Koch-Oil, Part 1: Big lies and ecocide writ large in Canada

Written by John McMurtry on June 22, 2019

A stop sign turned to protest sign against fossil fuels from Canadian tar sands. Photo by Robert Ashworth from Wikimedia Commons.

As we know, big lies can run free across borders with few joining the dots.

For example, no media are reporting that China’s growing dispute with Canada is based on Canada’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s unilateral and illegal embargo against oil-competitor Iran. A cynical reply is that this is predictable. Canada attacks any designated US enemy in junior partnership with global corporate command.

But this time there is a new twist. Canada is attacking itself without knowing it.

A US Big-Oil backed juggernaut of Conservative provincial governments and the federal Opposition are well advanced in a Canadian campaign to reverse longstanding parliamentary decisions, environmental laws, climate action initiatives, Supreme Court directions, First Nations negotiations, and to bring down the government of Canada. Yet no-one in public or media circles has joined the dots.

Canada’s vast tar-sands deposits are world-famous as surpassing Saudi Arabia oil-field capacities in total barrels of potential yield. Great Canada! Yet few notice that over two-thirds of the entire tar sands operations are owned by foreign entities sending their profits out of Canada, and almost all its raw product is controlled for refining and sale in the US.

What is especially kept out of the daily news is the incendiary fact that the infamous, election-interfering and oft-EPA-convicted Koch brothers have a dominant stake in the toxic crude of the Alberta tar-sands seeking a massive BC-pipeline out to their US refineries.

Koch-owned industries have already extracted countless billions of their near $100-billion fortune from the tar-sands and deployed their well-known voter-manipulations to change the balance of power in Canada as they have done in the US.

The objective is the same in both cases – ever more tax-free, publicly-subsidized and state-enforced control by US Big Oil of Alberta’s massive oil resources with no government regulations or interferences in the way.

A short history of the background facts

Prior to the wide-mouth pipelines of toxic Alberta crude planned through BC mountains, lands and waters to US processors, oil has to be extracted from the tar-sands first. This demands a continuous gargantuan depleting and polluting of the great Athabaska Lake, River and watershed to steam-boil the tar out of the vast open-pit mines. The immense open-pit mines are not formed or pumped out of desert as in the Middle East. They are torn in state-size chunks out of the earth’s mantle by monstrous wrecking machines ripping out the boreal forest lands by the roots to destroy the carbons sinks and water-hold stabilization they provide in the Northern region as well as pump out ever more climate-changing gases.

To boil the tar out of the endless open-pit mines already demands the equivalent of twice the amount of water the entire City of Calgary uses and recycles in a year. But water consumed by the tar-sand boiling is permanently polluted and wasted, and its fresh- water take from the great Athabaska watershed will only increase as the tar-sands ‘development’ is maximized, accessible oil fields are exhausted and prices rise. So too the annihilation of the boreal forests acting as a sink for carbon and holding the watershed together will be permanently lost.

Yet this is only the beginning of what ends up being the biggest single point-source of carbon pollution and climate destabilization in the world. It pollutes 2.5 times more carbon gases than natural oil. Extraction mechanisms cost almost eight times more fossil fuels than natural oil, and use overall almost as much energy as is produced!

For many years now, the Kochs have made most of their vast fortune from processing billions of barrels of tar-sand crude in the US, not Canada. This is why their octopi funding fronts have relentlessly pushed for ever more pipelines through others’ lands (including Dakota’s Indigenous Standing Rock) to control this bigger and safer business than tar-sand extraction itself.

This is also why the Kochs have led the huge financing of climate change denial against the known science, in which tar sand extractions and burning produce far more toxic carbon gases than high-grade oil. Most of all, the Kochs have acted out of sight to ensure control over elected governments that might regulate and control their above-the-law activities. They spent more than the Republican Party itself on the 2012 US elections.

They invented and funded the Congress-upending Tea-Party, and finance endless attack ads against all resisters to their will to dominate the US Congress and Senate (and behind the scenes the Trump presidency).

Read: Koch-Oil, Part 2: Canada’s love-in with US Big Oil

This article was originally published by CounterPunch. NB Media Co-op is publishing it with permission of the author, in three parts. John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. His most recent book is The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: from Crisis to Cure.

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