I suspect many of us in Alberta are somewhat perplexed with the recent violent protests against the energy industry practice of fracking.
It’s a well-known process in the oil/gas-producing areas of western Canada and has gone on without much incident for almost 60 years.
Landowners in Alberta are familiar with the procedure, ever mindful of any possible impact on well water and groundwater supplies. But then any drilling and seismic activity is of concern to landowners.
It’s different nowadays, as landowners have more information available about their rights, government regulators are more alert to landowner concerns, and energy companies (at least most of them) seem genuinely engaged in creating a positive relationship with landowners with their drilling and seismic activities.
It wasn’t always so.
In the past, from personal experience in the B.C. Peace River district, when the landman came knocking on your door, one’s first reaction was, “How badly will I get screwed.” But I digress.
Two kinds (sort of) of fracking occur in Alberta, the most prevalent one nowadays is deep-well fracking using horizontal drilling that is carried out at anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 feet below the surface.
To my knowledge, because of the depth, there have been virtually no incidences of fracking affecting landowner water sources. In comparison from personal experience, seismic exploration can and does affect local water supplies.
The other drilling activity from which the anti-fracking zealots use statistics is coal-bed methane exploration. That activity (not much is done nowadays) involves shallow drilling, and some problems have occurred with contamination and surface water disturbance.
It’s not the same as deep-well fracking, but anti-oil lobby groups show no shame in twisting and perverting any negative images or stats to their propaganda advantage.
However, the biggest issue Alberta should have with fracking is that it is being done anywhere else, at all. The point being, the more fracking that is done, particularly in eastern North America, means more recoverable natural gas and even oil is being discovered in those areas.
Such discoveries are the last thing the citizens and the energy industry of this province need. In reality, it means those areas might well no longer be needing as much Alberta natural gas — this could be a disaster for our economy.
Actually it could have been worse for our gas markets, but thankfully, the U.S. is in the midst of converting many of its giant coal-fired power plants to natural gas. That will absorb much of the newly accessed eastern American natural gas.
But you get the picture — they could have used Alberta gas, were it not for fracking success in some eastern states.
I suggest that we need to provide support to anti-fracking groups and First Nation protestors to end fracking activities anywhere in eastern North America — and right now.
We should promote the dangers of fracking, real or imagined, and assure those naive folks in the east that only we in Alberta, with our 60 years of experience, know how to carry out fracking safely in our own province.
They need Alberta to take all the risk of energy resource development. The role of citizens of eastern North America is to buy Alberta gas and oil and consume it as much as possible.
I can’t express enough the urgency of this perspective, as there is a real danger that common sense consumers in the east might just figure out the real economic benefits from fracking in their areas.
Governments in some eastern and mid-western American states have already figured out the benefits and are permitting further fracking and well development. This trend needs to be stopped — Greenpeace, where are you when we really need you!
Luckily so far, Quebec and New York state have placed moratoriums on fracking and energy exploration in general in their areas — this is very positive for Alberta — and indefinite extensions need to be encouraged.
Let’s hope the recent violent protests in New Brunswick will cause the provincial government there to suspend any further fracking activities in their province.
We need to encourage all governments in eastern North America to support the building of pipelines and terminals to access and buy Alberta gas and oil, and not to get involved with fracking and all its potential hazards.
For them, it should be the right and smart thing to do.