Friday, March 21, 2014

The Curse Of The Honeypot

With the departure of Alison Redford, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, the honeypot has claimed another victim. Nikiforuk believes that petro states eventually become honeypots:

American political scientist Terry Lynn Karl, an expert on the politics of oil, once noted that "petroleum dependence turns oil states into 'honey pots' -- ones to be raided by all actors, foreign and domestic, regardless of the long-term consequences produced by this collective rent seeking."

People come to Alberta to make a killing in the oil fields, not a living. And that sense of entitlement pervades the province.

Redford's downfall was, in part, related to this entitlement. She regularly dipped into the honeypot to court rich pipeline supporters in the U.S., and then mourned the death of Nelson Mandela with an extravagant $45,000 public bill. Albertans were offended.

In the end, oil is a curse. It encourages bad behaviour and causes dysfunction:

Petro states, whether small or big, right or left, democratic or authoritarian, all behave badly to different degrees. And Alberta, just like Texas or Saudi Arabia, has often proven a self-serving plantation for the extraction of fossil fuels with temporary foreign workers for the benefit of a few.

By serving oil interests, petro states religiously court secrecy and shun transparency on money matters.

Thanks to the curse of oil, they can't diversify their economies or balance their budgets. They rack up poor social welfare scores and widen inequality. They appear large and powerful, but as Redford's departure illustrates, are truly hollowed out shells. Last but not least, they cultivate devastating environmental damage.

In the end, the leaders of petro states do their societies and themselves in. Stephen Harper has told us that his mission is to transform Canada into an energy superpower. Eventually, like Redford, his ambition will do him in.

But the bigger questions is, "Will he also do us in?"

No comments: