November 29, 2007
Elaine Meinel Supkis
A major oil pipeline between the US and Canada has had an explosion and is now closed. This will have a significant impact on oil availability in the US. Depending on how long it takes to restart these pipelines, the effects on prices is immediate but it could lead to drawing down on US oil reserves to keep refineries running. Right on the heels of the stock market going nuts over the idea that the US can imitate Japan and have super-cheap money. The financial instability caused by the nearness of the Hubbert Oil Peak increases.
Oil surged more than $4 a barrel, the most in a month, after an explosion cut Canadian oil shipments through Enbridge Inc. pipelines that typically provide about 15 percent of U.S. crude imports.
Enbridge closed four pipelines that supply an average of 1.5 million barrels a day after a blast yesterday killed two workers. The company said today a fire is still burning at the Clearbrook terminal in Minnesota where the pipelines meet.
Just as Wall Street was gearing up for a big Xmas party from hell with Bernanke supplying a huge punch bowl, they get this punch in the stomach, instead. Capricious fate has again, intervened. This explosion will have a huge impact on the US and also the world's economies. The price of oil futures instantly soared like an eagle and will most likely hit the $100 peak. This has a ripple effect that causes all other systems to shift significantly. Especially the profit margins of OPEC. Venezuela has been in the news lately, feuding with Columbia, yet another US CIA attempt at taking over Venezuela has been uncovered
an internal CIA memorandum has been obtained by Venezuelan counterintelligence from the US Embassy in Caracas that reveals a very sinister - almost fantastical, were it not true - plan to destabilize Venezuela during the coming days. The plan, titled "OPERATION PLIERS" was authored by CIA Officer Michael Middleton Steere and was addressed to CIA Director General Michael Hayden in Washington. Steere is stationed at the US Embassy in Caracas under the guise of a Regional Affairs Officer.
And Venezuela attacking the dollar at the recent OPEC meeting. The US might have to buy more Venezuelan oil and this irritates our own rulers. They don't control Venezuela like they control Canada. Note that the Bank of Canada is now run by Goldman Sachs, for example.
The integration of US and Canadian energy delivery and refining continues. Enbridge has been rapidly growing thanks to new free trade/easy access to each other's markets has been increasingly exploited by corporations who are increasingly international and thus, detached from service of any particular nation. The US has been trying desperately to append Canada to our own system because we passed the Hubbert Oil Peak long ago and Canada is still on the upslope. As US dependence on Canadian crude increases, the sense of unease between Canada and the US inches upwards. Not unexpectedly, the Canadian people have good reason to feel nervous about all this. The possibility the US might stage coups or in other ways, corrupt the Canadian political system, is great. Indeed, the US has a very strong desire to see governments in Canada that make bad business deals that benefit us.
Enbridge's pipelines typically feed 1.5 million barrels a day of crude to refineries including BP Plc's plant in Whiting, Indiana, and plants in the U.S.'s refining heartland on the Gulf Coast. The U.S. imported 10.3 million barrels a day last week.
U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell 452,000 barrels to 313.2 million last week, the Energy Department said yesterday. Oil inventories in Cushing, Oklahoma, were at 152.3 million barrels as of Nov. 23, the lowest since October 2005.
We have 101 days worth of oil and so I don't expect to see rationing like we had in the 1970's. Oklahoma is the destination of a lot of the oil that has stopped flowing. Refineries need to have a constant supply of oil because they can't just shut down. Shutting down is a difficult process and restarting is slow.
The fire broke out on line 3, which had been shut down for maintenance on Wednesday in order to investigate a small leak, Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer told Reuters.
He said all four lines of the pipeline will be shut down until the fire dies down enough to allow for inspections of lines 1 and 2, which are located several hundred feet away from the source of the fire and explosion. Springer warned that larger Lines 3 and 4 were likely to remain shut for some time.
If these lines are shut a long time, this will mean the US will eventually have to refill the Oklahoma reserves. This means oil futures will not go down tomorrow. A natural feature of the approach to the Hubbert Oil Peak is how any event will cause global prices to move rapidly by large amounts, up or down. Just like the beginning of a bear market in stocks has wild swings up and down every other day as we have seen the last three months. The US has been in decline for many years due to our desire to treat oil as if this were the 1960's and we pumped all the oil we consumed right here in America.
