Sunday, August 29, 2010

Frack On, Frack Off

When it comes to hydraulic fracturing and the Quebec government’s decision to go forward with continued exploration of shale gas even before a promised environmental review has begun, as you would expect, I fall into the frack off crowd. If you are unfamiliar with the hydraulic fracturing (often referred to as fracking), I first invite you to view the trailer for the documentary film, Gasland.

As you can see, there are a number of unresolved environmental issues surrounding the process, which raises a number of unanswered questions.

First, why is the Quebec government allowing continued exploration for shale gas with the aim of immediate exploitation already on the table? This is where the issue of the burden of proof is inversed to favor the oil and gas companies at the expense of an unsuspecting public. For example, when a pharmaceutical company brings a drug to market, it assumes the responsibility to make sure that the drug in question is safe and has to demonstrate the absence of significant risk to a government agency before the drug is allowed to be marketed. However, when it comes to environmental issues, it is up to interested individuals to demonstrate that there is significant harm. Often, it will take years before the environmental danger is recognized (e.g. DTT) and in the meantime innocent victims fall into harm’s way. The burden of proof should fall onto the producers, and they should assume the costs of marshalling the evidence. Once this is done, then and only then should commercial exploitation take place.

Second, given that this year is shaping up to be the warmest year on the planet since records have been kept and areas at the extreme ends of the hydrologic cycle are experiencing catastrophic weather-related events, (Russia, China, and Pakistan), why are we even contemplating exploiting a new source of fossil fuels to be burned before we have gained control over the rising levels of green house gas emissions? Comically, Quebec’s Vice Premier, Nathalie Normandeau, said at the press conference that Quebec would be replacing Alberta natural gas with gas produced from Quebec. Frankly, nobody in their right mind (those who get climate change) gives a damn where the gas is extracted from because when it is burned it adds CO2 to the atmosphere regardless of where it is burned on the planet.

Third, why the rush to bring this non-renewable resource to market? Ever heard of Peak Oil? Well, the same principle applies to natural gas. So, if this is a question of energy security (it’s not), let us leave something behind for future generations since fossil fuels will eventually become a precious commodity. Exit the boomer mentality to burn through as much as you can only to leave a scorched earth for generations to follow.

Finally, and this is where the crap gets pretty thick, for god’s sake Madame Normandeau, if you are going to make some maudlin reference to Quebec’s recent past, the Quiet Revolution, get it right. The expression “Maître Chez Nous” (masters of our own house) refers in this context to the nationalization of the hydro-electric sector in Quebec some fifty years ago. In other words, the exploitation of a huge natural resource was taken out of private hands for the benefit of the entire population. In this case, the exact opposite has taken place. Up until 2007, the mineral rights for the exploitation of shale gas belonged to the state owned Hydro Quebec, whose profits go into the public purse. Those rights were transferred to the private sector so that once again we have a situation where potential profit is privatized and potential risk is socialized.

When I hear such a clumsy attempt at propaganda in order to pass off what should be a serious concern to all Quebecers, I can only respond, FRAK OFF!

1 comment:

  1. An excellent blog, chilling, but informative. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


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