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As America unwinds, Canada rewinds - The Globe and Mail
Lawrence Martin

Special to The Globe and Mail

Last updated Tuesday, Jul. 23 2013

The Unwinding by George Packer.

It tells the story of the descent of inner America, the collapse of structures as a result of deregulation, the rampant insecurities with the decline of permanent jobs, debates overtaken by extremes of opinion. Mr. Packer’s theory is that the United States has been Wal-Martized. Lower wages, lower prices, lower standards. It’s been good for the company, and as he says: “Eventually six of the surviving Waltons would have as much money as the bottom 30 per cent of the country.”

But the decline of the big economic middle is ominous, as is the seizure of the national discussion by polemicists. How can a country move forward without a rallying consensus? Not even Barack Obama, with his balanced mind, his instinct for compromise and his eloquence (as most recently manifested on the topic of the Trayvon Martin verdict) can stop the fraying.

The book’s author is not an American declinist. There have been other unravellings; rebuilds inevitably follow. But the context is different now. America’s greatest century is behind it. Its degree of dominance will likely never be the same.

In response to all this, how does Canada, the big neighbour to the north, position itself?...Canadians are divided in their view of the monarchy. I’m not an enthusiast. As was well argued on these pages Monday by Ratna Omidvar, swearing allegiance to the Queen is an outmoded pastime. But the British heritage is an integral part of our definition, our identity. A stronger etching of it in the public consciousness and a greater reach to other markets is not unhealthy at a time when American paramountcy is fading, when our dependency on the United States is diminishing, when a distance in the bilateral relationship is growing.

It may be the beginning of a big turn. There are still major stakes in play, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, but Canadian trade volumes with the United States are in decline after a century of continual growth.

That slide is expected to continue as Asian powers and others take up greater market share. U.S. reliance on Canadian energy resources is on the wane; some project a dramatic falloff. Although 9/11 has dragged Canada more deeply into the U.S. intelligence-gathering network, we no longer rely on U.S. defence protections, as we did in the Cold War days. Culturally, the workings of time have brought us a stronger, more distinct stamp. As for our border, it has thickened rather than easing away. We now need passports to cross it.

While Americans undergo their unwinding, so do we. In recognition of new realities, we unwind from them.
Lawrence_Martin  bilateral  crossborder  America_in_Decline?  middle_class  books  downward_mobility  demoralization  Keystone_XL  beyondtheU.S.  national_identity  George_Packer 
august 2013 by jerryking
No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy. - NYTimes.com
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: March 9, 2013

If Keystone gets approved, environmentalists should have a long shopping list ready, starting with a price signal that discourages the use of carbon-intensive fuels in favor of low-carbon energy. Nothing would do more to clean our air, drive clean-tech innovation, weaken petro-dictators and reduce the deficit than a carbon tax.... Finally, the president could make up for Keystone by introducing into the public discourse the concept of “natural infrastructure,” argues Mark Tercek, the president and chief executive of The Nature Conservancy, and the co-author of “Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.”

“Forests, wetlands and other ecosystems are nature’s infrastructure for controlling floods, supplying water, and doing other things we need to adapt to climate change.
Tom_Friedman  climate_change  books  nature  hydraulic_fracturing  petro-dictators  petro-politics  natural_gas  Keystone_XL  pricing  carbon_tax  public_discourse  natural_infrastructure 
march 2013 by jerryking
True innovation doesn’t flow from a pipeline
Feb. 22 2013 | The Globe and Mail |Konrad Yakabuski.

... If the oil companies can’t ship raw Canadian resources using that 150-year-old technology, they will rely on an even older one – rail. And if not rail, they might just float their bitumen on barges down the Mississippi.

Huckleberry Finn might have marvelled at this inventiveness, but it doesn’t quite cut it as a 21st-century national strategy for wealth creation. Yet our frantic obsession with exporting minimally processed bitumen is sucking up all the oxygen in the national conversation. Getting Alberta’s oil to market is “the most important economic issue” facing the country, says former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice. There is “no more critical issue facing Canada today,” adds Enbridge chief executive Al Monaco.

In fact, the most critical issue facing Canada today may just be figuring out why we find ourselves in this situation. Raw resources can be a tremendous source of income, but they are volatile, and we’ve always known that overreliance on them is a recipe for economic stuntedness. As Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney says: “Real wealth is built through innovation.”

