Source: The Guardian Unlimited
Canada’s oil corporations have made a profitable mess of the country: it’s time to put them under public, democratic control
It would be hard to invent a more destructive ritual of national self-punishment. Year after year, we hand oil companies gigantic tracts of pristine land. They skin them of entire ecosystems. They vacuum billions of dollars out of the country. Their oversized power, sunk into lobbying and litigation, upends government law-making.
And Canada’s return? The exploitation of the tar sands provides just two percent of our GDP. It has gutted manufacturing jobs and made a mockery of our emissions targets. And now that oil prices are crashing – as resource commodities predictably do – it is putting a vicious squeeze on government spending.
Faced with similar recklessness, people in other countries are setting out to take back control of their energy. As Naomi Klein documents in her new book This Changes Everything, it hasn’t been driven by ideological fervour. Towns like Boulder, Colorado, concerned by the threat of climate change, have started demanding a clean, renewable alternative from their energy providers.They are then discovering that private utility companies simply refuse to provide it.
The experience is forcing a reckoning with an economic myth that has gripped global politics for the last thirty years: that private companies better serve our needs than public institutions. In fact, private utility and oil companies – like all large corporations – are legally designed to look after only a single need: the maximization of their profits.