Bamboozled Part II: Fighting a Carbon Neutral Clean Fuel War – Prime Minister Harper and Canadian Environmentalists Help the US Military Polish up its Green Image
CPS Election Analysis 2008 - Week 5
William O’Casey

Prime Minster Harper announced on September 26, 2008 that a Conservative government would halt raw bitumen exports to countries with weaker greenhouse gas emission reduction standards than Canada. Harper said that it may affect exports to Asia where countries “like China” have not adopted as stringent standard. The Prime Minster said that it is unlikely that the US will be affected because both Obama and McCain have “pledged” to reduce CO2 emissions and toughen standards. Harper’s announcement has sent ripples of confusion through Alberta.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has said that it cannot comment on the issue at this time until it has had a chance to study what the announcement will mean to Canadian energy export policy. Environmentalists Green Peace has replied that if Harper was serious about CO2 emissions then he, “would be talking about actually reducing the greenhouse gas emissions coming from the tar sands rather than just selecting which country they will come from”, said Mike Hudema Green Peace activist.
The Globe and Mail reported on September 26, 2008 that Alberta Deputy Premier Ron Stevens said that the announcement “will create more uncertainty”. Deputy Premier Stevens’ voiced his concern that it would “impact the ability to sell product”.
Enbridge Inc. the Canadian pipeline giant said that it was caught off guard and would need to study the comments before making comments. Enbridge is constructing the Northern Gateway pipeline that is to take Alberta bitumen from Bruderheim AB to Kitimat BC through a West/East line running 1,170 km to the Kitimat Marine Terminal. The western transmission will be a 36” pipeline. When constructed it will carry an average of 525,000bbl/day and terminate at the Kitimat Marine Terminal which is also operated by Enbridge. The eastern transmission will carry 193,000bbl/day of diluents through a 20” line. The project includes two tanker berths, 11 petroleum storage tanks and 3 condensate tanks.
On the surface the Harper announcement seems to be targeted at exports to Asia and inter-capitalist struggles over market share and capital investments. While this is part of the equation and seems to be targeted at the Enbridge pipeline it does not explain the whole story.
The Harper announcement came one day after the US Congress rejected the amendment to Section 526 of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, which ban American federal agencies from buying alternative fuels that produce more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. The amendment that was rejected would have seen that provision scrapped.
The purpose of 2007 US Energy Independence and Security Act is:
“To move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, and for other purposes.”
Section 526 of the Act entitled Procurement and Acquisition of Alternative Fuels says:
“No Federal agency shall enter into a contract for procurement of an alternative or synthetic fuel, including a fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum sources, for any mobility-related use, other than for research or testing, unless the contract specifies that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and combustion of the fuel supplied under the contract must, on an ongoing basis, be less than or equal to such emissions from the equivalent conventional fuel produced from conventional petroleum sources.”
Section 526 appears to be an attempt to get the US economy out of an economic depression on the backs of Canadian workers by securing valued added upgrading and refining capacity and production in US markets and jurisdictions. It also begins to point to Canadian-US disputes over who will profit from industrial energy production, transmission and distribution.
Within the realities Canadian election and the labour movement leading the fight for jobs, pensions, healthcare and childcare it is forcing left environmentalism to re-evaluate its position. It exposes the untenable position of environment over jobs. Section 526 exposes not only the fight over energy processing and upgrading but the underlying class positions.
The US-Canadian economic crisis reality is quickly overtaking calls for tar sands reductions. A growing swell of industrial curtailment is taking place rapidly and gaining momentum as a response to the US stock market crisis. Within Alberta where many environmentalists call for a slowing of the “pace of development” and look to closing tar sands developments with calls of a moratorium on development and “no new approvals” are behind the economic curve – significantly.
For the past 2 years oil sands companies have been re-evaluating expansion plans in Alberta and Canada. US job losses are mounting as the US manufacturing, housing crisis and stock markets continue to throw 10,000’s of US workers on the street. Responding to the pressures, capital that has been earmarked for expansion of tar sands holdings are now making their way into the US where a large expansion of US refining and upgrading capacity is occurring. The impacts are now being felt in Canada.
BA Energy announced September 25, 2008 that its Heartland heavy-oil upgrader in Ft. Saskatchewan Alberta north of Edmonton was shelved for at least 4 years. The BA Energy statement is the latest in a string of announcements that are mounting. Royal Dutch Shell PCL (RDS) announced that its plans at its Ft. Saskatchewan expansion will be shelved in favour of lower cost jurisdictions in Oklahoma and Illinois in the US. This announcement followed another RDS announcement that its planned expansion at its Sarnia Ontario refinery will be shelved for similar reasons. Syneco announced in March 2007 that it is scrapping plans for its multi-billion dollar Northern Lights upgrader in Ft. Saskatchewan. Petro-Canada, nearing completion of its Refinery Conversion Project (RPC) in Edmonton, has announced that it is reviewing its Fort Hills project and will make a decision on the future of the project before the end of 2008. Husky Energy announced December 2007 that is was entering into a joint venture with BP LLC to supply bitumen from its Sunrise asset is located 60 kilometres northeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta to BP Toledo Ohio upgrader. This was preceded by another announcement by Husky that it acquired Valero Energy Corporation’s Lima, Ohio refinery. This will process feedstock from its Tucker Lake operations. Husky said that it plans to reconfigure and expand the Ohio Lima refinery to process heavy crude oil and bitumen.
