Jason Kenney soaks up the atmosphere in the Dirksen Senate Office Building as Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage looks on (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for the Government of Alberta, Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Everybody in the room yesterday at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing in Washington, D.C., knew perfectly well the United States is never going to stop buying Saudi Arabian “dictator oil,” and why.

Three amigos: Democrat in Name Only Joe Manchin, at left, cuddles up with his committee’s top Republican, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, as Premier Kenney poses for the photographer hired by the Alberta Government (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

It’s as simple as Geopolitics 101, and even Alberta’s premier knows the score. 

To give the man his due, Jason Kenney may be a college dropout, but Canada’s former defence minister is not a complete Canucklehead, so he certainly knows a thing or two about geopolitics even if he never got credit for the course. 

So everyone understood the entire premise of the Alberta premier’s sermon to the Senate energy committee choir about how the United States should be buying its oil from brotherly Alberta instead of the OPEC baddies in the Middle East wasn’t connected to reality. 

The reason has to do with the preservation and enhancement of America’s superpower status and the economic and military system that ensures the United States remains the top global dog. Saudi Arabia is at the strategic crossroads of the world, and no one controls the planet without controlling the Middle East and its oil.

So absolutely everyone in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building got it that the good ole USA will never stop buying “dictator oil,” even if the day ever comes that isn’t what the energy industry wants or the United States establishes a national oil company the government can actually tell where to buy crude.

U.S. President Joe Biden – this Kenney guy said what? (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

Much the same goes for Mr. Kenney’s unfavourable remarks about Venezuela – a convenient source of heavy oil right across the Gulf of Mexico from the refineries of the Texas Gulf, notwithstanding its irritatingly uncooperative government smack in the middle of the American sphere of influence as defined by President James Monroe in 1823

Mr. Kenney’s homily prompted knowing nods all round, but it likewise has zero chance of influencing American intentions of getting the rebellious South American country back on side shipping bitumen Stateside again one way or another. 

Mr. Kenney’s high-school-thespian-style performance was aimed entirely at his audience back here in Wild Rose Country, showing the rubes their leader hobnobbing with the mighty in Washington as if he has a personal membership in the Senate Mutual Admiration Club, and getting a few shots in at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government in Ottawa while he had an obviously sympathetic audience. 

Similarly, the Republican members of the committee know that once back in the White House, their guy, whoever he turns out to be (and I use that gendered pronoun advisedly), will cozy up to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its unsavoury theocracy just as the Democrats across the aisle from them do now. 

But in the meantime, there are points to be scored with their own home audiences. The same thing goes for the committee’s Democratic chairman, Kenney BFF Joe Manchin, who seems determined to bring down the Joe who’s the president, perhaps because the Senator for West Virginia is a Democrat in Name Only (DINO). 

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: City of Detroit, Creative Commons).

As for why the hell the handful of Democrats on the energy committee who showed up yesterday took part in the charade with almost as much enthusiasm as their Republican brethren, that’s a mystery you’ll need an expert on U.S. politics to figure out. 

Maybe it’s because the whole lot of them have sold their souls to the energy industry. Whatever it is, they seem to disdain Joe Biden and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, both Democrats, almost as much as Mr. Kenney and his Republicans pals do.

In the meantime, the Senators and Mr. Kenney had fun tut-tutting unkindly about Mr. Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline on his first day in office and Gov. Whitmer’s concerns about the aging Line 5 Pipeline submerged beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Now there may be some who think it might not be the smartest possible move for a Canadian provincial politician to make a spectacle of himself assailing the current tenant in the White House. 

“Is it fair to say that President Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone pipeline increased costs, harmed the environment, and added to our supply chain troubles?” the ranking Republican on the committee, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, asked tendentiously. 

“I think that’s a reasonable conclusion,” Mr. Kenney responded with obsequious piety. 

I know, I know … everyone reckons Mr. Biden is doomed to be a one-term president, and he may well be. Mr. Kenney is obviously willing to bet that he is, just like he was ready to bet $1.3 billion of our money on the proposition Donald Trump’s re-election in 2020 was a sure thing. 

Well, Mr. Kenney’s big day in Washington certainly put the performance back in geopolitics. 

But don’t imagine for a minute it will have any impact on the way the global hegemon practices petroleum politics.

