift to public transit, but them logs still need to be hauled…).

    Strange that the US Administration & Congress are eager to spite themselves and their trading partners with these policies.

    • Not really a surprise. They will pass the BS and find ways to ignore the laws they wrote when the first Mideast conflict threathens their supplies. Just like they did with passing tough immergration laws the never enforced because they need thier lawns cut on the cheap. Just like our great ecco Liberal did with Kyoto and then did nothing.

  13. let the bastards freeze, i say.

    • But that's the thing: the US is DESPERATE for Alberta energy, a relatively cheap and assuredly secure source of the commodity. So it boggles the mind that the Dems would so willingly inflict harm to their own country like this. It's like they've taken NDP pointers to heart, or something.

    • amen

  14. Luiza Savage forgot one thing – not only do Canadians love Obama, 90% of Canadians hate Alberta and ~80% hate Southern Ontario, the main groups of people dinged by his policies.

    • nice use of made-up stats. I wonder how both Alberta and Ontario feel about Quebec, the province that gets billions in transfer payments and equalization. It's the 'Big Easy' of Canada. But if your stats hold water, I must repeat a few words of wisdom we've all heard before: Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

      • Having lived in both provinces… Ontario loves QC, AB hates Central Canada and the East, especially Quebec, but most especially Toronto. We should all take a page from QC legislation.

      • Oh, they do love those transfer payments! Quebec, in almost all but writing has separated long ago. Except for those $.

  15. So, the upshot is that they will tax our carbon if we don't tax it ourselves. Big deal. If we start from the assumption that carbon emissions should be reduced, this all follows. What we should do is tell them not to bother with all this low carbon fuel mumbo jumbo, and sign an agreement to tax carbon emissions in Canada at an equal rate, in exchange for them not granting free emissions credits to every lobby who has bought a Congressman. How about the Green Shift? Eventually tax carbon at $40 a tonne, and proceed from there? Sounds reasonable to me.

    • I guess it depends on how you administer the tax. Collect it provincially (as SFU's Marc Jaccard suggested) so as to avoid unfair provincial wealth redistribution, and ensure it's revenue neutral (unlike Dion's Green Shift with its $12B tax gap), then maybe you'll get some support from the oil-producing states. But for the Canadians and Americans living in colder climates, you might have an even tougher time selling that idea. Canada is more urbanized than the U.S., and since urban dwellers have more to gain with a carbon tax than their rural counterparts, the idea of a carbon tax might be an even tougher sell to a skeptical American than to the Canadians who rejected the Green Shift last fall.

      • Tell that to Congress. They are drafting a stealth carbon tax scheme as we speak.

      • …well. almost all Canadians rejected the Dion Green Shift. We in BC are getting the Green Shaft with our "Carbon" (read Owelympics) Tax, which increased 50% on Canada Day. Nice, eh?

  16. Plain and simple – the way the oilsands are right now has to be strongly discouraged. ALL major sources of carbon should be. We shouldn't be lobbying to ensure maximum profits from something that is costing us so much in our future and current living conditions. Even if only half of the negative effects of climate change caused by humans come to light, the price to us of those far outweigh the loss of the oil companies gigantic profits – even the jobs. What do you suppose the cost of losing Canada's bread basket out West for extended periods of time from droughts would be? What would be the cost to us of losing our forests? fisheries? Air quality? etc. Figure out how to reliably clean up the oil sands and/or pay the penalities imposed, or dont use em.

  17. The only thing we can be certain of is change. If the US had not drafted their new policy, someone would be complaining about the tar sands and the damage they cause. Personally I think Canada will have no trouble flogging off its tar sand oil to the world, carbon policy or no.

  18. "The reality is that Obama is leading an aggressive effort to remake American energy policy with potentially severe consequences for the oil sands, and by extension, the Canadian economy."

    Luiza, perhaps it is the Oil Sands that are bad for Canada, not Obama.

  19. Great discussion. My questions are these:
    Isn't this Canada after all? Shouldn we not hold ourselves to a higher standard? Instead of spending its oil millions on technologies and strategies to make the oil sands less harmful to the environment, Alberta (and Ottawa) is spending the money on Washington lobbyists to undercut environmental regulation. Besides, since when do we take environmental cues from the United States? I took no small pride in the fact that this country was a leader when it came to environmental legislation…notice the past tense.

