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Continental extreme energy poses new questions for our movements

In recent weeks there had been indications that Canada, the United States and Mexico would seek to revitalize NAFTA, re-launch the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or pursue continental energy integration based on the further exploitation of fossil fuels.

That kind of deeper integration, particularly after the recent ‘Three Amigos’ summit in Mexico, thankfully seems unlikely now. But there are very real dangers for us to contend with in their non-cooperation too.

An article in the Globe and Mail today suggests that “the three countries are now fierce rivals in a North American energy landscape”.

That’s because with fracking the United States “recently jumped past Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil-and-gas producer”, with privatization and the controversial new energy law Mexico’s “total (oil) output could jump to four million barrels a day from about 2.5 million barrels now”, and the Harper government in Canada is seeking to increase production in the tar sands from about 1.9 million barrels per day to 3.8 million bpd or perhaps even 5 million bpd in the coming years.

With the fracked oil and gas boom in the US, President Barack Obama has the political space given “imminent U.S. energy self-sufficiency” to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline beyond any concerns about climate change and the environment. The US may even begin to export its oil and gas.

With foreign capital, a massive expansion of fracking, and offshore drilling, Mexico will be seeking to export its oil and gas “and most of it will end up in the glutted U.S. market”.

And with the delays the Harper government is experiencing with the needed presidential approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (and now the presidential approval for increased capacity for the Alberta Clipper pipeline), “as a matter of policy, Canada has decided it no longer wants to be the United States’ exclusive supplier. Building new oil pipelines – east and west – is part of a concerted effort to diversify markets and enhance the value of Canadian crude.”

What could this mean for us?

For activists in Canada, a shift away from the US may mean we need to figure out how to build alliances with activists living in the new prioritized ‘markets’ for tar sands crude, namely India, Europe and Asia. It may also mean figuring out with our allies in the United States and Mexico how to work together collaboratively and effectively to counter the massive expansion of oil and gas production across the continent, especially as we get closer and closer to the climate catastrophe cliff ahead of us.

At some point later this year, the energy ministers from Canada, the United States and Mexico will meet. How could peoples across the continent say that they reject the fossil fuel driven dreams that will guide those discussions? This August, there will be a Peoples Social Forum in Ottawa and in March 2015 there will be another World Social Forum in Tunis. Is there a way our trade justice, water justice and climate justice movements could truly come together there to fight more effectively? And this coming November, the next United Nations climate summit will take place in Peru. Do we have a way to make this summit unlike the other UN summits that have failed to seriously tackle climate change?

Further reading
Jamnagar, a potential destination for Energy East pipeline exports
Council lobbies European capitals in defence of the Fuel Quality Directive
Canada to ‘assist’ Mexico with ‘regulations’ on fracking
New study shows climate change impact on the world’s water