At no point have we even tried to live as if oil is a dangerous import item that is steadily undermining our economic base. Instead of restricting oil consumption by automobile use, the US has worked hard to make things worse and worse, expanding the city suburbs, cutting public transports, driving bigger and bigger vehicles for many more miles per year. The US dependency on Canadian oil has increased steadily ever since 1980. At the recent Republican YouTube debate, all the characters there including Ron Paul wanted to cut gas taxes so we can drive around even more.
The refusal to face facts about the future is a strong component of our culture. We adore the design of our nation which is based on presuming eternal cheap gasoline will allow us to live this fabulous and impossible dream forever. One of the chief drivers of our declining economic status is our need to import incredible amounts of foreign oil. This fire, for example, has made Russia much richer and stronger, for example. It has made the Arab oil pumping nations much stronger, too. Russia already looms over Europe and the shadow has grown longer thanks to this happenstance.
And the Arabs take world oil profits from Europe and Asia and are coming here and buying up our financial systems as well as port facilities and infrastructure. The noose tightens around our necks every time we turn the ignition keys in our gas guzzlers.
Interprovincial Pipe Line (IPL), which became Enbridge Pipelines in 1998, was incorporated in 1949, shortly after Canada's first major oil discovery at Leduc, Alberta. The original pipeline was constructed to transport oil from Western Canada to refineries in the east.
The company has seen steady growth and numerous expansions over the years and today approximately two-thirds of Canada's crude oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin is transported through the Enbridge Pipelines system delivering more than 2 million barrels a day to markets in Eastern Canada and the United States. The original pipeline was built to carry oil from the 1947 Leduc oil discovery to Regina. When it became clear that Leduc was not the only oilfield in the Edmonton area, a decision was made to extend the pipeline from Regina to Superior, Wisconsin and then on to Sarnia, Ontario. Construction of the main pipeline from Edmonton to Superior began in November 1949. On October 4, 1950, the system was in full operation, and the first oil reached Superior on December 5, 1950. In 1953, the pipeline was extended from Superior to Sarnia.
But Enbridge now is also owner and operator of Canada's largest natural gas distribution system, and is building a new gas distribution system for the province of New Brunswick. Enbridge participates in gas transmission through the Alliance and Vector gas pipelines. It is involved in the gas midstream business, liquids feeder pipelines, electrical power distribution, retail energy services, energy marketing, fuel cells, and has a growing involvement internationally with investments such as the OCENSA crude oil pipeline in Colombia.
In May 2001 Enbridge completed the acquisition of Midcoast Energy Resources of Houston. The US$600 million acquisition gave Enbridge an expanded presence in the natural gas business, and in the U.S. Gulf Coast and Mid-Continent regions, significantly expanding the company's North American footprint.
In May 2006, Enbridge and EEP announced that the pipeline diameter for the Southern Access expansion would be upsized to 42", bringing the total estimated capital cost to US $1.3 billion.
As the record oil prices pour profits into the coffers of the big oil producers/transporter and refiners, the race for consolidation of power and the building of vertical as well as horizontal systems increases. Enbridge is one of many organizations like LUKoil that fly under the US consumer's radar for a long time as they grow. Enron made the news because they tried to do what Enbridge is so patiently doing. Enron had to fake a lot of its growth. When Enron was creating a flotilla of strange Investment Vehicles, so was Enbridge but this organization was serious about this.
The need to create these IVs is simple: currency uncertainties. They have to continuously hedge their futures which can expand or contract quite capriciously. All businesses depend on future contracts being honored and when the price agreed violently fluctuates due to currency trading and central bank manipulations [ALL currencies are manipulated by central banks] then the profit margin can vacillate wildly with each change in wind direction. The sudden rise of the loonie versus the dollar has greatly distorted future contracts. The wild swings in November were very destabilizing.