Meanwhile, today will be another big day for Mr. Kenney. With the UCP leadership review vote counted and theoretically ready to be announced, he’ll need to keep his wits about him whatever the result is. 

If he gets only a lukewarm endorsement, he’ll need to keep his increasingly disunited party from falling apart. If UCP members vote to issue him his walking papers, he may have to come up with some kind of autogolpe to remain in power. And if the vote endorses his leadership strongly, he’ll need to work a miracle to persuade party members it wasn’t a fraud. 

Whatever happens, Battle of Alberta sports metaphors are inevitable. 

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21 Comments

  1. While he is putting on quite a performance, Mr. Kenney would do well to remember what Kissinger once said, “America has no permanent friends, or permanent enemies, only permanent interests”.

    So, with the cold war heating up and pipelines still a no go for Democrats, Venezuela is looking not so bad now. For a variety of reasons those Middle East Dictators don’t ever seem so bad to Democrats or Republicans either. Especially when they are fairly good US allies that spend or invest a considerable amount of their resource earnings to support the US economy. Likewise, a secure and stable energy supply from Canada is a good thing, from their perspective, too. However, it would be foolish to expect the US to put all their energy eggs in one basket, as Kenney seems to want, particularly when the US has a variety of interests across the world. Maybe some from Global Affairs can explain this to Kenney, if he doesn’t already get it.

    In any event, I suppose, it was a good time for Kenney to get out of town and May is a nice time to visit Washington. If he comes back, I suppose Kenney needs to immediately brace himself for the outcome of his leadership vote. No outcomes are good, but some are less bad, ranging from involuntary early retirement, to deep division and disbelief.

    At some point when you keep on painting yourself into a corner, it should not be a surprise if you find yourself stuck in a position that is not very good and hard to get out of. In a way the UCP would be doing itself and Kenney a favour if it put an end to all the misery now, but I am not sure they really are that wise.

  2. $1.3 billion wasn’t the total amount on this bungled pipeline by the head honcho of the UCP. The cost is $7.5 billion, maybe even more. The head honcho of the UCP did a major mistake by not heeding the prior warning from Joe Biden, that if he were to become president of America, he’d nix the pipeline. The second mistake by the head honcho of the UCP was that the Donald, would still be the president of America. What the head honcho of the UCP also forgets is that Alberta has oilsands oil. Nothing is as costly as this type of oil to get out of the ground and prepare for the market. As long as other more easily accessible, and cheaper sources of oil are available, Alberta’s oilsands doesn’t stand a chance, no matter how many pipelines there are. Oil prices also don’t stay high forever. We will see a return to lower oil prices, at some point. Things are changing in America, and the head honcho of the UCP is missing that reality.
    https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/permian-oil-output-forecast-to-hit-record-high-in-june-eia
    The head honcho of the UCP is trying anything he can to try and remain relevant. Albertans with any ounce of common sense, will give this Liberal turned Reformer, and the pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP the boot in 2023, or in 2024, whenever the next provincial election is.

    1. To be fair, I don’t think he forgot any of those things, I think it’s more a matter of “anything is possible when you don’t care what’s actually possible.”

  3. So, here’s the scene …

    An embattled and enormously unpopular premier from a Canadian province goes to Washington D.C. to promote his province’s oil resource to a bunch in right-wing senators, in the hope that they will support the aspirations of a decidedly red province and its wildly unpopular premier. This premier is hoping that the rubes back home will take notice that someone thinks he’s important enough to not kick around anymore.

    That’s what Kenney was thinking when he put on his best pair of short pants and pretended to be someone that matters among all the Congressional Republicans. About the only thing he didn’t say was “I come with the Word of the Lord…Roe v. Wade must die!”

    Now, I recall back in the day, when Mitt Romney was exercising his own presidential aspirations, he was asked why didn’t he consider Canadian oil as being separate from the US’ own oil resources, which at the time were just starting to reach levels of impressive production. Romney, apparently, gave a funny look and replied that Canadian oil is already “our oil”. What this meant was entirely up for grabs, but the consensus was that the US oil industry considered Canadian oil to already be theirs and was just being kept on the shelf for whenever it was needed. Besides, why service a resource in another country, which that other country considers to be THEIR national resource, when the US has its own oil resources, domestically and in foreign supplies? It’s like what Obama said about the Keystone Pipeline … “It’s not for our oil; it’s for THEIR oil.”