This is only a partial list of projects shelved and its effects on Albertan energy sector and other Canadian workers. News reports are mounting that there is a significant rise in the number of people that are delinquent or have fallen behind in mortgage payments. Forecloses in Alberta are on the rise.
In a February 22, 2008 letter from Canadian Ambassador at the time, Michael Wilson, to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, sounded the alarm of the Harper government to Section 526 that oil sands crude and raw bitumen exports to the US would be put into jeopardy in US Department of Defence (DoD) procurement strategies. Wilson cited that Canadian and Albertan oil sands development strategy was based on Section 369 of the 2005 Energy Procurement Act which Wilson paraphrased as, “aimed at having your Department develop a source of US-origin alternative fuels for strategic reasons”.
The Oil Stock Blog in a March 24, 2008 commenting on Section 526 and the growing fallout said, “It could seriously cut into U.S oil supplies and seriously damage Canada’s economy if a strict interpretation of the law is applied and the U.S. is forced to stop purchasing oil sands petroleum”.
Responding to Section 526 Republican Jeb Hensarling [TX] and 109 other Republicans sponsored Bill H.R. 5656 “To repeal a requirement with respect to the procurement and acquisition of alternative fuels” on March 31, 2008 which called to repeal Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act.
On May 7, 2008 the US environmental organization Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) issued a letter on behalf of its “millions of members and activists” entitled “Preserve Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA)”. The letter was signed by 26 environmental groups from the US and Canada including; Greenpeace Canada, the Pembina Institute, Council of Canadians, Environmental Defence Canada, Polaris Institute and the Sierra Club of Canada. The submittal to the US Senate and US House of Representatives urged preservation of Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) which would prevent “dirty” fuels, such as liquid coal, tar sands and oil shale, whose lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are higher than conventional fuels, from being procured by the US government and most notably the US DoD. On first blush the letter appears to favour prevention of Canadian energy being used for US war efforts – but only on first read.
The provisions of Section 526 of the act were to address calls by environmental group to halt US taxpayer monies being allocated to the develop alternatives to conventional energy sources that produce greater life-cycle emissions than conventional oil sources.
The NRDC and the 25 signatories, including the Canadian signatories, state in the letter to the Senate that Section 526 of the act serves an important national security purpose. The NRDC submittal acknowledges that Section 526 “protects our nation’s national security interests” citing “high-ranking [US] military officials” that global warming is a serious national security threat. What is surprising about the statement is that 6 of the 26 signatories are Canadian, including the Council of Canadians. This would seem to imply that the Canadian signatories make no differentiation between the security interests of the US and Canada and accept the warnings of US military officials as the authoritative source for global warming and Canadian national security interests.
The NRDC letter also recognizes “Congress’ serious efforts to address the paramount threat global warming poses to all Americans”. This acknowledgement of the environmental group cedes that the major danger to the world is global warming and not US imperialism and nuclear war. Again the Canadian signatories are in full agreement with this assessment of their US counterparts.
The NRDC signatories state that Section 526 does not prevent production or importation of alternate or unconventional fuels. The group suggests that Section 526 merely prohibits US taxpayer monies to be used in the development as long as these sources have higher GHG emissions then conventional crude oil. This is an important distinction and leads to the alliance of both US and Canadian signatories with US strategic goals both military and politically.
US federal government maintains an extensive and highly developed global procurement network of supply points and sources for all types of DoD fuels administered by the Defence Energy Support Center (DESC). The NRDC signatories indicate in their submittal that the “federal government procurement of fuel for military purposes” would not be significantly impacted by the provisions of Section 526. The signatories acknowledge that as defined prior to the Republican Section 526 repeal amendment to the act the provisions of Section 526 will not affect DoD war fighting capability. In other words the NRDC support for 526 will not change the way the US carries out its strategic goals.
In February 2008 the US DoD Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force released a report on DoD energy strategy entitled “More Fight – Less Fuel”. The NRDC citing the DSB report in support of their opposition to the Republican repeal effort to Section 526 referred to the DSB conclusion that, “domestically produced synthetic fuel does not contribute to DoD’s most critical fuel problem – delivering fuel to deployed forces”.
The DSB report is a 121 page report with 5 chapters and 68 pages of technical findings, statistics and conclusions. The report also outlines critical foreign policy considerations as summarized in the introduction. The passage that the NRDC letter refers to is on page 50 of section 4.2 – Fuel Supply Technologies. The authors of the NRDC letter to the US Senate would have had to fully read and understand the content of the DSB report before elaborating, with such clarity, their position.
