Thursday, December 04, 2014
Now The Guardian Chimes In - Time to Nationalize Canada's Fossil Fuelers
They took their sweet time. On Tuesday we proposed nationalization of fossil fuel companies as the best way to keep hydrocarbon reserves safely in the ground and clearing the way for a transition to clean, alternative energy.
Now it's The Guardian calling for putting Canada's oil companies under public control.
It would be hard to invent a more destructive ritual of national self-punishment. Year after year, we hand oil companies gigantic tracts of pristine land. They skin them of entire ecosystems. They vacuum billions of dollars out of the country. Their oversized power, sunk into lobbying and litigation, upends government law-making.
And Canada’s return? The exploitation of the tar sands provides just two percent of our GDP. It has gutted manufacturing jobs and made a mockery of our emissions targets. And now that oil prices are crashing – as resource commodities predictably do – it is putting a vicious squeeze on government spending.
Some will insist that nationalizing Canada’s oil industry is a fringe, radical idea. But half of Canadians already support it, according to one survey. That’s despite decades of relentless misinformation about the supposed perils of government regulating or running business. Even in the province that is home to the tar sands, more than one in three favoured the idea. Beware of your neighbours, Albertans: they’re harbouring closet nationalizers.
Canadians value that their hospitals, schools, transit, and libraries are run in the public interest. So why not our energy? Sure, the old style of nationalized companies – centralized, bureaucratic and often corrupt – is easy to criticize.
...These entities wouldn’t be run by CEOs accountable only to share-holders, or by bureaucrats accountable only to politicians: they would involve diverse boards with elected representatives of workers, consumers, and First Nations.
They could hardly squander Canada’s wealth more than those now running the industry. While oil companies have become the richest corporations in history, both federal and provincial governments have settled for capturing single-digit rents and taxes. An Alberta bumper sticker from the 1980s summed up this approach: “Please God, let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away next time.” But piss it away they have.
Take as a contrast Norway. A majority owner of Statoil, it has retained most of its oil revenue. A pension fund ensuring future savings for its citizens contains almost a trillion dollars – that’s nearly $200,000 per person. Alberta has produced twice as much oil; its fund, meanwhile, has been pilfered by its governments and holds a paltry $18 billion. Nationalization would be a way to finally put our hands on oil money and start directing the earnings toward something useful: like investment in renewable energy and green infrastructure.
Canada’s oil corporations have made a profitable mess of the country: it’s long-past time to put them under public, democratic control.
Amen to that.