Tar Sands: Fuel Tank for US EmpirePosted: April 12, 2007
Gordon Laxer - Talk given to to ECAWAR anti-war demonstration in Edmonton
March 17, 2007
We gather in solidarity with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Some will die today. Why? They live in lands coveted by the US Empire for access to oil. They call it the War on Terror. Or the humanitarian crusade to bring democracy and human rights to Muslim lands. We see through their weapons of mass deception.
Iraqis and Afghanis have not only suffered terribly, but actively oppose foreign occupation. That’s why the occupations are failing and the foreign troops will come home soon. Our role? Make it sooner.
Canada is party to both occupations. Canadians are rightly proud that we did not invade Iraq with other Anglosphere countries. But Canadian troops in Afghanistan free the US to shift forces to Iraq. Why is Canada in Afghanistan - taking offensive, not peace keeping action. Our troops are on the wrong mission. Support our troops; bring them home.
We think of the war as over there. It is. But the issues motivating the war are also here in safe, relatively comfortable Canada.
The US military runs on oil and gets much of it from Alberta. The struggle for control over oil and the environment is right here in Alberta.
John Foster Dulles, a major architect of US power in the 1950s, said there are two ways to conquer a country. One is by force of arms, the other is by taking control of its economy. The second route is more insidious and effective.
The great appeal of the US empire has been that it doesn’t usually look like an empire. That’s why these wars have been so damaging to US standing in the world. The US usually rules indirectly through client states like Canada. US transnationals insert themselves into each country’s business community and incarnate themselves as an indigenous ruling class.
The way to defeat this sneaky kind of empire is to discredit domestic elites when they promote American power and sell out the interests of their own citizens and other nations.
Now that it is losing the war, the US is reverting to Dulles’ second way – informal economic control. Iraq is set to enact a new law passing Iraq's nationalized oil industry over to foreign, corporate control, under very sweet terms. If passed, Iraq will become a US resource colony. Colonies lose control over their resources: setting prices, retaining profits and royalties, upgrading their raw materials. Resource colonies lose control to limit exports and cut green house gases. The new Iraqi law threatens to take away its right to determine its energy future.
This scenario looks familiar. Post-war Iraq would look like what the US already has in Canada. How did their oil get under both Iraqi sands and the tarsands? Canada became a US resource colony not through invasion, but through NAFTA.
NAFTA gives the US unlimited access to Canadian energy. Canada must export the same proportion of energy, 2/3 of its oil and almost 60% of its natural gas, even if Canadians run short during Arctic cold fronts. Canada is the largest oil supplier to the US, surpassing Saudi Arabia. Most oil and gas comes from Alberta, which gets as little as 25cents per barrel on tarsand oil.
Canada lost the ability to supply all its citizens with domestic oil. Eastern Canadians rely on imports of a million barrels of oil per day, 40% from OPEC countries like Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Ordinary Canadians have no energy sovereignty or security.
How can Canada and Alberta stop being America’s fuel tank?
1) Impose a moratorium on new tarsands projects. Don’t let existing projects expand.
2) Get a Mexican exemption on compulsory energy exports, or give 6 months notice and leave NAFTA. Canadians won’t be motivated to cut fuel usage drastically, as we must, if most of the energy saved is exported, and the environment remains just as damaged.
3) Reduce oil exports to the US and send the oil east to end imports to Eastern Canada. ‘Don’t let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark’
4) Then produce much less energy so we can make deep cuts to carbon emissions
5) Impose Norway-level royalty rates.
6) Use the extra revenues to fund a just transition to a post carbon economy.
7) Follow Canadian public opinion and nationalize the oil industry.
8) Stop fuelling the American war machine.
9) George Bush will meet Stephen Harper and Mexico’s President in Alberta this June to gain greater control over Alberta and Cdn energy. Let’s let them know how we feel.
Finally, how to build for peace
No to wars for oil
No to greater tarsands production
No to oil corporations ruining our environment
Yes to popular sovereignty over Cdn energy
Yes to extending solidarity ties with Iraqis, Afghanis and the Muslim world
Finally, Yes to building a world of peace and social justice for all.
Gordon Laxer is a Political Economy Professor at the University of Alberta and the Director and co-founder of Parkland Institute, a non-corporate research institute in Edmonton, Canada.