Common ground on natural gas development

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.

6 thoughts on “Common ground on natural gas development

  1. David –

    The sad reality is that the lack of previous action to enforce existing environmental regulations has undermined public confidence in the Government’s ability to fairly regulate this controversial industry. Had the Government acted swiftly in previous instances, or demonstrated their ability to consistently enforce existing regulations rather than adopting a “flexible” approach to industry misdemeanours, the exploration and extraction of shale gas would not be meeting stiff resistance.

    This lack of faith in the Provincial Government is at the heart of this controversy.



  2. Actually, the companies have stated that its because the price of gas is so low that development has slowed. The US is predicted to have a growing supply for the next twenty years. Again, I think you are wrong. TEN YEARS AGO it made sense. The public intervenor in the Dalhousie case said it was ludicrous to buy orimulsion from Venezuela-and also refit Lepreau. The public intervenor said that Dalhousie should be converted to natural gas, which would spur on a local industry and provide natural gas to the north of the province where they needed it. Of course he was ignored, the province said it was going with what was cheapest at the time, and the rest of the history you know.

    Fast forward to today, when Irving sets up a gas terminal and gets a public subsidy on property tax. There is no indication of gas EVER getting to the north, in fact in the south a monopoly is given to Enbridge just to supply it, and its priced so high its not even cost effective anyway. Meanwhile, Sussex proposes a business park using the gas the province DOES produce, and is told to go take a hike.

    NOW the price is so low nobody is going to pay to develop it-currently they have admitted to looking for OIL, not gas. And of course we still don’t know whether there is any there.

    Meanwhile, the government has botched regulations and public policy SO bad that nobody in their right mind believes anything they say-and I suspect even fewer will believe the Atlantica Centre for Energy-a consortium of all the gas developers in the province-is any more interested than the government.

    You are seriously misreading the situation though, the price of gas will determine development, NOT the people, just like the forestry industry, the potash industry, the mining industry-you know, all those OTHER industries who made grandiose claims about building New Brunswick and are now a vague memory. They say insanity is falling for the same thing over and over again, its great to see SOME New Brunswickers are waking up to the fact that when resource companies come making grandiose claims about investment, its not all its cracked up to be.

  3. Shale proponents have done a ridiculously poor job of selling the benefits.

    How much royalty money can the province expect?

    How many jobs will be created? Temporary jobs? Ongoing jobs?

    Are they just going to ship the gas to Boston or will there be any helpful uses of the resource here in NB?

    Answer a few of those and maybe the conversation will change.

  4. @anonymoose
    Also, the price of gas has crashed because of all this new shale gas coming on line. In 20-30 years if the price rebounds keeping that gas in the ground might pay off big.

    I’m not opposed to developing gas, but I need to be convinced that extracting this stuff is a win for NBers. Sure it’s good for the resource companies but what’s in it for me?

  5. “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 …”

    True, some of those with comfy jobs seem to want the locals kept poor and desperate. But I would not count on a sociology student to set things right in the future …. sociologists are among those leading the charge against shale gas. That’s much easier than doing useful scholarly work – something NB’s sociologists seem to be unfamiliar with.

  6. I missed that statement so its good Richard quoted it-the protestors are primarily NATIVES. There are also others there, many of the groups are from Penobsquis, the people who suffered from the lack of any regulation for the past decade and a half. That is ALWAYS the claim of media pundits, that hey, its rich people who really want to put the screws to poor people. IF you actually beleive that, then really you know absolutely nothing about the protest. Go watch some of the videos of the protest, in Kent County or in front of leg last year-the ‘professional class’ couldn’t care less, most of them have winter homes in FLORIDA or Saint Andrews, places where industry won’t get anywhere near.

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