    • Uhh.. have you SEEN our environmental legislation? We have NEVER been a leader in that field. Ever read SARA? The US is far more advanced than we are with environmental protection. Our legislation, both provincially and federally (esp federally and AB provincially) is sorely lacking. There is too much discretion and too many escape clauses.

  20. A little fear is a healthy thing. Hopefully, Washington's hypocracy will cause us as a country to question the wisdom of allowing US energy monopolies to control our energy future. The tar sands issues are moot when you consider that, as it stands, they are being developed by US controlled companies whose stated intentions are to ship it south and then sell us back a bit of it at world prices. Why aren't Canadian politicians jumping on this as a major threat to Canada's future autonomy and helping us to see the wisdom and benefits of refurbishing and redeveloping our own energy infrastructure before it's too late. How wonderfully ironic it will be if Obama's doublespeak opens our eyes and accomplishes what our own politicians are afraid or unwilling to do.

  21. The real question here is about moving forward in the 21st century and NOT polluting the environment. The oil sands are an environmental nightmare that toxifies water — the life blood of the Earth. In many parts of the world ie California water is treated with extreme care AND water-use rates are doubling. Currently there's no regard both in Alberta nor in the nation's capital for water. The jobs argument is old and very tired. 25 years ago the forest industry pulled that stunt in forestry in BC – then they were pulling $20B from the woods now… about $9B per annum. There are fewer jobs today in Forestry and dismantled forests and many of the multi-national corps are gone. In fact, in the 1970s and 80s the establishment sneered at Tourism however in 2008 is was the saving grace in BC at about $14B annually. The same holds true for the gross over-use of pesticides – like 5 billion gallons applied each year globally. It is not on to pollute the planet and pretend we don't know better. Humans are problem solvers. Change is opportunity in disguise. There's nothing to hold us back — unless we are looking for old, tired excuses.
    Dr Reese Halter's upcoming book is entitled "The Incomparable Honey Bee", Rocky Mountain Books. http://www.DrReese.com.

    • Dr. Reese manages to ignore the fact that the reduction in BC forestry has nothing to do with water availability and everything to do with US trade harassment over the past two decades. Dr. Reese also neglects to mention that water shortages in California (or Arizona or New Mexico) are not the result of excessive industrial development but the consequence of trying to maintain green grass lawns or grow tomatoes in a desert. The last thing that's useful in dealing with a protectionist US is old tired rhetoric from Greens who have forgotten nothing and learned nothing.

    • Well since nature put the oil in the oil sands, it's good that we are reclaiming the land for future generations…heh

    • This has to be the first time I have ever seen a reference to California treating water with extreme care, as it has always been presented as being amongst the prime examples of the misuse of water resources.

    • "The real question here is about moving forward in the 21st century and NOT polluting the environment."

      The real question is one of practicality, not hippie pipe dreams.

      Even disregarding the fact that transition from pure fossil fuels is already happening (thanks to the FREE MARKET, where do you think all those Priuses came from?), and ignoring that it will take decades to transition – you have to have something to transition to. You have to have money to fund that transition.

      Simply passing a bill that says "we will no longer pollute" and then going golfing does nothing. It's like you Canucks and Kyoto – sign a treaty, then keep on polluting. Our lefties fell for that one hook, line, and sinker.

      If you really want energy independence and sustainability you have to look at real, proven sources of energy – like nuclear power. Not bird-killing windmill and solar farms with high failure rates and low energy production. It will take time, technological development, and study.

  22. The fact that the oil sands is cleaner than America's coal fired energy by orders of magnitude is not mentioned. If the US switched to 100% oil sands oil, from their dirty coal energy, their environment would be much cleaner.
    Since the scam of AGW from carbon, is finally being realized by the public, all this will dissapear down the same pit as all the other 'sky is falling' theories the left have attempted in the past.
    We are a carbon based lifeform, living on a carbon based planet.
    Get used to it.

    • How much cleaner? Ten times? One hundred times? Do you have a source for that figure?

