On subway experts

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The BAPE report decided – rightfully – that Quebecers deserve real answers from real experts.

The great thing about the Internet is we have access to more information than ever before. Problem is, some of that information is good and some of it is bad. For example, if your child gets sick, you can get some advice on the Internet. If you are responsible about using this information it can make you a better advocate for your child.

But does the Internet make an expert?

If we are responsible, we check the things we read in the newspaper or on the Internet with real medical experts, not doctors in philosophy or history. We also make sure we get satisfactory answers.

Why would it be any different with regard to shale gas?

A few examples: We have retired accountants who say there are no economic benefits to a new industry. We have paleontologists who have said the industry can’t be successful in Quebec because there won’t be enough natural gas (this might be true, but we simply don’t know yet). And my personal favourite: someone who built sewers and subways who says rock at the surface behaves the same way as rock deep underground! (The latter has billions of tons of confining pressure on it.) He also suggests that draining pressure from 2,000 meters underground will affect pressure on the surface, not to mention other physics-defying myths.

Is it healthy or productive in this important public policy debate for one side to be repeating what they read in the papers to the other side that repeats back what they heard from their stock broker?

Thankfully, the BAPE knew better. It didn’t believe everyone who came repeating what they read on the Internet. The BAPE didn’t just accept industry experts either. Their decision was that this debate needed real oil and gas experts talking to real oil and gas experts.

The EES recommendation specifically required that the multi-stakeholder committee include qualified experts. Subway geologists and paleontologists need not apply.