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The Superpower Paradox

posted by dru Topics: tar sands

January 29, 2008

The Superpower Paradox

The second part of the Globe and Mail's tar sands touches on the paradox at the heart of talk of Canada becoming an "energy superpower".

American thirst for Canadian oil is fuelled in part by Canada's lack of geopolitical ambition. Despite its growing importance as a supplier to the world's biggest oil consumer, Canada is the anti-superpower: a gentle giant that doesn't wield its oil clout as a geopolitical club (think Russia or Venezuela), or set a benchmark for world prices (like Saudi Arabia). It isn't lawless or war-ravaged (Nigeria or Iraq).

So if I understand this correctly, Canada wields massive geopolitical leverage, but chooses not to use it. Is that because Canadians are so nice?

But seriously, if a superpower chooses not to do anything with its influence, is it still a superpower? If you don't spend money, can you be rich? Is Canada's elite really that boring, that even when they are handed unimaginable piles of riches and significant geopolitical influence, the best thing they can think to spend it on is a) enriching a small fraction of Americans and b) taking a cut of what's left over... in that order?

That would appear to be the case.

The problem, of course, is that the riches and influence that Canada's elite are choosing to give away are also the source of what's shaping up to be the most significant environmental disaster in North America's living memory.

If that wasn't the case, I'd wonder if anyone has made a list of what could be done with those resources and influence other than, say, nothing.

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