    As much as Kenney loves to go on and on about the evils of “Dictator Oil”, the reality is that Alberta’s so called Ethical Oil doesn’t have the pecking order compared to that sweet, sweet Saudi crude or even that delightful Venezuelan crude that seems to bubble up in enormous quantities from the Earth. Cost-wise, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to go after these oil resources than the Canadian ones. Besides, the Saudis are already invaluable US allies, so long as the US can keep the Iranians at bay. As for Venezuela, it’s not like the Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro were ever THAT anti-American. These guys love their Greenbacks as much as anyone, so all that fawning over Fidel Castro was just window dressing to keep up their Marxist cred. Chavez loved being feted as much as any posh jet setter, and the Russian Ruble just doesn’t cut it the way those Benjamins do. As for Russian oil, it was loved for the nice discount that was built into its price, Putin and the dust-up in Ukraine notwithstanding. Global oil interests have always found ways to get along with Putin before, and they may get to do it again, once everything blows over.

    If Kenney actually believes that global oil interests are guided by ethics and human rights, he more naive than thought. That may explain his short pants.

    1. I’d like to say it’s just Americans, but after every election since the Fair Elections Act, the second thing I check (after who won PM) is whether Skippy got re-elected. So far, that blustering manchild has a flawless record of Avoiding Having To Get A Real Job.

  4. Kenney remains an embarrassment both here and abroad. He is an inveterate, mendacious dissembler who is so deep into his lies he cannot recognize truth from falsehood. He may have known at one time that the purpose of the Keystone XL pipeline was to send bitumen from the tar sands to heavy oil refineries in Texas (mothballed because of a lack of heavy crude from Venezuela) so it could be refined for the export market, not the domestic US market. He has now forgotten this fact because he has lied about it so many times.

    As far as his knowledge of geopolitics is concerned, he still gets a mediocre if not failing grade. It is true that the vast wealth of corrupt petro states such as Saudia Arabia is distorting and corrupting political processes around the world. But, this is not just limited to Saudia Arabia. Consider the unprecedented, strange and bizarre situation where European states are funding the war effort of Russia, which is a clear security threat to EU and NATO countries, against Ukraine by purchasing oil from Russia. Ukraine also gets a small benefit too directly from its enemy, Russia, as it is compensated for having a pipeline that is used to ship Russian energy to western Europe across its territory, although I think this pipeline may have been shut down recently.

    Then, we have the situation whereby EU resolve is weakened and divided by stalling tactics of the autocrat Orban of Hungary who was promised cheap energy by Russia, the cheap energy playing a role in keeping Orban in power and Hungary in support of Russia. Or, consider Turkey, which has become somewhat of a haven for Russian oligarch money and a safe harbor for many gaudy yachts. The source of wealth of these kleptocratic oligarchs is theft of wealth, largely derived from energy exports, from the Russian people. Turkey is currently opposing Finland’s membership in NATO. The corrupting influence of Russia’s energy resources and its kleptocracy clearly play a role in both these cases.

    Yep, corrupt petro states have a baleful influence on our world. The corrupt money that flows from these states is putting liberal democracy in peril throughout the world.

    The solution is not to pivot toward less corrupt or weak petro states, such as Alberta. Or at least that should only be a small part of the solution. Rather, a significant part of the solution is to move away from dependency on fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

    Putin possibly miscalculated by assuming that European dependence on Russian energy would weaken support sufficiently enough to ensure an easy victory. But, if so, we dodged a bullet. There are many reasons to support increased investment in clean energy to move away from dependence on fossil fuels. We need to do it for the sake of the climate and future generations. But, if we also want our children to have a decent chance of living in a liberal democracy, and not in a fascist autocratic state, getting rid of the corrupting influence of oil money would be a good strategy to pursue as well.

    This does not mean that we have to stop supporting the oil industry in Alberta or the jobs it provides. We do, however, need to figure out a way to reduce the impact of the energy companies in our own politics and plan for a future where oil and gas are not the most important drivers of our economy while minimizing the negative consequences for the people whose livelihood depends on oil-related jobs. This is a complex and difficult undertaking that the UCP and Kenney are incapable of performing.