The DSB report introduces the document with US military energy statistics. Chapter II, Section 2.1 – Introduction states:
“The Department of Defense is the largest single consumer of energy in the United States. In 2006, it spent $13.6 billion to buy 110 million barrels of petroleum fuel (about 300,000 barrels of oil each day), and 3.8 billion kWh of electricity. This represents about 0.8% of total U.S. energy consumption and 78% of energy consumption by the Federal government. Buildings and facilities account for about 25% of the Department’s total energy use...
“At the national level, dependence on foreign sources of energy is mainly a petroleum issue. The U.S. currently imports some 60% of its oil from foreign sources and the percentage is increasing. This is problematic for a number of reasons. Current high prices adversely affect our trade balance. Much of the global petroleum endowment resides in countries that are not friendly to the U.S., or exhibit political values antithetic to our own. While the international petroleum market is relatively open and fungible, approximately 94% of the known global reserves are controlled by governments directly or indirectly, mainly through state-owned companies. As a result, the amount of petroleum that remains to be extracted is imprecisely known. Further, estimates of remaining reserves are considered state secrets by many oil exporting nations. There are two main elements of uncertainty. First, the estimates of currently inaccessible reserves are questionable. Second, the extent to which existing fields can be extended through new or more costly technologies is unknown. Our need to maintain good business relations with oil exporting countries complicates our foreign policy options. Some of them are known to support extremist groups. In effect, through our imports of oil we help to fund both sides of the global war on terror.”
Returning to the NRDC referenced passage in the DSB report employed to support the NRDC conclusions. The DSB states in section 4.2 that, “The US is an expeditionary oriented force. When it fights, it uses fuel closest to the point of engagement.” The NRDC understand this and their letter does not oppose other sources of fuel being used for aggressive US military action as long as the “life-cycle” of “domestic” fuel does not exceed conventional sources. This NRDC acknowledges that their opposition to tar sands oil will not impact DoD war fighting operations.
This, the NRDC concludes, will contribute to the fight against the “paramount” threat to the American people – GHG emissions from tar sands crude, but not impact US imperialist war efforts. A win-win situation for both sides – carbon neutral clean fuel war fighting which will allow the millions of environmentalists and activists to sleep well at night knowing their government is conducting the war on terror in an environmentally friendly manner.
What the NRDC and the Canadian signatories conclude is that as long as the war is a carbon neutral clean fuel war we are OK with it. What is completely avoided by the NDRC and the Canadian signatories is that although the US military uses “only” 300,000 bbl/day of fuel it consumes massive amounts of US and global industrial capacity that is fully dedicated to the design, marketing, production and use of other military hardware including nuclear weapons.
A 2005 NDRC report entitled “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe - A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning” concluded that, “the United States is still deploying 480 nuclear weapons in Europe... The military and political justifications given by the United States and NATO for U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe are both obsolete and vague.” The report went on to further conclude that, “The need for these weapons is rapidly eroding...the U.S. Defense Science Board Task Force on Future Strategic Strike Forces recommended in February 2004 that the nuclear capability of the forward-based, tactical, dual-capable aircraft should be eliminated because there is ‘no obvious military need for these systems….’because the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict could provoke serious political, economic, military, and environmental consequences”.
The conclusions reached in this sweeping 102 page report are similar to the conclusions reached by NRDC in its opposition to the repeal bill HR5656 – “Forward” based systems are obsolete but domestic retention of nuclear weapons, exceeding 5000 warheads, on intercontinental and submarine base delivery systems, are acceptable and justified.
The energy inputs dedicated to the industries that are in the business of supplying the US military with raw materials has not been fully calculated. The extraction, production and distribution of primary metals, smelting and producing metal shapes and materials as well as the rubbers, plastics and chemicals used in the manufacturer of tanks, fighter, aircraft, bombers, submarines and aircraft carriers are not fully know. As well energy and chemical inputs used in the production, maintenance and delivery of conventional and nuclear ordnance, bombs and munitions is never talked about in the environmental movement. Energy inputs into these systems and industries are enormous.
NRDC issued a statement that was carried on CBC Radio One Edmonton on September 26, 2008 that welcomed the defeat of the amendment.
NRDC senior lawyer and spokesperson Liz Barratt-Brown, while lauding the US Congress decision to uphold the Section 526 had nothing to say about environmentalist complicity in sanctioning US imperialist war and occupation and continues to imply that the overarching threat to the planet is global warming and not imperialism and the threat of nuclear war. Ms. Brown said, “The bottom line is Americans want their government to invest in new clean energy, not high-carbon fuels of the past." This must also mean clean fuels for the US military.
The labour and peace movements are opposed to the notion that is OK to build up the military might of the USA and its capacity to wage war so long as it is done with environmentally friendly “clean fuels”. There is a serious blind spot isolating the environmental movement from the cause of labour and peace. It is of great concern and must be addressed in terms of real politics. As the federal election looms, the environmentalists have a choice; to support candidates that are working to oust the Harper Conservative government that poses the greatest threat to the cause of peace, labour and the environment, or to continue their lofty posture and disconnect from reality and slowly drift into the surreal world of apologists for the US-military industrial complex.