Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The SPP and the Tar Sands

Remember the United States was going to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq? It wasn't about Iraq's oil, they said. That must be why they changed the name of the invasion from “Operation Iraqi Liberation” to “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. The reason I mention the U.S. invasion of Iraq is because it is going to have a devastating effect on the future of Canada.

What has the invasion of Iraq got to do with Canada? After all we refused to get involved with the “coalition of the willing” back in 2003. Bear with me here. Whereas in the Iraqi oilfields it takes the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil to extract one hundred barrels of oil in Alberta it takes one barrel of oil to produce three barrels of tar sands oil. The process of refining bitumen into oil is expensive, costing about 22$ a barrel. So it wasn't economical until the invasion of Iraq raised the price of oil to 35$ and over.

Since 9/11 the Bush administration has been obsessed with energy security. Nobody noticed Alberta until after 2003 when the price of oil skyrocketed. Suddenly the Americans realized that the world's largest deposit of oil was right next door in the Alberta tar sands. It was around this time that the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) was launched, “creating a new institutional framework”, for the integration of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

The Alberta tar sands is basically a gigantic strip mining operation, the largest single manmade project in human history. It will eventually destroy a section of the Canadian boreal forest the size of Florida. Already the rate of deforestation in Alberta is the second highest in the world. And the refining of bitumen produces three times the greenhouse gas emissions as the refining of conventional oil.

The drafters of the SPP have plans for construction of a giant transportation corridor from Mexico to Canada partly in order to facilitate the movement of Mexican “guest workers” into Canada to work the tar sands. The “NAFTA Corridor” will also include pipelines to carry refined and unrefined bitumen to the United States. Incredibly, a fivefold increase in tar sands production is slated once the SPP is signed and comes into effect. There are no plans for any pipelines from Alberta to Eastern Canada, even though Eastern Canda imports 90% of its oil. It's obvious that the North American energy security that the SPP is touting is really American energy security.

When Canada signed onto the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the Canadian negotiators agreed to a “proportionality clause” which locks us into supplying the United States with not less than the proportion of oil, gas, or water that we have been previously supplying. That means that if we increase the supply of oil to the U.S. we are locked into supplying that increased proportion indefinitely. Incidently, Mexico, which also signed on to NAFTA, refused to sign the proportionality clause.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership is a deal that's being made behind closed doors by CEO's and government bureacrats with no public input and little publicity. Increasing tar sands production fivefold will make the tar sands the biggest single greenhouse gas emitter in the world. And once it is ramped up we will be locked in because of the NAFTA proportionality clause. We will not have the option of turning it off or even slowing it down. Besides if we tried to turn off the tap we would be jeopardizing America's energy security and that would bring on an invasion.

The SPP is a gross violation of Canadian sovereignty that must be stopped while there is still time. If we let it pass we will become an evironmental disaster, a pariah in the world community, and the slavish enabler of American hubris and overconsumption. Why should we make an agreement with the United States that locks us into increasing greenhouse gas emissions, prevents us from becoming a sustainable society and undermines our sovereignty? If you love this country please join me and others in protesting this heinous act of treachery on August 20th, the date of the trilateral summit in Montebello Quebec.


  1. Thank you Charles,
    I had not heard of the SPP and find it amazing that Canada would sign such a plan but Mexico knew better than to sign it. What are some of the things we can do on August 20th?

  2. Thanks for the comment Dave. Actually it was the proportionality clause in NAFTA that Mexico refused to sign. The SPP hasn't been signed yet by anyone but unfortunately the corporate and government participants are keeping us in the dark about what's on the table. Neither our elected representatives nor the press are talking about what's going on. More people need to know about this.