    1. I disagree that we need to support the oil industry in AB. The jobs can switch over to solar, nuclear, wind, and water energy and we can shut down oil within a couple of years. It just takes the will to do so. Then we will finally be a somewhat ethical province.

  5. What time is the coronation being confirmed today? Need to get my frock back from the dry cleaners. Will May 18th become a provincial holiday henceforth with stores offering 50+1 sales?

  6. Between Kenney’s shenanigans in the 2017 leadership race, and the fact that 6 credit cards were used to purchase 4000 UCP memberships recently*, I think it is pretty clear the current review will not be an honest one.

    If we take as a given that the fix is in, the really interesting question is what what percent of approval do the UCP strategists give Bumbles? Convention says he should be over 70 or 80% to allow him to claim he has the support of the party. At the same time, the higher Kenney’s approval rating, the more clear it will be that the result was fixed. Personally I expect his detractors will believe any number over 50% is the result of a manufactured vote.

    *Kenney has never complained about the shady membership purchase, so it seems quite likely it will be to his benefit.

  7. At the same time the Americans have lessened their adversarial stance and sanctions against Venezuela. As well, the droughts, floods, crop failures, migrating people, and other such global warming disasters continue not just apace, but increasingly so. Climate change denial in the guise of “energy shortages” is an old story except in the little minds of those who believe fossil fuel usage must increase to stop climate change – federal Liberals and Conservatives, provincial NDP and UCP!
    The generation that are my grandchildren are upset and depressed, with little in the way of help for their futures. But no one is charge now is listening to them.

  8. Sometimes with resource extraction, whether it’s moral or not depends on where, in the cycle, you are. For instance, if you live in a society with a million trees and a thousand houses, every logger is an invaluable asset. If you live in a society with a thousand trees and a million houses, loggers are… less admirable. So with oil. All this “ethical oil” malarkey is a transparent attempt to distract from several realities:

    1)Destroying the world your children will inhabit for a quick buck is not “ethical”
    2)The oil companies that will gain most of the benefit of the oil being extracted are demonstrably among the least ethical corporations ever created
    3)If this oil is so “ethical”, how come so many lies and so much violence is required to get a pipeline built? If this oil were “ethical”, wouldn’t it require the “consent” of the communities that are assuming the risk (having the pipeline in their backyard) and getting none of the benefits? For that matter, in an “ethical” project the people assuming the risk would get most of the benefits, wouldn’t they?
    4)If Albertans are doing this to “create good jobs,” they ought to have an answer for the people in BCs fishing industry who are worried about their (theoretically) sustainable good jobs being permanently destroyed the first time a tanker sinks so that some temporary good jobs can be created for someone else.
    5)Finally, people doing “ethical” things generally don’t need to twist themselves into knots trying to justify why their thing is “ethical.” If the Albertan government was feeding the hungry, they wouldn’t need to spend millions on a War Room to fail to convince the world they are doing ethical things.

    1. Neil: Of course there are other aspects to this story, but there are only so many hours in a day and only so many column inches (column centimetres?) that readers can abide to read in a blog post. There is the matter of the fungibility of oil – another reason the United States will never abandon Saudi oil as long as its price and cost to refine is competitive. There is the low quality of bitumen, and the fact that not every refinery can work with the stuff. And there is the fact the United States, like Canada, has no national oil company, so there is no one a sovereign government can order to buy Canadian oil instead of Saudi or Venezuelan oil anyway. Well, I suppose they could boycott it, as they’re trying to boycott Russia’s, but have no doubt even that is envisioned as a temporary measure. DJC

  9. As for an ‘autogolpe’ also known as a self-coup, there are been many through history. But there was an abundance during the 1930s, where every elected government, as soon as it found itself in some kind of trouble, would overthrow itself and declare a state of emergency, or a police-state, or some kind of autocratic version of its democratically elected self. The most recent self-coup is debated to be the January 6th attack on the US Capitol Building to overthrow an election.

    Since Kenney goes on and on about “dictator oil” what he fails to realize is that it’s de rigueur for petro-states to have self-coups and declare themselves dictatorships at some point. Iran did it, as did Libya and Burma, so it has happened before. And, of course, there’s also Russia.

    Maybe it’s time Kenney gets with the program and joins the dictator oil club?

