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February 08, 2008

With A Fountain Pen Corporations, Globalization  Energy  Peak Oil

Richard Heinberg (via EnergyBulletin) calls attention to an extraordinary clause in the NAFTA agreement:

There is a strange clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that applies to only one country — Canada. The clause states that Canada must continue to supply the same proportion of its oil and gas resources to the US in future years as it does now. That's rather a good deal for the US: it formalizes Canada's status as a resource satellite of its imperial hub to the south.

From a Canadian perspective there are some problems with the arrangement, though. First is the fact that Canada's production of natural gas and conventional oil is declining. Second is that Canada uses lots of oil and gas domestically: 70 percent of Canadians heat their homes with gas, and Canadians drive cars more and further than just about anyone else. The problem is likely to come first with natural gas; as production declines, there will come a point when there isn't enough to fill domestic needs and continue to export (roughly 60 percent of Canada's gas now goes to the US).

That point is not decades in the future, it is fairly imminent.

What happens when Canadians can no longer drive their cars or heat their homes because NAFTA forces them to export the oil and gas they need for their own use? Will they say, hey, no problem, we'll just sit here in the dark and cold? Would you?

It's not often discussed, but a key subtext of the push for international trade agreements has been the "developed" nations' desire to lock in access to the rest of the world's natural resources. But sooner or later, push'll come to shove. People in countries that have their own energy resources are going to wonder how their leaders managed to sign away control.

One thinks of the Woody Guthrie song:

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

In this case, the guys with fountain pens have most of the world's guns, too.

Posted by Jonathan at February 8, 2008 05:38 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb