Before saying why I decided to write a blog let me tell you the reasons I shouldn’t.
Getting involved in public debates is decidedly not what presidents of public companies do. The answer for this is fairly simple. There are many downsides and few upsides.
First, there are legal risks. Securities commissions require that all statements from public companies their officers and directors not be misleading and that everyone gets to see them at the same time. For example, I can’t discuss information that could be material to the price of Questerre shares in my blog that has not been publicly released beforehand. Nor can I make statements that are materially misleading whether in a press release or not. If I do, Questerre and I are subject to both criminal prosecution (fines and jail) and civil suits (people can sue us). You can see now why most presidents of public companies have a lawyer review everything before it is released to the public. It also explains why so few read public company information. It is written by lawyers.
There are personal risks too. Most presidents of large public companies work a long time and must have very good reputations to get their jobs. So interviews from unfriendly journalists can be a risky career move. One small slip of the tongue or one misquote from the media and there goes your reputation and possibly your job. And what is the benefit? If a president has a successful interview on shale gas for example, all shale gas companies benefit but only one president risked his job.
I remember very clearly the interview I did with the Globe & Mail at a conference on water where I focused on the myths and realities of fraccing impacts on water. When the journalist turned the conversation to the talk of a moratorium on natural gas developments in Quebec, I answered “A moratorium on what? We are exploring and piloting and industry won’t proceed until conditions are right.” Questerre’s stock was down 10% the next day as the Globe & Mail reported that shale gas development had ground to a halt in Quebec. “What shale gas development? We are exploring and piloting.”
Well I can tell you my staff worked overtime and produced brief for my board of directors explaining Questerre’s public relations strategy very shortly after that. I still have my job – at least for now.
So why get involved in the public debate? Why write a blog?
In part because no one else will. In part because I am an entrepreneur more motivated by innovative and game-changing projects than simply making money. In part because I really believe in the social benefits of shale gas development in Quebec. In part because I thought I should have a blog before my technology savvy kids did. But mostly because the shale gas debate has become too much of ‘don’t bother me with the facts my mind is made up.’ We need to stop the madness. The debate deserves to be taken seriously.
The theme for my blog is “We all have a right to our own opinion but we do not have a right to our own facts.” So over the next year or so I plan to comment on both the silliness and the seriousness of the shale gas debate.
Please feel free to email me or comment on issues that you find relevant or silly or both in the debate about natural gas and the future of energy independence in Quebec. Please tell anyone you think might be interested to follow my blog. And if you haven’t heard, my kids told me about this thing called twitter, just in case you need to know about updates to my blog right away.