  23. We need to build a pipeline to the west coast to ship our oil on the worls market and to hell with thr US market. Sell them no energy at all. No oil, no gas, no electricity. Supply internal markets and ship surplus oil and gas oversea to China and India and Japan.

    Don't forget that many of thier refineries are setup to use Canadian heavier oil and so they will need large and expensive retofits to become useful again.

    Unless the Big Zero achieves his goal to put the USA back to the 17th century.

  24. Good morning. As if all of this couldn't be understood half a year ago.

  25. Windmills to replace oil? Someone isn't doing their homework. Wind farms are boondoggles, and a plight on the landscape. Ask Californians how they feel about thousands of broken down giant windmills, financed with write-offs generously provided by idiotic politicians and bureaucrats.

    If Canada wants to counter the onslaught from the Obama fiscal lunacy that impact ALL of North America, it should consider nationalizing fresh water, ……. and SELLING IT.

    ‘Water is not for trade' – This is a Canadian myopic and very misguided sentiment. Why is it that OIL is OK to trade, but WATER is not? Why is it that in Quebec, an area the size of England was damned around the Hudson Bay so that electricity could be sold to the U.S.?

    The Canadian government should establish a national policy, and it should take control of fresh water sales.

    The revenues from this infinitely renewable resource will enable funding of Medicare and Education at a time when the rest of the world's economies are heading into the tank.

    Suggestion:

    http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/03/water

  26. Windmills to replace oil? Someone isn't doing their homework. Wind farms are boondoggles, and a plight on the landscape. Ask Californians how they feel about thousands of broken down giant windmills, financed with write-offs generously provided by idiotic politicians and bureaucrats.

    If Canada wants to counter the onslaught from the Obama fiscal lunacy that will impact ALL North Americans, it should consider nationalizing fresh water, ……. and SELLING IT.

    ‘Water is not for trade' – This is a Canadian myopic and very misguided sentiment. Why is it that OIL is OK to trade, but WATER is not? Why is it that in Quebec, an area the size of England was damned around the Hudson Bay so that electricity could be sold to the U.S.?

    The Canadian government should establish a national policy, and it should take control of fresh water sales.

    The revenues from this infinitely renewable resource will enable funding of Medicare and Education at a time when the rest of the world's economies are heading into the tank.

    Suggestion:

    <a href="http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/03/water…” target=”_blank”>http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/03/water

  27. Windmills to replace oil? Someone isn't doing their homework. Wind farms are boondoggles, and a plight on the landscape. Ask Californians how they feel about thousands of broken down giant windmills, financed with write-offs generously provided by idiotic politicians and bureaucrats.

    If Canada wants to counter the onslaught from the Obama fiscal lunacy that will impact ALL North Americans, it should consider nationalizing fresh water, ……. and SELLING IT.

    ‘Water is not for trade' – This is a Canadian myopic and very misguided sentiment. Why is it that OIL is OK to trade, but WATER is not? Why is it that in Quebec, an area the size of England was damned around the Hudson Bay so that electricity could be sold to the U.S.?

    The Canadian government should establish a national policy, and it should take control of fresh water sales.

    The revenues from this infinitely renewable resource will enable funding of Medicare and Education at a time when the rest of the world's economies are heading into the tank.

    Suggestion:

    <a href="http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/03/water…” target=”_blank”>http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/03/water

    …. and don't believe the politically motivated and warped pretense that there is just not enough fresh water to sell.

  28. I believe it will be better for the Oil Sands production and sales to the US if Mr. Ignatieff becomes Prime Minister of Canada. He knows and understands the Americans to a greater degree than Mr. Harper and the intelligence of Ignatieff is truly respected on a world wide basis.

    • Apparently "world wide basis" does NOT include Western Canada. There is no respect for him in the west, except for the elected Liberal MPs, yeah all 7 of them.

      • Not everyone in the rest of Canada respects him either. Why is it that liberals get so gooey over their lacking leaders?

        • Some of them really like him and believe he is or will make a good/great PM; the rest are gooey because he is the current leader.

  29. Chill!! If our American cousins don't want our oil, the Chinese certainly will. This is a non-issue folks.

    • Exactly!

