Anyone following the latest news on the Keystone Project is aware of the heavy and very public resistance to the project in some parts of the US and Canada. To counter that resistance, the Canadian government and oil producers are advertising heavily in the US, touting the fact that Canadian oil is “ethical” and buying from Canada means the US isn’t shipping greenbacks overseas to support dictatorships, terrorism, social inequality, and so on.
It’s an interesting argument that’s gaining some traction in the US: buy from a democratic friend and you won’t have to deal with those other suppliers with questionable social standards and political objectives.
But there’s an interesting (and disturbing, if you’re a Canadian) twist to this argument.
According to Stats Canada, in 2009 Canada produced 5.4 million terajoules (890 million barrels*) of crude oil. Canada exported 3.1 million terajoules (519 million barrels) of oil, primarily to the US, and imported 1.8 million terajoules of crude oil (300 million barrels).
While Canada produces sufficient oil to more than meet its own energy requirements, our heavy export commitments to the US mean that Canada must also import oil to meet its own needs. Typically the imported oil is used in eastern Canada, while the US exports come from western Canada.
And where do we get the oil we import? Statistics Canada’s Energy Statistics Handbook lists our primary sources, in order: Algeria (18%), Norway (15%), the United Kingdom (11.5%), Saudi Arabia (8.8%), Angola (5.4%), Nigeria (4.1%), Venezuela (4.1%), Iraq (3.2%), Mexico (2.8%), and Russia (2.3%).
Note Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Angola, Iraq, and Venezuela on the list. These are the very countries that we denounce in selling Canadian oil to the US markets, the countries that produce the “unethical oil” that we warn our American friends about, yet which constitute more than 40% of Canada’s foreign oil imports.
So in order to sell “ethical oil” to the American market, Canada imports “unethical oil” to meet its own needs. And, to my knowledge, not a single politician of any stripe, or at any level, has stood up to say there’s something seriously wrong with this picture.
* 1 terajoule is roughly the energy equivalent of 164 barrels of oil