BC’s natural gas strategy

I read this thing from cover to cover last night and it is pretty amazing the differences between New Brunswick and western Canada when it comes to natural gas development.  The BC government is thrilled about the potential of shale gas and tells the reader than 50% of all gas produced now comes from hydraulic fracturing and tight gas extraction and it will be the principal way gas is extracted in the future.    They are making this industry a key part of the province’s economic growth strategy linking in LNG exports to China, etc.

I did a Google News search to gauge media reaction and hardly a peep about ‘fracking’.   Some concerns were covered but I was surprised at how this seems to be a non-issue in BC.

“Matt Horne, director of climate change for the Pembina Institute, cautioned the B.C. government against its dependence on natural gas, which should be considered a “bridge fuel” to a future without fossil fuels.”


You will not hear environmental groups in New Brunswick talking about natural gas as a ‘bridge fuel’ to anywhere.

Some people have made the point that most of B.C.’s oil and gas industry is being developed far from the population base in Greater Vancouver and they argue this is a key difference with New Brunswick.  But there is  still considerable population in the areas with gas exploration and production and the government is talking strongly about protecting water resources and other environmental issues.

I have always maintained it comes down to people in BC or Alberta or Saskatchewan (and dozens of other places) having a better understanding of the link between these industries and their economies and public services.    When you don’t have an industry already in place, this is harder.  There are over 1,000 firms providing services to the oil and gas industry in Saskatchewan and six in New Brunswick.  When you have hundreds of firms feeding off the natural gas industry, you will get more support.

But that is chicken and egg and opposition parties are playing chicken with this important industry in New Brunswick.

4 thoughts on “BC’s natural gas strategy

  1. Yes I think you are right but I guess this would be anecdotal. I assume there are lower education levels out here and people that won’t be directly affected by shale gas don’t want it to be here (older, retired, etc). So a) they don’t understand the safety of fracking and b) they don’t connect the benefits of gas (revenue) that pays for their health care and other services (through transfer payments).

  2. I don’t know if this was the case in BC, but I think people would have been more receptive to shale gas exploration if the NB government started out “talking strongly about protecting water resources and other environmental issues” instead of waiting until there was a huge public outcry. The province of NB has to get better at selling their ideas to the public, instead of just telling them what they’re going to do, ie. shale gas, the sale of NB Power, highway tolls.

  3. Unfortunately the window for New Brunswick to become a major natural gas producer in this current cycle has likely closed due to the outbreak of the NIMBYs. Rumour is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing quite hard in Albany to permit the regulated use of hydraulic fracturing in New York State (Marcellus). Drilling in New York will have far less geological risk than in New Brunswick (it is on the same trend as in neighbouring Pennsylvania) and output from both states are much closer to key north-eastern US consumption markets. And let’s not forget that US producers are shutting-in in production right now (most notably Chesapeake) due to the depressed pricing environment.

    Now exporting LNG from Saint John to Europe could have some definite potential (in the spirit of exports from Kitimat to Asia, which should begin by mid-decade). Prices over there are well into the double digits while we are talking about ‘one-handles’ and less over here for North American prices this year due to the storage glut. And I’m sure that all else equal, most Europeans would rather import natural gas from eastern Canada than Russia.

  4. Will, it’s well-educated folks- and folks who will be affected if fracking turns the water sour- who are the major opponents. I think the difference in the west may be more familiarity with the industries involved.

    New Brunswick is so used to not having new industry develop, maybe it’s an ingrained fear: “big companies = Irving, so they must be bad” that the idea of industry developing must ipso fatso be therefor a bad thing.

    I’m from away, and have always been a surprised by many NBer’s dislike or hatred of Irving, when so many of us depend on the jobs supplied by “him”.

    Tristan is right too; a government could began the discussion speaking clearly about the environmental controls and research it could put in place.

    There’s a pretty cool musical about the car that was built here, the Bricklin- I gather folks hated that idea too, at the time. Maybe NB should become the Arts and Culture province, exporting music, ballet and drama about what a great place to live. Matt Anderson and the Atlantic Ballet have made a great start!

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