James Hansen’s War Against Canada
“Hansen’s most recent editorial has received sharp criticism for the over-reach of his claims about climate science. But what the media isn’t covering is an unprecedented call for an environmental trade war with America’s largest trading partner. Let’s hope they catch up to that aspect of the story.”
In a recent editorial assault on Canada’s oil-sands, climate activist extraordinaire James Hansen (NASA) has basically declared war on Canada’s economy (not to mention our own). Hansen wrote:
Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”
He goes on to suggest that the U.S. actually take actions against the interests of our neighbors to the north:
President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground.
This is truly astonishing: a high ranking official at NASA has taken to the pages of the New York Times to lobby the President of the United States to physically embargo Canada’s oil, and impose economic sanctions against Canada to force them to eschew tar-sand development and export.
Writing with a group of scientists (including Peter Gleick of pilfered-Heartland documents infamy), Hansen urges President Obama to block the Keystone pipeline that would move tar-sand oil to the Gulf, and find ways to avoid developing the resource:
The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, but one that does not make sense to exploit. It takes a lot of energy to extract and refine this resource into useable fuel, and the mining is environmentally destructive. Adding this on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control. It makes no sense to build a pipeline system that would practically guarantee extensive exploitation of this resource.
When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the Earth’s climate system and to its oceans. Now that we do know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy—and that we leave the tar sands in the ground.
And Hansen is not alone. Climate activist Bill McKibben (350.org) is right there with him:
“The tar sands of Canada are the second largest pool of carbon on Earth, only after the Saudi Arabian oil fields. We plumbed those Saudi Arabian oil fields 70 years ago, when no one had heard of global warming.
If we do the same kind of thing, make the same kind of investment, produce the same volume of oils from Canada, then as Jim Hansen at NASA – our leading climate scientist – put it not long ago, it will be essentially game over for the climate. That’s about as strong language as you’re likely to get from a scientist, and it’s a reminder that we need to leave carbon in the ground.”
The crusade even has a song on YouTube:
Leave the tar sands in the ground;
The coal under mountaintops
Cuz we need clean air in our lungs;
and clean water in our cups.
Yes we can say no tar sands;
this pipeline points to hell
and true homeland security;
is something you don’t sell.
But as Bruce Carson, Executive Director of the Canada School of Energy and the Environment points out in the journal Policy Options, that would be unbearably painful for Canada:
The energy sector represents the largest single private investor of capital in Canada and continues to attract the single largest slice of foreign direct investment, and these investments are spread across the country. The energy sector is a major economic driver for Canada, accounting for 6.8 percent of Canada’s GDP in 2008 and directly employing 276,000 persons, or about 1.9 percent of total direct employment in Canada. In 2007, oil exports alone generated nearly $70 billion for the Canadian economy.
The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) estimates that the oil sands industry alone will add 3 percent to Canada’s GDP by 2020 and will create, during the period to 2020, 5.4 million person years of employment, 44 percent of which will be outside Alberta. Currently the oil sands industry contributes toward 112,000 jobs across Canada and, according to CERI, over the next 25 years it is expected to contribute over 11 million person years of employment to Canada and $1.7 trillion to the Canadian economy.
It would feel pretty bad on our end too:
- Trade between the United States and Canada is huge and growing. Total trade between the two countries was worth $676 billion in 2008 — more than one million dollars a minute.
- Canada is the biggest export market for U.S. products. Moreover, Canada ranked Number 1 in 35 states as the leading export market for goods in 2008, and Number 2 in 11 others.
- Trade creates jobs in the U.S. More than 8 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada. That’s 4.4% of total U.S. employment — 1 in 23 American jobs depends on free and open trade with Canada.
And the anti-Canada crusade is particularly shocking when you consider that Canada and the U.S. are a common market when it comes to energy:
Canadians and Americans share the closest energy relationship in the world. Energy infrastructure—including oil and gas pipeline networks and electricity grids—is tightly integrated. Canada is the United States’ largest and most secure supplier of oil, natural gas, electricity and uranium.
- Canada provided energy exports to the U.S. valued at $76.27 billion, while Canada’s energy imports from the U.S. totaled almost $11.5 billion.
- Recent data indicates that Canada supplies the U.S. with 9% of its total energy demand.
- Canada exported almost 2.5 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined products to the United States.
- Canada provided 87% of all U.S. natural gas imports, representing 12% of U.S. consumption.
- Canada and the United States share an integrated electricity grid and supply almost all of each other’s electricity imports.
- Hydroelectric power, a clean, renewable source, accounts for nearly two-thirds of Canada’s electricity generation, and is a significant component of Canada’s electricity exports to the United States.
- Canada supplied approximately one-third of the uranium used in U.S. nuclear power plants.
Hansen’s most recent editorial has received sharp criticism for the over-reach of his claims about climate science. But what the media isn’t covering is an unprecedented call for an environmental trade war with America’s largest trading partner. Let’s hope they catch up to that aspect of the story.