Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quebec Shale Gas Hullabaloo Worth Paying Attention To

Generally speaking, when environmentalists start in on another tiresome harangue that global warming is going to destroy us all, I generally switch my brain off. While there's likely a measure of truth in what they are saying, my heart tells me they exaggerate their position for effect and at any rate I truly don't believe that there's anything we can do about it.....Sort of like promoting an end to war. A good idea but....

I don't want to get into a global warming debate, especially on this blog which is oriented elsewhere, but there is a local  environmental question that has peeked my interest of late, the exploration of shale gas and its very real effects on our local environment.

A year ago I never even heard of shale gas, shale gas exploration, its French appellation 'gaz de schiste' or the word 'fracking'

If you live outside Quebec (in Canada,) the issue is hardly making the news as there are only a few of these shale gas fields and of them, few are in such a densely populated area, as here in Quebec.
When the issue first surfaced in the news I arrogantly assumed that it was more environmentalist doomsayers warning of yet another impending catastrophe and so I cast my attention elsewhere, that is, until I saw a documentary on the subject on HBO entitled 'Gasland, a documentary film describing the dangers of this type of gas extraction. It was an eye-opener to say the least.

For those of you unfamiliar with the issue allow me to offer the Reader's Digest explanation.
Unlike crude oil which is hard to find, but relatively easy to pump out, shale gas is relatively easy to find, but hard to extract.

There are a massive amount of shale gas bearing fields across North America, but almost all are in the United States, as indicated on the map on the right. As you can see there is a pocket in Quebec that runs along the shore of the St. Lawrence river, but unfortunately in the most populated area of Quebec.

Extracting this gas is a mighty difficult affair. It involves pumping millions of litres of water laced with a secret chemical cocktail deep into the earth to ramp up the pressure and fracture the shale formation, releasing the trapped gas. Thus we get the term FRACKING.
If you think the process sounds complicated and dangerous you are probably correct. The effects of so much chemical laced water pumped underground is not understood at this time, in spite of assurances from the industry that the process is safe.

The United States is years ahead of us in terms of shale gas development. Tens of thousands of wells already exist and the process of extracting the gas is well-established.  
That being said,  problems with groundwater, air pollution and other environmental consequences are just now becoming a subject of extreme public debate.

The question remains as to whether the whole shale gas extraction thing is a blessing or a Pandora's box. Nobody is sure and that is what is scary.

Here is a report about shale gas exploration from an industry point of view; Shale Play Extends to Canada

Here is an excellent news article by Monique Muise writing in the Montreal Gazette;
A guide to Quebec’s shale gas controversy

I urge readers who are unfamiliar with the issue to spend the eight minutes or so to watch this rivetting video which I found on YouTube;


The issue is complicated by the fact that the gas could provide a vast amount of tax for the Quebec government and we cannot discount that the government could use all the money it can get it's hands on. Estimates are that the gas may be worth over 200 billion dollars.

That being said, I believe that a go slow approach is required. The EPA in the USA is set to release a definitive report next year on the impact on shale gas extraction and it would be prudent to put things off until then.
"Michael Binnion, CEO of Calgary-based Questerre Energy Inc., characterized resistance to shale gas development as largely being driven by uninformed opinion circulated on social media." LINK
With arrogance like that it's no wonder the  industry has hired Lucien Bouchard to be their point man   probably realizing that the public is waking up to the potential dangers.

How much confidence do you have that the Quebec government can safely regulate this industry?
Hmmmm........Don't answer that!

Further reading; 
Quebec should 'go slow' on shale gas: expert


  1. Charest is a puppet of Power Corp....and Power COrp want the monopole of Shale gaz exploitation in Quebec.

    1+1 = 2.

  2. Greenhouse gases from Alberta oil sands: bad
    Greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals in ground water from Quebec shale gas: ok
    Unleash the hypocrites.

  3. Let's hope Quebec's serious need for cash does not lead to a hasty, bad decision. Once the drilling starts there will be no easy way back. If the ground water becomes contaminated, how do you clean that up?

    The fuckin fracking process and technology sound scary, but the desperate mind set that the provincial debt imposes is scarier.

  4. Let's think here a moment. Quebec already does asbestos mining, killing tens or possibly hundreds of thousands by exporting it to the third world, yet puts on a smile and claims it's perfectly harmless.

    Fracking? I think you have your answer as to whether or not they'd consider fracking us over. :)

    Also consider Quebec is the 5th most indebted region in the world. If they're sitting on something that is worth billions, even if it destroyed the very planet Earth, the Quebec government would go for it. Believe me.