Resource riches pull Canada into geopolitical battle it can’t afford to lose – by Diane Francis (National Post – October 19, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

An ocean of natural gas and oil surrounds tiny Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, but this summer officials had to truck in propane from Alberta because the village’s only producing natural gas well is running out.

Inuvik’s Mayor quipped to a Post colleague: “It’s like me ordering up a truckload of ice from Alberta.” While a zany story, Inuvik’s untapped resources, and non-existent infrastructure to develop or deliver them, is becoming a metaphor for Canada itself. This is a country with energy, metals and minerals galore, that the world wants, but a country that cannot get its act together.

The latest, most egregious example of this problem revolves around the lack of strategy, politics and recurring media flashpoints concerning pipelines and, to a lesser extent, power generation infrastructure.

The anti-infrastructure forces are so out of control that recently dozens of people in Ontario and Quebec were arrested protesting pipeline projects: Not new pipelines but pipelines that have been in operation for decades and merely want to reverse direction.

The Pipeline Bogeyman is the New Baby Seal Hunt – a cause celebre for environmentalists and their fellow travelers as varied as meddling movie stars or Middle Eastern oil sheikhdoms that finance anti-development, anti-fracking, anti-oil sands efforts.

My favorite example of the hidden and cynical geopolitical forces aimed at stifling Canada’s economic development was the cinematic flop against natural gas fracking called “Promised Land” starring Matt Damon and financed by Abu Dhabi, the world’s third biggest oil exporter.

The point is that Canada is a geopolitical battleground and it’s a nation-threatening battle. If pipelines or power plants cannot be built – the bloodstream of the energy industry that underpins our living standards – the body itself will whither.

Here are three pipeline battles that must be won and the geopolitics behind each one:

1. Two pipeline proposals through British Columbia for export to Asia carrying up to 800,000 barrels per day. These projects are not the problem but the symptom of the fact that federal and provincial governments have never solved the First Nations land claims issues. Only a handful of treaties in that province have been settled and dozens have languished in courts as the feds and province do nothing substantive.

Unless the First Nations issues are settled there, Alberta’s oil sands will be blocked for years from moving westward, possibly forever.

The only solution is conciliation and fast-tracking land claims then giving First nations a piece of the action along with B.C. taxpayers.

2. Keystone XL from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf coast, up to 800,000 barrels per day. This pipeline has become the whipping boy for environmentalists and their allies south of the border but there is another geopolitical reason why it’s not been allowed and remains in limbo.

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