The invasion of Iraq has set off what could be the largest oil boom in history. All the signs are there: multinationals free to gobble up national firms at will, ship unlimited profits home, enjoy leisurely “tax holidays” and pay a laughable 1 percent in royalties to the government.
This isn’t the boom in Iraq sparked by the proposed new oil law–that will come later. This boom is already in full swing, and it is happening about as far away from the carnage in Baghdad as you can get, in the wilds of northern Alberta. For four years now, Alberta and Iraq have been connected to each other through a kind of invisible seesaw: As Baghdad burns, destabilizing the entire region and sending oil prices soaring, Calgary booms.
Here is how chaos in Iraq unleashed what the Financial Times recently called “north America’s biggest resources boom since the Klondike gold rush.” Albertans have always known that in the northern part of their province, there are vast deposits of bitumen–black, tarlike goo that is mixed with sand, clay, water and oil. There are approximately 2.5 trillion barrels of the stuff, the largest hydrocarbon deposits in the world.