These factors have brought hard times to some industries and uncertainty about the impacts to the Canadian economy as the whole. While uncertainty is never comfortable, it can present some opportunities and challenges depending on your situation or sector. Here are three to watch for the rest of the year.
According to the Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ), Norway had 5.83 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves as of January 1, 2014, the largest oil reserves in Western Europe. The enormous income to the state from the industry made it possible to create a global pension fund that now owns more than one per cent of global share value.
The short term problem is that Alberta has expensive oil which will make it challenging for all governments to achieve their fiscal goals. Revenues are down. Already we are seeing the incredible shrinking surplus of the Harper government. Medium term the market will right itself and business will pick up.
For the people of Bhopal, the disaster never ended. They still suffer from water contamination, respiratory illnesses, and higher rates of infant mortality and birth defects. They've waged one court fight after another for more compensation. Thirty years ago the world failed to protect Bhopal. We owe it to them, and all developing communities, to enshrine corporate responsibility in national and international law.
Higher oil costs spell the end of globalization. The messages flashed across the globe repeatedly, and were so believable that speculation heightened the havoc. But the bubble burst, and six years on, prices are south of $90 per barrel and falling. Do lower prices make sense, or is this just temporary?
If anybody can operate pipelines and oil tankers, Canadians can. Proof of this is the track record of the Port of Vancouver which has operated safely with no major oil spills in more than 100 years. Voting for Gregor Robertson means voting to support a foreign-funded campaign that is keeping Canada over a barrel and costing our country billions.
A recent plunge in oil prices as been driving a steady stream of commentary from leading economic voices across the spectrum in Canada calling for everything from outright panic to 'stay the course'. With oil hovering just north of $80 per barrel, many are starting to question the future of pipelines, tar sands and other resource intensive extractive projects.
The Toronto Stock Exchange is plummeting in lock step with the fall in oil prices. The loonie is heading in the same direction, hopefully putting to bed any debate as to whether Canada has a petro-currency. Provinces that rely on oil royalties and revenues will likely have difficulty balancing their budgets.
Already there have been three near misses. Four months after Quebec's deaths, another derailment and explosion occurred outside an Alabama town without deaths. This was followed by a collision of two trains that resulted in an evacuation of more than 2,000 persons and a 400,000-gallon oil spill. A third derailment and explosion happened in Virginia forcing another evacuation. Safety is bad enough, but rail is also terrible for the environment.
Fossil fuels, the writing is on the wall. Some countries are already powered by 100 per cent renewables, others are on their way. Our cars and transport are starting to be electrified and solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal are going up in communities around the world (Bangladesh is installing nearly two new rooftop PV systems every minute).
So long as all of that good work in the U.S. can be undone by backward Canadian decision-making, we'll never make true progress. That's exactly why it is so critical for Americans, Canadians, First Nations and Tribes to come together to stop fossil fuel exports from the west coast of North America -- particularly through the waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, collectively known as the Salish Sea.
Railways are transforming North America's energy sector and are, coincidentally, helping to save Canada's bacon. But the train business has been allowed to remain a 19th-century technology run with 19th-century mentality by workers without credentials. Aviation, by contrast, is heavily supervised and operated by licensed personnel with professional expertise and constant surveillance. For the moment, the critically important oil industry has been saved, but if governments aren't as tough as nails in their demands and dealings with the railways, then all bets are off.
Drought and fracking have already caused some small communities in Texas to run out of water altogether, and parts of California are headed for the same fate. As we continue to extract and burn ever greater amounts of oil, gas and coal, climate change is getting worse, which will likely lead to more droughts in some areas and flooding in others.
The U.S. State Department said Keystone XL would actually be better from a climate perspective than the alternatives. While there is a logic to this line of argument it rests on an illogical assumption. That assumption is that ongoing development of the conventional fossil fuel sector is inevitable. It is not.