  10. But wait — that’s not all! Alberta’s cutting down trees, $6B worth of trees — a 30 percent increase in harvest since 2011! Let us show you how fast we can cut them down faster than a beaver!

    https://www.kpax.com/news/montana-news/alberta-premier-tells-daines-provinces-timber-harvest-trends-exact-opposite-of-montana

    Watersheds? Flooding? Who cares? Cut them down now, to save on housing costs! Bonus: no trees, no forest fires, amirite? Trees are “fibre”. Increase fibre, increase revenue!

  11. My feeling is that world oil buyers would rather buy from anyone else, at even higher prices, rather than deal with the sloppy wet slimy conniving scummy mess lil kenny presents himself as or anyone else (read sonya savage) he would send who would express his corrupt evasive values.

  12. Whatever little US senators might know or care about K-Boy’s domestic troubles, his little talent show seemed well received, perhaps as welcome respite from perennial congressional polarization—particularly since the American partisan right has devolved to violence and threats such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and VP Mike Pence can tell us all about. Indeed, even Dems on the committee appeared to find le ‘tit gars de Bitumegan’s tut-tutting quaintly naive: ‘Awwwww, well now, would ya just take a look at that: l’il cowpoke thinks our global hegemony gone up n turn tail on the world’s most criticalest strategic oil supply over to the Middle East. Awww, ain’t he a cute little feller!’

    But of course this sales job is really aimed at the folks back home in Alberta, probably no mere accident this undiluted pitchman propagating his schtick coincidentally with the governing party’s vote on his leadership (results expected later on today). It bears some of the chief hallmarks of Big Lie method, particularly repetition: “I’m not a real ethicist, but I play one on TV…” And carefully substituting “dirty oil” with “unethical oil,” the former risking comparison of Saudi crude that exudes so sweetly from just about any ole camel’s piss-hole in the shifting sands of Arabia with the Big Bitumen’s epigraph sootily precipitated on the snows of Athabasca and smearily visible from orbit.

    But we don’t begrudge any politician from plugging cher constituents’ industry, nor tall-tale biases not merely suspected, but naturally expected, make of ‘em what one will. We don’t know how much more of K-Boy’s motive is appreciated within the DC Beltway than, probably, the almost subconscious notion that the world’s biggest deposit of bitumen ain’t goin’ nowhere anytime soon, and it’ll be there, sure enough, if Uncle Sam ever needs it.

    DC doesn’t need it today, but Kenney sure does.

    Did anybody wish him luck as Joe Munchkin patted his bum, scooting him up the Yellow Brick Road to Alberta? Surely K-Boy doesn’t dwell on his astoundingly low popularity only three years after winning a remarkably big majority on his party’s maiden campaign—he ain’t lookin’ for no sympathy, Nosiree! (He’s always got Sasquatch to change the subject with, just in case). But does anybody down there really care?

    Now the ass and elephant are a wrap in cellophant, it’s back to the small stage where I imagine K-Boy in a turban, Toto at his cuffs, sputtering at his supplicants: “Never mind that man behind the curtain!…”

    Ahhhhh, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

  13. So, here’s my take …

    An unmarried, terminally single, childless, middle-aged man becomes a province’s premier, and then proceeds to devastate that province for its resources, for the benefit of various wealthy interests, within and outside that province.

    That province is completely denuded of its resources, at cut rate prices. Trees, oil, minerals, everything is pumped, chopped down, and dug up and hauled away, leaving vast scarred landscapes, poisoned water, and ruined soils.

    I believe J.R.R. Tolkien warned us about Orcs like Jason Kenney.

  14. Well kenney’s gone. Is there an interim trained chimp ready to rock and roll as acting premier? Until of course, they can find a madman who likes to yell at the world as party leader and premier for what? Six months?

    And why is it that commenters here go on about Saudi Arabian oil imports to the US? They amount to only 500,000 barrels a day! Alberta sends five times as much of their oil to themselves down there. It’ll be our pure unadulterated, ahem, freshwater they’ll want next as the US burns up and Lake Mead fails. From the disappearing Alberta glaciers with a bit of heavy metals thrown in for free from coal mining. Taking a country’s resources for granted? Why, that’s the way the US operates worldwide: What’s yours is mine.

    Obviously, kenney was in Washington on a job hunt. The rest was for show.

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