How much better than best?

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This op-ed by Michael Binnion was recently published in the Montreal Gazette

Nothing better symbolizes what it means to be Canadian than the coureur des bois. As Canada’s first entrepreneurs they conquered North America not by conquest but by discovery. Since 1608, Canadian history has flowed east to west led by explorers from Cadillac to La Verendrye to Father Lacombe.

Quebec is still a leader in exploration; exploring and developing natural resources. Quebec leads Canada who in turn leads the world in hydro-electricity. According to the Fraser Institute it is the best jurisdiction in the world for mining. In company with nations like Norway, Quebec shows the world the way in sustainable development. Quebec has not just simply taken advantage of its resources; it has proven you can be a leader in resource development and sustainable development at the same time.

Canada is also a world leader in natural gas. Canada has some of the largest shale gas deposits in North America. Development of these resources is essential to North America and the world. There are two billion people in the world without electricity. One billion people expect to join the middle class in the next generation and without affordable natural gas their only practical fuel options will be oil and coal. One billion new people joining the middle class on the back of oil and coal, will not only stress our financial and ecological resources worldwide, it will strain international relationships too.

It is not only Quebec who has embraced sustainable development principles. So has Western Canada. We deliver natural gas to North America at the affordable prices everyone wants, with the ever-reducing environmental foot print everyone demands. The Canadian oil and gas industry is very proud of the best industrial safety record of any industry except office work. We are also proud of the best regulatory systems in the world and that we have been developing shale gas for years with the best environmental record in North America.

Now there is a chance to change the flow of Canadian history. A chance for Western Canadian capital and experience, to come together with Quebec’s experience and way of doing things. A chance to develop another world class resource discovered in the St Lawrence Lowlands. Rather than importing about $2 billion per year in natural gas, Quebec can produce it from under its own feet.

We Canadians are the best in the world at developing natural resources. How much better than best, do we need to be, to gain the trust to move forward?

Are there risks and impacts? Of course there are. Are the risks and impacts anything like what you have seen reported in the media in Quebec? Of course not. If they were, why do the vast majority of farmers in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia still welcome us on their land? We have to be responsible – and we are – because our business depends on the goodwill and trust of rural people.

Our company first came to Quebec in 1985 after SOQUIP was disbanded due to years of failure in achieving energy independence for Quebec. We drilled wells that were also failures, but we learned something about the Utica shale. We came back in 1998 with a new geological idea to look in different types of rock.

We have spent along with our partners over $200 million so far. We are still a long way from proving there is commercial natural gas in Quebec. We believe it could take up to another $500 million in risk capital.

In February of 2010 Questerre first published the prerequisites to commit this capital:

1. more technical data about how much gas there is and how much wells will cost

2. implementation of effective and efficient regulation designed for exploitation not just exploration

3. a local service sector to reduce costs while providing both local benefits and community acceptance

Even though there are no plans to commence exploitation, professional opponents ask for a moratorium any way. They know that until we have a plan we will not have social acceptability. They know that until we have more technical data we cannot have a plan. It is clear they want a moratorium so that we can never create a plan and never gain social acceptability.

We are asking Quebec to give us a chance to finish our work started so long ago. Give us a chance to show that natural gas can be developed for the benefit of all Quebec. Give us a chance to show that a new service sector industry will bring prosperity to small towns and farmers. Finally, let us demonstrate that Quebec, working with Western Canadian capital and expertise, can be the best at developing natural gas, just as it is with its other resources.