Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fuel for thought

In a survey released today by the Canadian American Business Council in Washington (www.canambusco.org), a surprisingly few percentage of American voters polled understood the importance of Canada to their energy needs.

How few?

Four percent.

That is, only 4% of the respondents were able to correctly identify Canada as the largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the United States. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Iraq provides as much oil and natural gas as our nation does; according to U.S. government figures (rpc.senate.gov/_files/May2306OilDependencePG.pdf), Canada supplies 10.5% of America’s oil, versus 7.4% from Saudi Arabia.

Now the CABC survey also showed that 88% of respondents held a “favourable impression” of Canada and that 41% “expressed support for replacing oil from unstable regions with oil from Canada, even if doing so resulted in higher prices for U.S. consumers”.

Canadians like these sort of polls, because they give us a chance to say we’re not appreciated on the one hand, while being liked on the other. But smugness aside, the relationships between our two countries are the envy of much of the world.

Is Canada subservient to the United States? On many things – absolutely. Being next door to anyone ten times the size in terms of economics and population can only create a sense of caution on our part. It often seems like we’re the younger brother in a small family, the quiet, dutiful one who puts up with the largesse of the eldest, outgoing sibling. But we actually like our brother, and worry about him a lot. Because we’re family and have far more in common than is recognized.

I will warn our American cousins of one thing, though: Everyone south of the border is going to be paying more for fuel soon, whether you like it or not. Not because of any greedy Canadian policies but because of the value of the American dollar. The decision by the current administration in Washington to let the greenback slide in value on the international markets – in the hope that it would spur American exports – was misguided and harmful. Instead it means that our oil will cost more to buy. But maybe that’ll help increase energy conservation.

In the meantime, as we go into the first holiday of the summer – with Canada Day on Saturday and Independence Day on Tuesday – let’s not forget the ties that bind.

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