The Oil Sands' Strange Bedfellows: Chinese Capitalists and Albertan Communists

Has anyone noticed the irony in the latest line of pro-pipeline rhetoric from oil sands boosters in Alberta? Apparently China is willing to invest between $10 and $20 billion dollars in the oil sands, but only if Canada fast-tracks construction of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project (regulatory due process be damned, and forget the fact that 80% of British Columbians are against oil tanker traffic off the north coast of B.C.).

Forcing resource projects against the will of citizens is business as usual in China, but it's ironic to hear Alberta's oil sands boosters arguing for the same practices here in Canada (as reported earlier this week by Chris Varcoe at the Calgary Herald):

Ian Wild, executive vice-president of ATB Corporate Financial Services, said he heard from Beijing oil executives this week that they are growing frustrated by delays in Canadian pipeline development and future investment is clearly at risk.

“I know they’re saying to me that their patience has run out,” he said. “They told me specifically that there’s at least $10 to $20 billion in jeopardy here for the province.”

God forbid the Chinese run out of patience with our more democratic (though still leaving much to be desired) process for review of proposed pipelines, or the legal precedents that require governments to consult with individual First Nations along the proposed pipeline route. Things would be so much easier if the oil sands were in Tibet.

One of the more disconcerting elements of the reports coming out of Alberta's recent trade mission to China is the way boosters seem to marvel at Beijing's insatiable appetite for oil sands crude (at a time when the world's greenhouse gas emissions have never been higher, pushing us closer towards runaway climate change):

As for promises that larger investments are coming, Schulz [Professor in the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary] said no one should be shocked given the scale of recent moves.

“The amount of money is not a surprise,” said the director of petroleum land management with the university. “This is just an incremental bite and they’re ready for the next one. And each bite will be bigger.”