      Oil is fungible.

    • That is the sad truth. Although it puts a big lie to the nonsensical statement that Canada is a big 'human rights' defender – doing direct business with China? Shame.

      • All of a sudden it is nonsense for a nation to aspire and be respected for improving human rights? We have enjoyed that reputation thanks to our diplomatic traditions that were born out of the efforts of Pearson and his colleagues. It is an ideal just like liberty and freedom, and people or nations will fall short of fulfilling it.

        Trading with China invalidates Canada as a proponent of human rights no more than it invalidates the U.S. as a beacon of "freedom and democracy." At least, Harper has severely criticized China on human rights and never bothered to show up to the Beijing Olympics (though he did send his ministers). Because of him, we have had frostier relations with china despite the economic benefits to the point where business leaders have been fretting about Canadian-Chinese trade relations. So, his actions hardly ring hollow.

        There is no doubt Canada struggles in meeting its ideal, but to suggest it is nonsense that it is a defender of human rights ignores its vast accomplishments just as it is nonsense to deny the U.S. their efforts in promoting freedom and democracy and the reputation they enjoy from them. As defenders of U.S. foreign and security policy point out, the situations demand nuance and sometimes moral ambiguity rather then absolutism when you dig below the surface. Canada is no different.

        UN Watch which was formed by a U.S. representative, ranked Canada as number one in promoting human rights on the UN human rights council. So despite the self-righteous swipes, Canada, even on its birthday today, will remain a defender human rights as the U.S. will be the beacon for liberty and democracy.

  30. This talk of so-called man made "Global Warming" and "Climate Change" is pure nonsense.
    A pseudo-science for sure!
    Go to the library and research for yourself in any reputable encyclopedia Earth's atmosphere.
    You will find that Carbon Dioxide makes up something like just 0.04% of the content of our atmosphere. (Less than half of one-tenth of one percent). Yet, they tell us that's the #1 greenhouse gas and somehow it's trapping heat.
    So for the last couple of centuries, after burning up all those fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum, there exists only this tiny percentage of CO2 gas.
    The Sun is the true cause of any & all warming/climate change on Earth. There will be fluctuations in it's output.
    The entire history of mankind (3 million years) is but the blink of an eye compared to the lifespan of the Sun & it's planets.
    ALL OF HUMANITY, AND ALL OF OUR ACTIVITIES ARE TINY & INSIGNIFICANT IN COMPARISON WITH THE SIZE AND SCALE OF OUR EARTH.
    These facts can be confirmed arithmetically:
    If all 7 billion of us could somehow be gathered together in one place at the same time, we would neatly fill the U.S. State of Rhode Island's 1,000 square mile area. Now go & look at a globe and see for yourself how tiny Rhode Island is, compared to the Earth.
    If every man, woman and child were each given an acre of land, then the entire world population of 7 billion people would take up an area about the size of the African continent.
    Do a little research on your own. Do the math. The information is all there. There is only one truth.

    • I'm still gathering data and opinions about global warming or climate change or whatever it is called these days. Are you saying that:

      – there is no such thing as a greenhouse effect? or
      – there is a greenhouse effect but CO2 is in no way one of the gases that creates the effect? or
      – there is an effect and CO2 contributes to the effect, but other gases play a larger role? or
      – other?

      Thanks

  31. This would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic. Do you honestly think America will shoot itself in the foot by cutting off its most secure supply of energy? In five years, they'll be begging us to bring on more production from tar sands!!

  32. Well, actually, they are showing protectionism… but anyway, right on about the rest of your comment.

  33. We were told by Leo Gerard, President of USWA and PROMISED by the President of the United States on February 19 /09 when he was in Ottawa that ''BUY AMERICAN '' would not hurt the Canadian workers or the Canadian Industry with ''PROTECTIONISM ''. Then 2 Dam weeks after he left Ottawa US Steel closes 2 Plants and puts 3000 CANADIAN Steelworkers on the street and moves orders to Alabama, Pittsburgh and Indiana .If that's not protectionism what the Hell is ??
    He said that NAFTA would apply .Well thats an easy fix ,NAFTA only applies if we,re shipping steel across the border so they closed down Stelco , problem solved we cant ship what we dont make . Oh ya and any orders we had they moved to and produce in Pittsburgh , Alabama and Indiana . Last time I checked none of those places are in Canada . Now tell me how that dosent hurt ??

