Canadian wilderness sits atop what many think is the biggest deposit of oil on the planet. A sea of sand soaked with bitumen - the Tar Sands. The Tar Sands now supply more oil to the United States than any other foreign source. A century of secure energy. Since 9/11, Canada has become the most important supplier of foreign oil to America. It's a market Canada can't afford to lose. Even in the heart of the recession, the oil sands were sending in the order of $20 billion a year into the Canadian economy.
At that level, you will have employment in Canada dependent on oil sands of about 450,000 people. The oil sands are a key to the Canadian economy. Canadian authorities think that there is no greater partnership than the one they have between Alberta and the United States. The base of oil sands expansion is positioning Alberta to become one of the world's top oil producers. They've barely scratched the surface of the oil sands development. With dirty oil under fire, Premier Ed Stelmach shifted into gear and flied to Washington, launching a $25 million PR campaign with a speech in the U.S. Congress. Washington insider, Paul Michael Wihbey, cleared the path to the American decision makers.
The largest proven reserves in the world are in Alberta; eight times the reserve number that exists in Saudi Arabia. As OPEC declines, Alberta, Western Canada rises. There's an ascendency in western Canada that's extraordinary and American politicians are beginning to recognize that. Americans are either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dependent on dirty oil from Canada. Of course the U.S. is equally complicit in the whole thing. They're the junkies that are buying the drugs that Canada is peddling.
The Tar Sands are impossible to ignore. Pressure is mounting to build a huge new pipeline from Alberta to refineries in Texas. It will cement the hold of Canada's dirty oil on the U.S. market for a generation. The Alberta Tar Sands lie under Boreal Forests drained by the Athabasca River as it flows northward. Where the river empties into the lake, it forms one of the world's great freshwater delta ecosystems.
Under Canadian law and British Imperial law, the Cree people own that part of Alberta. The most important promise in the treaty is that the Cree Indians would have the right to hunt and fish. Except now, if you look at northern Alberta, particularly northeastern Alberta where the Tar Sands developments are, the developments are so vast, the destruction of the landscape is so extensive, that it's now fair to say that treaty rights themselves can no longer be meaningfully exercised because the habitat of the animals is being destroyed right before our eyes.