The main thing is, the US needs these pipeline. Note how they have been growing in diameter. All over the world, oil pipelines are being laid and they are bigger each cycle.
In November 2005, Enbridge announced that it will be developing 200 megawatts of wind power on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Bruce County, Ontario. Enbridge has executed a 20-year electricity purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority for all of the power produced by the project, and will be responsible for project construction, which is expected to start in mid-2006, and operating the project when commercial operations begin in early 2007. Total capital expenditures for the project will be approximately $400 million.
Many oil companies are moving into alternative fuels. They, above all people, know perfectly well what the Hubbert Oil Peak is all about. They can see the projections. They are planning ahead while at the same time, reassuring their customers, all is well. People who want no change are happy they have permission to stay on a ruinous course. Instead of frantic attempts to retrofit and redesign our living conditions, we can blissfully ignore reality. The pathological need to lie infests all our economic systems and instead of increasing honesty, talking about the future, we have increasing lies.
Back to all the Republicans including Ron Paul, they did NOT talk about the Hubbert Oil Peak. They did NOT mention that gas taxes for US drivers are ridiculously low compared to all other industrialized nations that import oil. They did NOT talk about how oil imports are destroying our national bottom line and are driving us into bankruptcy. No, they LIED. They all know perfectly well, what is going on. Ron Paul is from Texas and he knows that Oklahoma must import a great deal of Canadian oil to feed its refineries. He knows about our trade deficit and talks about it.
But when asked about gas taxes, he joined the others and put on his Santa suit and said, he would give us all cheap oil. This over-all failure of our top politicians in both parties, unable to loudly tell the truth, irritates and frightens me. This is not an issue we dare ignore. It is the bleeding heart in our ocean of red ink.
As always, we must go backwards in time to understand our dependence on Canadian oil: International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions
November 5, 2007: The Communications, Energy, Paperworkers (CEP) Union of Canada has appealed to Canada’s Federal Cabinet the recommendations made by the National Energy Board (NEB) that would allow construction of the 2,970-kilometre Keystone Pipeline from the province of Alberta to the US.
The proposed pipeline would increase Canadian exports of crude oil from the rich Alberta tar sands three-fold, the CEP said. The pipeline’s builder, energy company TransCanada Corp., recently applied to the NEB for further pumping capacity to increase export volume from the planed 435,000 barrels-per-day to 590,000 bpd.
The Ottawa-based ICEM affiliate has strongly asserted throughout the Keystone approval process, as well as with other crude oil pipelines destined to the US, that allowing such exports is directly contrary to the creation of good, sustainable refinery jobs in Canada.
In a study issued earlier this year, the CEP said 18,000 jobs would be lost if Keystone were allowed to export raw crude oil across Canadian borders. Keystone is a US$5.2 billion pipeline project intended to bring unprocessed bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to US refining points in Wood River and Patoka, the US state of Illinois, and to Cushing, Oklahoma.
Canada allowed Enbridge to send oil to Oklahoma to be refined. But this story from the beginning of the month shows that tensions are rising in Canada as the US tries to get oil with the least value-added cost. This is due to our huge trade deficits. We import gasoline products from Canada already. To minimize our dependence on Canadian oil and to keep our own refineries in Texas, Oklahoma and New Jersey running, we have worked things out so the oil is in its cheapest form when we import it. The battle over the details of this importation of oil has been hammered out over the years.
Monday, May 23, 2005: The tribe, the Deh Cho First Nation, is blocking an 800-mile pipeline that would pass through its lands carrying natural gas from the Arctic Ocean to the booming oil-sands mines of Alberta. The tribe says the money and development brought by the pipeline could destroy its culture while leaving little lasting economic benefit.
"We have lived in these lands since time immemorial," said the Deh Cho grand chief, Herb Norwegian. "We are the rightful owners, and this pipeline should not be pushed in against our will."
The Deh Cho anti-pipeline stance is spreading through Native tribes in northwest Canada, putting at risk the development of Arctic natural gas in both Canada and Alaska as well as expansion of Canada's oil sands, which are widely considered the most promising source of foreign oil for the United States in the coming decades.
