HALIFAX, NS/ Troy Media/ – Instead of prohibiting hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia we should develop and pursue in a socially and environmentally responsible manner the economic opportunities that fracing affords.
At the end of August, the Wheeler Commission issued its report and advised a cautious approach to hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to extract natural gas from the ground and more commonly known as “fracing,” asserting that we do not yet know enough about the practice and decisions should involve the community. It also acknowledged that fracing could bring billions of dollars to the provincial economy. It recommended establishing adequate baseline monitoring along with effective and enforceable regulations, and advised the province to conduct formal social and environmental impact assessments.
Hasty decision on fracing
Within a few days of the report, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Energy Andrew Younger announced that the provincial government would introduce legislation prohibiting high-volume. This hasty reaction from Minister Younger is inconsistent with Wheeler’s advice to follow a cautious approach by conducting more research and consulting Nova Scotians.
Prohibiting the practice altogether, in fact, is troubling for a number of reasons.
Prohibition is not a solution, but rather represents a refusal to deal with it. The haste to prohibit in this instance gives an impression of action motivated by fear, even though there is no emergency or threat.
Prohibition also fails to advance our understanding of fracing, whereas approaching it with caution compels us to debate the question robustly, to dissect it and identify areas for improvement, encouraging us to perhaps develop new techniques and novel solutions to our problems. In the spirit of the Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy (commonly known as the “Ivany Report”), let us close the door on saying “no” and keep open the doors that lead us to saying “yes, we can solve that problem.”
Rather than turning our backs on the supposed problems that fracing would bring, we should tackle them instead and address their challenges. We may then figure out ways to extract resources safely, allowing us to enjoy the economic benefits of resource extraction in environmentally responsible ways. That may even lead to more young and educated Nova Scotians working in Nova Scotia.
More Nova Scotians working in Nova Scotia means more families together, a wealthier and more vibrant economy, and more people paying taxes to support our social programs and sustain our infrastructure. In addition, leaving the door open to the possibility of pursuing environmentally and socially responsible techniques would allow more Nova Scotians to exercise their ingenuity and use their talents for the betterment of Nova Scotia.
It might even help develop sound safety techniques that other jurisdictions could then adopt and new technologies we could market to other jurisdictions which, in turn, would result in greater secondary economic activity and even more jobs in the province.
But there’s more. Finding more solutions to technical problems here may further attract and sustain a culture of innovators, risk-takers, problem-solvers and entrepreneurs instead of motivating them to seek such conditions elsewhere.
Room for ingenuity
Nova Scotia has already done so with off-shore exploration and extraction of natural gas and petroleum. And drilling from a platform at sea is a highly complex and challenging enterprise that we are managing well.
The same sense of innovative adventure can apply to many other activities and economic sectors. For example, there is room to apply our ingenuity and skill to seek and develop better techniques that will burn coal more cleanly, more cheaply, and more efficiently.
The Wheeler Commission’s recommendation to proceed cautiously is an invitation to explore the opportunity for better solutions to our challenges. After all, we can best solve those problems that we understand well. Forbidding in fearful reflex activities that are otherwise lawful and beneficial in so many other jurisdictions does the opposite.
It is worth repeating that prohibition does nothing to foster understanding. Banning fracing outright shuts the doors on the potential for progress. It closes opportunities for greater innovation, technical advancement, and the development of more employment that would keep more of our children and grandchildren in the province. That’s why prohibition is the wrong impulse.
Marco Navarro-Genie is the president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS.ca)