It’s not initially obvious until you think about it, but the debate in Quebec has moved on to a new phase. The debate is no longer IF Quebec should produce hydrocarbons but HOW. Recent legislation on water laws has shown all three major parties are in favor and the issue no longer is if Quebec should develop local hydrocarbons but how to move forward.
It was back in 2008 when I first realized we had found something really big in Quebec. Everyone would be thrilled when they realized what it would mean to Quebec! It was cleaner for the environment, good for the economy and would at the same time reinvigorate the St. Lawrence Valley, the original bread basket of Canada.
I remember day-dreaming that hopefully Jean Charest had my phone number so he could invite me to Quebec City to give me the Order of Quebec.
It was a shock when I found there were opponents. It turned out city and town folk weren’t aware that it was very common to find natural gas in aquifers and to be able to light taps on fire in rural areas. After Gasland’s powerful image of flaming taps, the call from the Premier never arrived.
I did get a call finally from the BAPE in 2010. They told me it just wasn’t possible to determine if our project was safe or not. There would have to be a moratorium while they studied it. Every credible study to date has found that when it’s done properly, fracing is safe. It is self-evident and we have a million wells of experience that prove it. Would President Obama have natural gas from shale at the center of the United States’ green energy future if it wasn’t safe?
I don’t think safety was ever the real issue. I think the real problem was our project disturbed the national narrative of Quebecers who for generations were told there was no oil and gas in Quebec. Quebecers were green energy producers and to become hydrocarbons producers, just didn’t feel right.
I tell my Norwegian friends that it will be easier for them to understand why there was a negative reaction in Quebec. “Norwegians think they are greener than green because they produce hydrocarbons but don’t use them; while on the other hand Quebecers think they are greener than green because they use hydrocarbons but don’t produce them.”
Starting in late 2010 we started talking to Quebecers about their energy diet and how it could be even greener. In the beginning saying openly in Quebec that you supported oil and gas development was like saying at a Norwegian cocktail party that you thought George Bush was a good President.
I started this blog to show it was possible to openly support oil and gas in Quebec and give our supporters answers for opponents’ arguments. Why if local tomatoes can be better for the environment couldn’t local oil and gas be too? Why aren’t there any dead cows in the ditches in Alberta? Why is Quebec the biggest consumer of heavy fuel oil in the country?
We worked to build a silent coalition of people who were open to listening to the facts. After meeting 1,000’s of potential allies, that silent coalition isn’t silent anymore. Quebecers are talking openly about developing local oil and gas.
It’s a big step forward to be talking about how to move forward with oil and gas in Quebec. This phase of the debate won’t be any easier and opponents are already complaining new water protections laws don’t go far enough.
I feel a little bit like the day I passed my exams to become a chartered accountant. My father, also a Chartered Accountant, told me “Michael you may feel like you are finished but really you are only ready to start at the bottom.”