It is interesting how people can talk themselves into just about anything (and I guess I should include myself in that). Someone wrote a letter to the editor worthy of a response:
Bad economic development is worse than none
Re: Shale gas development
In the series on New Brunswick’s economy, David Campbell states, “If you try to do economic development, basically what you are trying to do is sell,” and one of his “favourites” is shale gas. Gas is a commodity and, as such, the only thing that matters is price. Our province has no natural advantage when it comes to shale gas development in a continent swimming in these reserves. The only way to develop this resource is to make it cheaper than in other jurisdictions and the only way to do this is through lower environmental regulations and royalties. We can compete with the world in shale gas development if we are willing to give our resources away, suffer environmental damage and landscape degradation. Shale gas is an extractive industry. Gas and profits flow out and the potential for sustainable development which benefits all citizens is diminished. It’s difficult to envision a prosperous future in forestry, tourism, farming or the intellectual industries in the shadow of shale gas development. Who wants to live on, work in, or visit a polluted industrial site? Shale gas developers love negotiating with a poor jurisdiction or, more accurately, dictating, because the resulting bargain is so much more to their advantage. They know that if the mantra is economic development at all costs, they can do whatever they want with impunity. Bad economic development is worse than no economic development if it diminishes the future of my children and grandchildren.
How many inaccurate statements can one person make in a single paragraph?
First of all, there is significant shale gas across North America – that is true but New Brunswick has been identified as possibly being one of the better locations for extraction due to the size and scope of the deposits not because of lax regulation and low royalties – although I am fully supportive of competitive royalty regimes to attract investment. This new line of reasoning (one columnist worked ‘Enron’ into the equation in a giant leap to tarnish the industry) doesn’t hold water.
Second, “gas and profits flow out”. A big chunk of the profit stays here and I am all for finding ways to use more natural gas here for economic development. Assuming gas won’t benefit New Brunswickers is silly. Everywhere in the U.S. where there are plentiful supplies of natural gas, the costs to business and consumers are lower and the use of gas is much more widespread. There is nothing to say that won’t happen here – assuming we can fix the current model with Enbridge.
Third, the writer says it is “difficult to envision a prosperous future in forestry, tourism, farming or the intellectual industries in the shadow of shale gas development”. That is not even worthy of a response. Alberta is using its oil and gas royalties to invest in large scale intellectual industries – such as life sciences. Shale gas should be an enabler of other economic development. Further, this guy is trying to paint some picture of a gutted, apocalyptic landscape after shale gas. Not true. Shale gas – even if fully developed – will leave a very limited footprint. It’s good hyperbole, though.
Four, “who wants to live on, work in, or visit a polluted industrial site?” Again, this is not worthy of a response.
Fifth, “developers love negotiating with a poor jurisdiction or, more accurately, dictating, because the resulting bargain is so much more to their advantage.” Another New Brunswicker with zero faith in New Brunswickers. Why is it that people like this love dumping on their own province? I have faith that our government can get the regulatory environment right and I have more faith in New Brunswickers.
“Bad economic development is worse than no economic development if it diminishes the future of my children and grandchildren.” I am not sure what this means but for many New Brunswickers their children and grandchildren have moved away. There used to be 3.5 young people for every old person now it is less than one to one. This writer may be an exception but for most of us we can expect to be visiting our kids far and wide. As I have said I am the only one of four kids in my family that stayed and something like 70 percent of my cousins are all gone.
Giving shale gas development a chance is the best public policy choice. If in fact this environmental wasteland starts to emerge then guys like this will have something to yap about and – at that point – some legitimacy. Now they are whipping up anger and frustration based on inaccuracies and hyperbole.