Part II. Immigration and Scarcity: Canada is a battleground for natural resources

Part II.    Immigration and Scarcity: Canada is a battleground for natural resources

This is the second of two installments relating to Canada as a battleground for natural resources.  The first part dealt with the failure of Canadian leadership in responding to the growing scarcity of non-renewable natural resources and their complicity in the resultant plundering of Canada.  Part two addresses the Canadian delusion that the resources of Canada are almost infinite and the potentially dire consequences of such fantasies.

The Illusion of Abundance vs. The Reality of Scarcity: Canada is not an Energy Superpower

The growth of global population and the steady devaluation of paper money have creditor nations rushing to buy finite natural resources to meet future demand.  This activity is becoming more brazen and Canadians have begun to stir and resist.  For example, HD Mining, a Chinese-owned company (See Footnote i) incorporated in British Columbia in 2011 to mine a coal deposit in northern British Columbia, announced that they planned to bring in Chinese miners to do the work saying that they could not find Canadians to do the job. This was a blatant attempt to undermine Canadian labour by bringing in low cost workers from abroad.  Have they never heard of training programs for Canadian workers or of offering wages sufficient to attract them?  This is the way that Chinese operations function in African countries, but Canada is not a Third World country. Recently, HD Mining altered its policy when sued by a Canadian labour union.

The Government of China is known for its long-range thinking.  It has probably occurred to them that with China’s huge population and Canada’s open door to immigrants, a substantial migration of Chinese people to Canada will add to Chinese influence. China has used similar tactics of population shifts within its own borders to cement its control over Tibet and Xinjiang.  With a population of 1.3 billion, the Chinese understand the power of numbers and the reality of scarcity.

Regarding the true state of Canadian non-renewable natural resources, Canadians are misled by their political leaders. For example, in 2006, at a G8 Meeting, Prime Minister Stephen Harper touted Canada as an energy superpower stating: “Canada is the world’s third largest producer of gas, seventh in oil production, the biggest hydro-electric generator and the biggest supplier of uranium. Alberta’s tar sands are second only to Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil reserve.” (See Footnote ii)

A renowned Canadian energy expert, David Hughes, has refuted these claims stating that Canada is not now, nor is it ever likely to be, an “Energy Superpower”. He supported his position with the following points:

1.”Canada may be the third largest producer of gas but ranks only 21st in the amount of proved reserves. We are liquidating our gas reserves as fast as possible as dictated by the markets, not by any coherent energy policy.”

2.”Comparing Canada’s oil sands to Saudi Arabia light oil is like comparing apples to oranges. The purported 174 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the oil sands is very energy and capital- and time-intensive to produce, compared to easier conventional oil. As a result, oil sands require much longer time-frames to ramp up production.”

3.”It is true that Canada is the biggest hydro-electric generator, but more than 60% of available sites have been developed, and hydro developments are associated with major environmental impacts.”

4.”Although Canada ranks number one in the world for uranium production it ranks fourth in uranium reserves. Canada has a reserve-to-production lifetime of 35 years, the lowest of any major uranium producer.”

5.”Canadians are among the highest per capita consumers of energy in the world, exceeding even Americans, and currently consume five times the world average. More than 80% of this consumption is fossil fuels. The lifestyle of Canadians is underpinned by cheap energy. Canada has been liquidating its inheritance of non-renewable fossil fuels as fast as possible in the name of economic growth. There are currently few restrictions other than the markets on the liquidation of these one-time resources that underpin Canadian energy security.” (See Footnote iii)

The last point is particularly significant regarding the effect of immigration to Canada on climate change. Most of those immigrants come from countries that have a much lower consumption of energy per capita than does Canada. By converting them to Canadian levels of consumption, Canada multiplies their production of greenhouse gases. An American study released in 2008 found that immigrants to the United States produce an estimated four times more CO2 in the United States as they would have in their countries of origin (See Footnote iv) In Canada, the cold climate and widely dispersed population contribute to high levels of energy consumption, but Canadians can and should be much more efficient in their use of energy and other natural resources.

In 2006, Bengt Soderberg from Sweden did a comprehensive review of the Canadian oil sands and his findings suggest that production will peak about 2040 and then begin to decline. (See Footnote v)    The year 2040 is only a generation away. Do Canadians need to wait until they have fallen off a cliff before putting on parachutes?

In 2011, The Economist published an article stating that oil production is failing to keep up with demand noting that the difference is being made up by such things as biofuels, oil derived from coal and other non-conventional sources. (See Footnote vi)  Shouldn’t this warning from an eminent publication encourage Canadians to conserve their supplies of non-renewable natural resources instead of liquidating them at fire sale prices?

In a speech on January 23, 2013, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, identified  “….increasing vulnerability from resource scarcity and climate change with the potential for major social and economic disruption” as one of four megatrends shaping the global future.  She described this megatrend as “the real wild card in the pack.” See Footnote vii)  Surely, this wild card of scarcity should be the subject of extensive public discussion in Canada.

A recent book called “Scarcity, Humanity’s Final Chapter?” by Christopher Clugston reviews production figures of eighty-nine non-renewable resources in the United States and globally. It concludes that peak production is near or has passed for many of  these resources with serious consequences for humanity. (See Footnote viii)  This raises some important questions, such as: What will be the effect of shortages on economic growth?  If growing scarcities lead to a long-term trend of economic contraction, do countries need to shrink their respective populations at the same rate as economic shrinkage to maintain living standards?  If growing scarcity causes commodity prices to rise, would there not be an advantage for a resource-rich country like Canada to bank the assets in the ground rather than exploiting them as quickly as possible for money which is steadily devaluing?  Shouldn’t Canada prevent foreign companies like Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) from acquiring Canadian publicly traded companies involved in the natural resources industries?

If Canadians do not cut immigration to a small fraction of present levels and slow the consumption of their finite natural resources, within a generation or two, they will awake to find their country reduced to an empty shell, with a much larger population, and facing poverty.