Myth Busters

These are the statements we hear all the time. Every proponent of fracking says the same thing.
Beyond the utter falseness of the claims, we think the message is getting pretty old and stale.
But you decide:

(Download pdf of Myth-Busters for sharing)

What we know as modern “fracking” has only existed for roughly 15 years. The horizontal length of wells can now exceed several kilometres, and average water usage is now 30 times greater than 15 years ago. Extraordinarily high pressures must be used to inject many millions of litres of water and tens of thousands of litres of toxic chemicals, along with tons of sand, to fracture the shale. This also creates many millions of litres of toxic wastewater for which there is no safe means of disposal.

There are now more than 1,300 peer-reviewed studies and investigations on the impacts of fracking, the vast majority of which either confirm the damage done by fracking, or raise threatening new issues. If there were a similar number of studies showing that fracking did not threaten public health, contaminate water, pollute the air, or worsen climate change, we would know about them, since the gas industry would have touted them far and wide.

Reviewers of all the known public health studies stated they could see no way that fracking could be done safely, and that it is especially hazardous to infants and children.

There’s no place in the world where regulations have been able to control the harm or costs of fracking, and Canada is no exception. Regulators are often seen as collaborators with industry, and are often staffed with industry personnel. In Alberta the regulatory body is  funded entirely by the industry and headed by an ex-Encana executive, who founded the Canadian Assoc. of Oil Producers. British Columbia and Saskatchewan regulators have kept violations, including life-threatening issues, secret from the public and even from the government. Enforcement often depends on industry self-reporting.

Regulations lag well behind the science, particularly in public health. Gas wells are allowed within a few hundred meters of homes, schools and hospitals, despite studies showing harmful health effects up to 3 km away.  Instances of water contamination, spills, leaking wells and earthquakes are the same as everywhere.  Canada has not forced the industry to set aside nearly enough money – by far – to properly and safely close tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells.

The number of jobs and the economic benefits of shale gas are always greatly overstated. As the entire industry is mired in debt, it has continually cut costs by automating more tasks and laying off workers. High paying skilled jobs on the drilling rigs are almost always staffed by experienced hands from elsewhere, meaning that generally only lower level and temporary jobs are offered to local workers. Currently, many NB employers cannot find people to fill jobs. Meanwhile, young people leave the province for “better” jobs.  Are temporary and highly dangerous shale gas jobs the kind that will keep our young people here?

In contrast, the renewable energy field is exploding with jobs. In the US, the number of jobs producing solar electricity exceeds the number of jobs in coal, oil and gas.

The last thing that the NB economy needs is another short-lived industry that rips out our natural resources, adds no value  and sends profits elsewhere for stockholders, while the province is left with cleaning up a devastated landscape.

Shale gas drillers have produced a lot of product, but they’ve never made a profit. Shale gas is expensive to produce, but prices are low. Over time expenses increase, as the easy-to-get gas is extracted first. Shale gas extraction will become a dead-end industry. We are nearing the end of the age of fossil fuels; investment in them is decreasing around the world. The threat of climate change means that the industry will continue to shrink, and long-term investments – like starting a new shale gas project – run a huge risk of ending up worthless.

In contrast, renewable energy becomes ever cheaper as the technology improves.  Smart provinces will support businesses of the future.

To say this is the same as saying we  have no right to advocate for better healthcare while using hospitals. Or we cannot lobby for better forest management policies while living in a wooden house.

There is no hypocrisy in using fossil fuels while working to end them.  The force that brings harm to the world and our children is the attitude of continuing to do destructive things just because “that’s the way we’ve always done them.”

It’s true that gas produces only half as much CO2 as coal.  BUT, shale gas is primarily composed of methane, which is also a greenhouse gas – and it’s 86 times more devastating than CO2 when measured over a 20-year period.  This means that if more than 3 percent of the methane extracted escapes into the atmosphere unburned, the warming effect will be the same as if you had burned coal.

Studies from around the world have shown that leaking methane from gas infrastructure – wells, pipelines, storage tanks, flaring gas wells – all leak at levels above – often well-above – the minimum safe level.  Therefore, methane is now considered to be one of the main contributors to climate change, and the fastest growing.

‘Equalization’ simply means that citizens, no matter where they live, are entitled to comparable public services at comparable rates of taxation.  For example, people in a poor rural area should legitimately expect to have access to similar government services as those in a wealthy city. The provision of this principal of equality is enshrined in our Constitution.

Equalization is a national program funded by everyone’s federal tax money, largely collected from ‘have not’ provinces (which include Ontario and Quebec), containing the bulk of the population and the national tax base. People in “have-not” provinces are also contributors to equalization.  The “have provinces” do not write an “equalization cheque” every year to “have not” provinces.

Equalization payments are also independent of the policy choices of the provinces. They are not charity nor do they come with a moral obligation to mimic the decisions of other provinces.  For example, British Columbia imposed a permanent ban on uranium mining, yet Saskatchewan supports the industry. These are both ‘have’ provinces. Which province’s decision should be the moral guide for New Brunswick’s choice on shale gas?  This argument is simply an attempt to sway people by making them feel inadequate or guilty, and is without merit.