Geologists and energy experts

My column yesterday was on shale gas and my view that we need to treat that industry as a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity that could end up creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in tax and royalty revenue to pay for our public services and renew our rural economy.

Predictably, I got several emails complaining about my view and there were also a few comments on the site – all negative.

I cited the Pennsylvania Environmental Council which is calling for stringent new measures on shale gas drilling in that state but I was particularly interested in the CEO’s comment that shale gas “is a once-in-a-generation energy and economic opportunity for Pennsylvania [and] we have a deep historical, political and fiduciary responsibility to get this right for the citizens.”

I wondered out loud if New Brunswick’s environmentalists (and, it seems, all our geologists and energy experts) feel the same way about shale gas in New Brunswick.  If they do, I haven’t seen or heard any commentary in that direction.

20% of all the nat gas in the U.S. now comes from hydrofracking.  Have there been problems in certain areas?  Yes.    But it seems to me there are best practices out there and we need to employ them here but we shouldn’t try and force out investment just because.

It just seems to me that many of us have disconnected the absolute requirement for an sustainable economic foundation under our social and community objectives.    I wonder if we were personally in serious economic hardship we wouldn’t be so cavalier about some of this stuff.  Well, as a society, we are facing serious economic hardship – and not just because of the deficit. 

This has never been about enriching fat cat investors or millionaires.  They will invest their money wherever they think they can get a good return – here or elsewhere.  This is about the people in our communities.  It’s about meaningful and good paying work.   It’s about trying to ensure that some of that global capital that is roaming the globle looking for investment opportunities is used here to sustain our economy and our communities.

Some of us will just have to disagree on this point but I hope we can disagree agreeably.

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4 Responses to Geologists and energy experts

  1. Tom Rivington says:

    What you are fighting here is the media and the hyperbole that comes with sensationalist journalism. This hydrofracking process has risks associated with it but so does every industry where we extract resources from the earth. But turn on 60 Minutes, Dateline and the Fifth Estate and you get worst case scenarios all the time.

    It doesn’t help that most stories we get are U.S. based and lets be frank, their habit of deregulation has tended to cause problems for many industries. Can you say credit default swap.

  2. mikel says:

    You ‘haven’t seen or heard’ because of course Irving covers the conservation council, well, about never. At their website they are quite specific: they want local communities to be able to determine what sites are suitable. They don’t say “no shale gas”, and even the negative comments at the Irving site were basically along the VERY truthful lines that these are lousy temporary jobs (high paying? driving a drill truck?), and that the province simply doesn’t have the legislation to protect drinking water. Both are very true.

    Add to that that these companies won’t even reveal what chemicals they use to treat the water, they are called ‘proprietary’-but at the very least contain a fair amount of formaldyhyde, methanol, and acetic acid, among others. As those in Moncton may have noted, six trucks a day leave the city to provide practically free water to the industry-hardly a sign that the province is going to celebrate any great boon from the industry. When you hear “once in a generation”, you should immediately flash to forestry-how well did that work out? At the very least wood can have multiple uses, gas, well, since virtually ALL of it is going south, there is going to be marginal benefit.

    But its under the Shale. So its not like its ONLY near communities. So protecting drinking water shouldn’t be so tough. What the protestors were saying was that they don’t want the same thing to happen to THEIR drinking water as what happened to those in Penobsquis. So its a FAR cry from saying “no shale gas”. Some are legitimately arguing that its NOT the economic engine you may think it is, and other simply want to protect their drinking water. So the question is, we KNOW that there isn’t adequate legislation to protect drinking water, so if you are so keen to be reasonable, would YOU agree to a moratorium on drilling – at least within X KM of any residents-until legislation is brought out (they did cellphone legislation in one day, so theres no fear that this would take awhile).

    While a couple of individuals may say no to the entire industry, thats like arguing against some guy who wants Irving to move the oil refinery. Certainly no environmental groups are saying that. So if you won’t agree to a moratorium, then its not the conservation people who are being unreasonable.

  3. mikel says:

    To the poster above, there are a LOT of cases where NB’s environmental regulations are even worse than in the US. There has already been at least one case of a village losing access to their water, and we already know that Moncton is subsidizing fracking with dirt cheap water. So I wouldn’t be too quick to paint Canada as better than the US. From what I’ve seen, there is a similar disregard for water here in Canada as in the US.

  4. Tom Rivington says:

    “From what I’ve seen, there is a similar disregard for water here in Canada as in the US.”

    Then you haven’t seen much, try building a road, crossing a stream in NB without dealing with Environment Canada, they watch you like a hawk.

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