This issue has driven me absolutely nuts since I first arrived in Canada from Silicon Valley. It did not take me long to figure out that things did not work they way they did in California, and that there wasn’t much of a true entrepreneurial economy here. Since then, I have also been appointed to the Canada Foundation for Innovation grant process, providing me with insight into how R&D funding works in Canada. I have seen many issues in Canada that have impaired the nation’s ability to develop an entrepreneurial culture, among them is the inherent Canadian conservatism and short term horizon of investors unfamiliar with technology venture investment. But none has been worse than Canada’s decades-long neglect of adequate funding for research and development nationwide.
The evidence of a Canadian economic train wreck just keep rolling in. This report from CNN Money mentions last week’s Bank of Canada dismal report on the Canadian economy, and goes on to add additional economic data and comment from respected investment banks around the World. The one glaring omission is any political discussion of how Canada got into this mess, and who is responsible for it.
Imagine if Canada was implementing environmental policies like those proposed by one of its own, author & filmmaker Naomi Klein. What if Canada were to restore its historical image as a progressive country leading the World with its policies? In the following video published on the UK Guardian website, Ms. Klein argues that making policy moves now to increase investment in renewable energy make sense, while oil prices are at very low levels, and likely to remain low for the longer term.
Regrettably, this week’s events in the oil market, provide further evidence of the dire consequences ahead for the Canadian oil economy. Oil industry bulls who have been betting on a quick rebound in oil prices are likely to get severely burned, and the prospects for the local tourism based economy are only worsening.
The University of British Columbia is following the lead of faculty and students at Harvard University, the University of California, Stanford University and many other universities across North America. Also of note, Norway’s sovereign investment fund, the largest in the World @ $1.3 Trillion, has already made the decision to divest. The current fossil fuel market collapse and likely long term instability is prima facie evidence of the need for divestment, and to prevent further increases in carbon emissions.
Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), worth $850bn (£556bn) and founded on the nation’s oil and gas wealth, revealed a total of 114 companies had been dumped on environmental and climate grounds in its first report on responsible investing, released on Thursday. The companies divested also include tar sands producers, cement makers and gold miners.
As part of a fast-growing campaign, over $50bn in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 organisations on the basis that their business models are incompatible with the pledge by the world’s governments to tackle global warming. But the GPFG is the highest profile institution to divest to date.
The growing downturn in the fossil fuels industry has extraordinary implications globally. While some are proposing theories that this downturn will be short-lived, there simply isn’t much evidence to support an optimistic forecast. Saudi Arabia is openly executing a long term strategy to squeeze “high cost oil producers,” using its unquestioned leverage and the lowest production costs in the World. Europe is facing potential deflation, and the current European recession is forcing the European Central Bank to begin “quantitative easing,” beginning this week, essentially printing money. The Russian economy is in shambles as the ruble weakens, something Putin did not plan on occurring. The Chinese economy has weakened sharply and will likely remain weak into the near foreseeable future. Meanwhile Canada is at the mercy of these global forces, with little in the way of economic reserves to defend its economy, having bet the entire Canadian economy on oil.
UPDATE: May 21, 2015. Goldman Sachs has just released an oil price forecast suggesting that North Sea Brent crude […]
CBC’s The National has tonight broadcast a public debate titled “The Politics of Oil” on the current oil economy crisis in Canada. A key issue exposed tonight was the contrast between Canada’s national policies on oil wealth and Norway’s. In the 1990’s both Canada and Norway debated how to manage oil wealth and created funds to invest for future economic development. Today, Norway’s national saving fund is worth $1.03 Trillion while Canada’s, actually Alberta’s fund, is worth only $17 Billion, and has barely increased since the late 1990’s.
Those following international events have probably already seen the stories on Putin’s Russia, and the combined impact international economic sanctions, and now, the unexpected and unwelcome plummet in World oil prices. The Russian economy in 2015 will likely see a budget deficit of $20 Billion or more as the ruble collapses and oil prices plummet. The problem is global and expected by analysts to persist for the foreseeable future. Lesser developed countries like Venezuela and Nigeria, which are more dependent on their oil economies, are expected to see even greater impacts. Economists commonly refer to this as the “natural resource curse.”