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For the past 30 years, everyone knew that things like Alberta’s oil sands were the future of energy. We already had pumped all the easy-to-reach and easy-to-refine oil, and all that was left was thick, viscous muck contaminated with sulfur and mercury. The American refinery complex was retooled to deal with such obvious facts.

Then shale came along. Shale oil does not percolate through rock formations, so it never has a chance to mingle with contaminants. It is light, pure and exceedingly easy to refine. As the American shale revolution gathers speed, other unconventional energy production faces an uncertain future. This is doubly so for Alberta’s tar sands, since the shale revolution steadily is eating away at tar sands’ market share in the United States, and such oils just cannot reach the broader global market. Albertan oil already regularly sells at a $10 discount (sometimes as much as $40) to American crude grades.

Any economic dislocation of such extreme natures will, by default, generate political pressures. In the case of Alberta, it well could lead to the destruction of Canada.

For more information, see The Accidental Superpower, Chapters 7 and 12.