Innovation is not wholly absent from Canada’s oil patch. But it’s hardly a first line of business. You’d think it would be a top priority, given the vexatious characteristics of Alberta bitumen, the oil sands’ distressing environmental footprint and the Canadian industry’s growing global image problem. Even in boom times, however, the Canadian oil and gas industry spends a piddling proportion of its revenues on research and development......Last week, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted that the coming boom in global shale oil production could slash the price of crude by $50 (U.S.) a barrel over the next two decades. “One effect will be to cut the need for expensive, environmentally destructive extraction techniques like the Arctic and tar sands,” the head of PwC’s oil and gas team told Reuters.... the real issue facing Ontario is its failure to make the shift from making low-tech goods to advanced manufacturing, the only kind that can support middle-class wages. Governments have showered the industry with tens of billions of dollars trying to make Canadian firms more innovative, to little avail. Cash-strapped and fed up, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty slashed R&D tax credits in last year’s budget. The result will be even less innovation, as domestic companies cut back and foreign-owned firms shift R&D elsewhere.

“Canada’s problem,” says Robert Atkinson, the author of Innovation Economics, “is that it’s not Germany, which has a much better engineering innovation system, and it’s not the U.S., which has a very good system of science-based entrepreneurship. You’re mediocre in both.”
Keystone_XL  pipelines  crossborder  oil_industry  Mark_Carney  Ontario  innovation  oil_patch  wealth_creation  books  natural_gas  natural_resources  fracking  shale_oil  hydraulic_fracturing  Konrad_Yakabuski  oil_sands  complacency  mediocrity  commodities  volatility  cash-strapped  national_strategies  environmental_footprint  science-based 
march 2013 by jerryking
Carpe Diem Nation - NYTimes.com
February 11, 2013 | NYT | By DAVID BROOKS.

Europeans who settled America gave their lives a slingshot shape. They pulled back so they could shoot forward. They volunteered to live in harsh conditions today so their descendants could live well for centuries. The pioneers who traveled West did the same thing. So has each generation of immigrants — sacrificing the present for the sake of the future.

This slingshot manner of life led to one of those true national clichés:..This future-oriented mentality had practical effects. For decades, government invested heavily in long-range projects like railroads and canals...Today, Americans have inverted this way of thinking. Instead of sacrificing the present for the sake of the future, Americans now sacrifice the future for the sake of the present...Why have Americans lost their devotion to the future? Part of the answer must be cultural. The Great Depression and World War II forced Americans to live with 16 straight years of scarcity. In the years after the war, people decided they’d had enough. There was what one historian called a “renunciation of renunciation.” We’ve now had a few generations raised with this consumption mind-set. There’s less of a sense that life is a partnership among the dead, the living and the unborn, with obligations to those to come....If the president were to propose an agenda for the future, he’d double spending on the National Institutes of Health. He’d approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He’d cut corporate tax rates while adding a progressive consumption tax. He’d take money from Social Security and build Harlem Children’s Zone-type projects across the nation. He’d means test Medicare and use the money to revive state universities and pay down debt.
David_Brooks  future  Obama  Great_Depression  WWII  instant_gratification  intergenerational_rivalry  delayed_gratification  foresight  far-sightedness  forward_looking  sacrifice  Keystone_XL  long-term  social_trust  consumption  the_Greatest_Generation  Carpe_diem  long-range  railroads  canals 
february 2013 by jerryking
Canada’s trade vision shifts beyond the United States - The Globe and Mail
BARRIE MCKENNA
OTTAWA— From Monday's Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 9:18PM EST
Last updated Monday, Nov. 14, 201
Canada  international_marketing  international_trade  internationally_minded  diversification  pipelines  Keystone_XL  beyondtheU.S. 
november 2011 by jerryking
Keystone XL: A pipeline that should not be built - The Globe and Mail
September 21, 2011 | Globe and Mail Update | Brian Topp.

The pipeline's purpose is to export essentially unprocessed bitumen, in the largest possible quantities, out of Canada and to the petrochemical complex in Texas. Where it will be processed into finished fuel, plastics and chemicals in a myriad of forms for sale around the world, including back into Canada.
Brian_Topp  Keystone_XL  pipelines  crossborder  oil_industry 
october 2011 by jerryking

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