The big American giant corporations were furious over the delays, the battles, the demands for money. They could see the US oil decline quite clearly and were very anxious to get Canadian oil flowing to Oklahoma. They threatened to not build the pipeline at all but that was pure bluff. They need this pipeline. The attempts by Canadian natives to get a slice of the energy pie are not surprising. This is a battle being waged across the planet. In Venezuela or Peru, the natives want to tap into the profit stream the big US national corporations are grabbing. In Nigeria, a long running battle has been waged by local tribes who want some of the oil wealth flowing to the corrupt rulers of that nation. In Yemen this last month, tribes blew up the oil pipelines for the same reason. This is what caused world oil prices to reach nearly $100 and the accident will probably push it over that goal line.
Let's go even further back in time to when the US hit the Hubbert Oil Peak when Nixon was President. Canadian-American Relations, Economic
While access to US markets, investment and technology have benefited Canadians, the resulting commercial arrangements, along with the great disparity in population between the 2 countries, has created serious problems for Canada, including a high level of dependency on and vulnerability to US policies. Recently, US corporate interests have successfully enlisted the support of the US government in widening the Canadian market for US goods and services (eg, banking, data services), in opposing Canadian policies to strengthen Canadian industry (eg, government incentives and grants for Canadian industry, measures to gain Canadian industrial spinoffs for Canadian resource development) and in weakening Canadian measures to control foreign investment (eg, screening of foreign investment, the role of crown corporations, changes to the tax and land regulations to favour Canadian oil and gas companies, and curbs on the role of foreign banks).
Canada would be faring badly in the free trade climate if it weren't for the Hubbert Oil Peak and China's entry into world energy markets. The US has decided it would become, like Britain, a global banking outfit and this would then allow us to dominate the world, economically, even if we are deep in debt and running huge trade deficits due to deindustrializing our nation. Of course, right off the bat with this new scheme, both the US and UK have a huge banking crisis caused by really bad financial choices. So our ability to be the world's banker is going down in flames as the pipelines burn and world oil prices shoot higher again.
In 1957 a new Conservative government under John DIEFENBAKER promised to reduce Canada's economic ties to the US. The Royal Commission on CANADA'S ECONOMIC PROSPECTS, which reported in 1957, warned that Canadians were losing control of their destiny, while other critics voiced concern that Canada's economy was being developed in a distorted manner as a resource supplier for the giant US industrial base.
Although in 1965 Canada and the US signed the Autopact agreement, which created, for manufacturers, a conditional free-trade zone for motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts production in Canada, many Canadians had begun to express a desire to reduce foreign ownership and influence in their economy. This desire led to disputes in tax and banking policy and even to diplomatic quarrels over the status of US magazines in Canada. In an attempt to halt the flow of US funds abroad, in 1963 the US government introduced a tax to discourage the outflow of funds, which sparked an immediate crisis in Canadian financial markets, since Canada was highly dependent on access to US capital markets. Canada negotiated an exemption, but only with the understanding that if Canadian borrowing in the US rose above traditional levels the exemption would be reviewed by the US. Canada also had to promise not to increase its foreign-exchange reserves through the proceeds of new US borrowings. Through these constraints, Canada's ability to conduct economic policy was narrowed.
In 1968 the US government imposed mandatory guidelines for American multinationals. US subsidiaries were ordered to increase the repatriation of profits from Canada, to carry out more investment in the US than in subsidiaries, and to increase exports for US plants instead of from subsidiaries in Canada or elsewhere. In 1971 President Nixon introduced a series of measures to protect the US balance of payments by imposing a 10% surcharge on those US imports subject to duty. Canada was able to negotiate exemptions to these policies, but the incidents revealed Canada's vulnerability to changes in US policies and led to Canadian efforts to develop a THIRD OPTION designed to increase Canada's economic ties with the rest of the world and to reduce its dependence on the US.