  34. Gosh…What a surprise. This guy is a Democrat. This guy has Two faces. I hope all you lefties out there are happy with your EI cheques and your Obama.

  35. Only the real lefties and those who listen only to the left-wing main stream media love Obama. He is a classic at saying one thing and doing another. Study his whole career and that is the only conclusion one can arrive at. Forget the lemmings scared stiff of global warming by Gore who, incidentally has personally made over $100 MILLION on this sham, Obamas protectionism will permeate ever area of commerce. Recently a Marine base n the U. S. ripped Canadian pipe out of the ground and replaced it with American product. I guess there are so many in this country who live off Mommy government they have no idea of the value of commerce. When Obama destroys the States we go along for the ride.

  36. Whay Barack Obama is Bad for Canada….hmmm, maybe because he's a politician?

  37. Come on, Canada, step up to bat! Quit whining about the US's long-overdue efforts to quit its dependence on oil and old technology, and do the same yourself. As a born and raised Albertan, I appreciate the money oil brings to the economy, but I also know we're not stupid people, and we care about the environment, and we can be just as creative as the Americans when it comes to generating new/more efficient forms of energy as well as jobs. Why wallow in self-pity and remain in the energy dark ages while the rest of the world moves on? Finally, re: is it possible that Obama doesn't love us back, why does it matter – are we that insecure?

  38. This article is such a load of jingoistic BS.

    Prentice "Of course we'll have environmental standards which are just as good as the US… but hey now, don't threaten to hold us to our word!"

    The world is finally moving towards a better plan, and far too many Albertans (amongst who I live) can only scream "but my oil money! Whaaa! You'll rue the day!" Instead of cowering in fear because for once the Americans are being MORE ethical than us.. we should try to lead the fight. YES IT WILL COST US TO DO THE RIGHT THING. Stop being a coward.

    • Another jackass who doesn't even know what Waxman-Markey is. "Do the right thing" – does that include starving people because of the loss of jobs and revenue?

  39. You can label it "cult induced hypnotic swoon", but the record voter turnout indicaqtes that people are getting interested in the democratic process again.
    Contrast that to Canada, where fewer and fewer people get off their ass and vote.
    It seems to me that voter apathy merely plays into the hands of the partisan hardcores

  40. The world is moving towards a plan? Rushing through a jury rigged partisan solution in the US is what you consider to be global thinking?

  41. Isn't it obvious that Obama is a friend only to the enemies of freedom and democracy all over the world?

  42. They can legislate all they want. If the American voter can't get cheap gas because of this kind of legislation don't you think the elected legislators will change their tune to protect their behind (s)? Speaking of cheap, as in talk, remember the all party commitment in our 1990 parliament to eradicate child poverty within 10 years? It got worse!

  43. You are pre-historic.
    Haven't you heard of AGW. Move on an be part of the solution Macleans.
    Start promoting sustainable energy.

  44. It's President Obama's job to be *good* for Canada? It's like saying that our PM should protect US corporate interests, or Alberta supports corporate welfare. (Oops, both true.) Lettuce not be naive about what US energy independence means, i.e. building energy export infrastructure with Canadians' tax dollars, water, carbon capture technology from the US. Oh, never mind.

  45. hes doing a great job. If he develops the renewable sector in the states the american economy will grow again, oil is unfortunatly going to be obsolete. It will take a whle but eventually will happen.The US is too dependant on imported oil, there only option is to develop green energy.

  46. Barack Obama – When you see just as a citizen Obama is real leader.The view of politician always looks different. So they may think Barack Obama is bad for Canada.

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  51. I have been linked to the welfare of its own that is not Alberta, Canada and the moon must remind people. The oilsands, energy, the source of sustained growth and frankly incredibly expensive (to cite one, Manitoba Hydro) is the variety of other clean energy. Sun, wind and water is just good for clean energy options. Burning expensive oil for next year.

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