I see the Atlantica Centre for Energy has produced some new videos under the heading “common ground” where they interview those for and against shale gas development. I applaud this effort and hope we really can get to some common ground on this important industry.
But I have to say I am disheartened by how New Brunswickers have reacted to this opportunity. The general public has been very skeptical. Even business groups are shy to say one way or the other for fear of offending customers. Doctors and professionals have felt they are qualified to publicly criticize.
The opponents of the industry know they do not need to get a moratorium or any other government action. They just need to scare away business investment. I believe there are at least eight firms that have the licenses to explore for natural gas and only two are doing it (Corridor and SWN) and SWN has delayed their program so much it is a de facto moratorium anyway.
The reality is that billions of dollars are being invested in shale gas development. It is changing the energy landscape across North America and now Europe and Latin America. When SWN received their approval to start testing – New Brunswick was fairly early into the game. Now we are behind and I suspect that SWN will finish up it testing and then walk away. Why would they invest their capital in a hostile environment where even business groups are skiddish to support?
The true is there is shale gas in 30+ US states and six Canadian provinces. The investment will go where the environment is conducive and supportive – not where regulations are lax – the industry needs a strong regulatory framework to protect both residents and the firms involved – but where there is a broad interest in developing the industry.
The Nature Conservancy is one of the largest environmental groups in the US with over one million members. Although it has concerns about shale gas development in a recent report on Marcellus Shale Gas, it concluded “With good planning, we can produce domestic energy and protect our forests.”
The Environmental Defense Fund, another of the most respected environmental groups, is working with some of the largest natural gas development firms developing a best practices approach.
In New Brunswick, our environmental groups are out telling people shale gas will destroy their way of life.
And, as I said above, New Brunswick’s professional class is leading the hostility to the industry.
I suspect in the near future some sociology Phd student will be doing a thesis on how a place like NB could have gone from a place where finding oil and gas would have led us to “jump for joy” to a place where we are among the most hostile in North America to natural gas development in just 30-40 years.
I look forward to that work. In the meantime, New Brunswick continues to rest at the bottom of the 10 provinces across most economic indicators with no end in sight.