It is most amusing to see that the Conservative party used to resist US domination. Unlike today when they toady up to the US treating us as if we are the new British Empire and are looking out for the Canadians as if they are our fellow subjects. Well, they just might end up in this condition! Back in the days of US power and wealth, we looked as if we would swap Canada via our trade powers. But history turned this on us and the Canadians ended up running huge trade surpluses with the US. Not just in oil but in manufacturing. Indeed, a side effect of the US deindustrializing and Canada building up a superior health care system meant that Canadian products could undersell US products and get a greater profit from this.
I will note yet again, the Republican debate, including Ron Paul, all want to make the US health care system worse, not better. The recent resignation of the Bush economic advisor was the clown who wanted to tax health care benefits in order to wreck the ability of workers to get health care and thus make labor cheaper for US manufacturers! The exact opposite of what Canada has done! This pig-headed desire to weaken workers and beggar them is so utterly mindless and destructive, I would suggest no one ever vote for anyone in the Republican party if they are going to simply eliminate all access to health care while at the same time making gasoline cheaper so we can go deeper into trade deficits. Unfortunately, the choices here go very bad when we move to the Democratic side of the election. More of the same except they are talking about healthcare reform that is at least somewhat more realistic.
ENERGY POLICY became an issue between Canada and the US during the 1970s. In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, Canada was anxious to increase oil and gas sales to the US, but oil sales were restricted by US import quotas. Canada also attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the US to build an oil pipeline from Alaska to the US through the Canadian North (see MACKENZIE VALLEY PIPELINE). Canadian interest in expanding oil and gas exports to the US had cooled by the mid-1970s, following the 1973-74 OPEC crisis and concern over the adequacy of Canadian oil and gas reserves to meet future Canadian needs.
During this period the US reacted angrily to increases in Canadian oil export prices to match world oil prices. Energy re-emerged as a source of conflict with Canada's implementation in 1980 of the National Energy Program. One of the NEP's major objectives was that the oil industry be 50% Canadian-controlled by 1990. In 1980 the oil and gas industry in Canada accounted for 30% of all nonfinancial industry profits in Canada, and roughly 70% of those profits accrued to foreign-controlled, mainly US, firms. To achieve the Canadianization target, Canada encouraged takeovers by Canadians of foreign-oil subsidiaries, altered the tax system so that government funding of risky oil exploration favoured Canadian companies, and amended land regulations to require 50% Canadian participation in frontier oil and gas fields.
The US vigorously protested these measures. A second NEP objective was to increase the Canadian share of engineering and other services, and of manufactured equipment used in the oil and gas industry projects. US multinationals had relied heavily on the same engineering and other suppliers as their US parents, so that Canadian industry had not benefited to the extent that it might have from oil and gas development. As a result of US objections, some of these provisions were relaxed.
The US was in deep trouble back then. The wars were making oil hard to get and we had already begun to import huge amounts of oil. The Canadians had us over a barrel. They could simply refuse to sell to us or let us explore, etc. Since then, the Canadians have tried to strengthen their hand in this game and I would suggest, played it quite well considering the fact that any open hostilities would lead to an US invasion or coup attempt as we see in Venezuela or Iraq and Iran.
This became a part of the Plaza Accords as Reagan's negotiators had to try to fix our financial dependency by suddenly weakening the dollar and thus, destroy the Arab financial reserves which were mostly dollars back then.
In October 1987 the 2 countries announced they had an agreement, which was subsequently ratified by the US Congress and by the Canadian Parliament and, where relevant, the provincial governments. Under the proposed agreement, all tariffs between the 2 countries are to be eliminated over a 10-year period, starting 1 January 1989. In addition, a binational dispute settlement mechanism was established to review, on points of law, the application of countervail or other penalties of trade-remedy laws of national trade agencies against the other country. If the imposition of a penalty again is not in accordance with US trade law, for example, the binational body can require it be removed. The US could still unilaterally enact harsher trade remedy laws, but it must notify Canada and mention Canada by name in amendments to its trade laws. A Canada-US Trade Commission, headed by the trade ministries of the 2 countries, administers the proposed agreement.
In other provisions, Canada largely eliminates its restrictions on US takeovers of Canadian companies, except for those with assets of $150 million or more, and does not in future require US subsidiaries to sell shares to Canadians or force them to promote exports or use Canadian suppliers. US-owned companies now have to be treated in the same way as Canadian-owned companies. On energy, Canada shares oil and gas shortages with the US, and does not use its energy, including electricity, to create an advantage for Canadian industry or Canadian consumers through lower prices.
As I recall, this was not popular in Canada back then. When I last visited Montreal in 1988, there was a lot of anti-american feelings. I went about the place, asking questions [with the help of a friend of mine, an author who spoke Canadian French]. The US, back then, imagined we would be the ones taking over all other nations by using our economic might to overwhelm everyone. But history gets the last laugh here. The US scheme as collapsed into the exact opposite: everyone is buying out US! Everyone is coming here and purchasing one slice after another, bit by bit, our own ownership here at home has been declining and as we consume imported oil and thus, cause prices to rise ever faster, we see this get worse. The US ownership is vanishing like our finances are vanishing in this latest banking crisis. The attempt at using 'free' money via dropping interest rates here or going to Japan for cheap loans, is now collapsing. We now are so deep in debt, we can't afford the interest payments.
The US system has spun out of control and this is due to our refusal to understand the Hubbert Oil Peak and the reality of debt accumulation. As I keep saying, we can't run all things in the red, all the time, forever.
The problem would intensify as winter approached, and was starting to affect exports, warned the Commerce Ministry, since diesel was crucial for shifting products to ports.
The system is suffering from pressure of demand to sustain its economic growth at the current 11.5per cent - with China now the second-biggest consumer of oil after the US.
Diesel imports rose 46.5per cent in the first nine months of the year, compared with the same period last year.
The other cause of the supply-demand mismatch, is the stuttering transition from government-controlled prices to market pricing.
The Government wishes to graduate towards a system that allows prices to move with international markets.
This is a classic misleading headline done for propagandistic purposes. China is not running out of oil. Their importation of oil is increasing, not decreasing. They need more supplies just like the US. The US has just seen its oil decrease with this fire! It is so bad, it is making world oil prices shoot up! And this affects China. China's distribution network needs to be strengthened and expanded, of course. And pricing needs to be improved. Not that the US should gloat about this. Our last 40 years of history is a long chronicle of the US refusing to reset pricing and distribution of oil in light of geological reality. The US has opted for ignoring the oil mess and pretending all is well even as it bleeds us to death, financially. The Chinese are coping with a sudden surge in oil use and this surge is the other half of world oil prices. The US refusal to cut back while the Chinese consume more efficiently is the key to this sudden rise in world oil profits.
Then there are the wars and boycotts. The US enforced boycott of Iran is also driving up world oil prices. Some people think that the Arab Sunnis have increased production so prices will fall to 'only' $70 a barrel. I remember last year when the prophets in the mainstream media were lying to viewers and readers, claiming that oil prices were going to drop below $50 a barrel and perhaps, $30 a barrel by today.
The Second Wave came about a decade ago with the arrival of the first commercial "thin-film" solar cells. This established that new solar cells based on a stack of layers 100 times thinner than silicon wafers can make a solar cell that is just as good. However, the first thin-film approaches were handicapped by two issues:
1. The cell's semiconductor was deposited using slow and expensive high-vacuum based processes because it was not known how to employ much simpler and higher-yield printing processes (and how to develop the required semiconductor ink).
The Third Wave of solar power consists of companies addressing the above shortcomings and opportunities. Most every of the new companies address one or the other of the above aspects. One company -- Nanosolar -- brings together the entire conjunction of all seven areas of innovation, each break-through in their own right, to deliver a dramatic improvement in the cost-efficiency, yield, and throughput of the production of much thinner solar cells.
Research and development of solar systems as well as wind continue. But we can't wait passively. We could have taken the Greenspan 1% interest rate bonus and used it to retrofit all US homes with solar arrays. But we chose to bid up existing or new housing with no energy systems. This foolish choice should have been guided by our political class who should have lectured us and taught us all about the Hubbert Oil Peak and our trade deficit due to importing oil and energy. But they did not and still won't. So the next cycle of 'free money' will be wasted even more than the last cycle, I fear.