How howling from the edges of sanity is good for New Brunswick


As voices in the wilderness, we raise our rhetoric to match the long, lonely howls that issue from the pits of our guts. We see the future from our perches at the peripheries of Main Street, Freddy Beach, Parliament Hill and, yes, even Wall Street.

And, from that vantage, the future of this province is (trust me) utterly howl-worthy.

We are the pundits of New Brunswick, whose opinions about such things as economic development, social sustainability, energy policy, and fiscal management are sometimes politely acknowledged, but more often violently rejected.

We’re used to it.

Our fellow citizens are, after all, entitled to the pabulum their elected representatives ritually spoon into their pie holes when said representatives promise that their gruel will, in the end, taste like filet mignon.

But when guys like David Campbell, writing for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, and scribes like Bill Belliveau and Norbert Cunningham, penning for the Moncton Times & Transcript, are routinely vilified for pointing out the patently obvious, and necessarily important, about this province’s. . .um. . .let’s just say “challenges”, I am risibly motivated to whip out my formidable arsenal of wordy invective to level the decidedly unlevel playing field that is the blogosphere.

Then again, what would be the point of that when we have Donald Savoie in our philosophical corner.

The “great prognosticator” issued another in a long line of epistles from his mount at the University of Moncton the other day.

In this one, he wrote, “Whether one likes it or not, the global economy is here and it is highly competitive. New Brunswick has to compete with what it has, not with what it wishes it had. I was surprised (during the recent provincial election campaign) to hear aspiring politicians and observers making the case. . .that we can say no to development opportunities in the natural resources sector and that all we need to do (is) create new economic activities to diversify our economy. How can we do this?”

Good question (though, it is rhetorical).

Allow me, pundit-wise, to take a crack at an answer (though it be unrhetorical).

Posit the following: Natural gas is far less damaging to the environment than any other form of fossil fuel; its extraction technologies for both orthodox and unorthodox plays are proven, safe and reliable; its delivery infrastructure is far less likely to fail and, therefore, pollute than those for crude and refined oil and coal.

Now, acknowledge the following: There is enough shale gas lying beneath the surface of this province to power local economies for decades through extraction, transportation and refining activities, alone. But that is only the outline of the big picture (if we had big-picture thinkers at our various seats of government, they might have paid attention decades ago).

The true, long-term potential of this resource, should we choose to embrace our own economic interests, is technological and innovative leverage.

Even the most committed environmentalists must surely realize by now that transitioning to a fully sustainable, renewable energy future will only succeed when we finally learn how to deploy the relatively cheap energy we harvest from the ground and the sea beds.

Almost every component of a wind turbine, a tidal array, a solar facility, a hybrid automobile, a bloody, backyard greenhouse is a product, directly or indirectly, of refined petroleum, cracked into shape for re-manufacture into the building blocks of plastic, pure and simple. That’s the foundational reality of our industrial economy; it has been for 100 years.

Saying we wish it weren’t so won’t make it go away.

What might, though, over time, is a coordinated, comprehensive public-private partnership to transform New Brunswick into a think tank, industrial test site and centre of excellence for repurposing the world’s excess plastic as the building blocks of sustainable, renewable energy technologies.

From here, the province – with its surfeit of institutes of advanced education relative to its population – could pioneer a global standard for delimiting the use of petroleum products to, in effect, manufacture only those technologies that produce sustainable, renewable, in-situ energy (lamentably, planes, trains and automobiles must be off the table for the time being).

Off course, mine is just one voice in the wilderness of ideas.

Let the vilification commence.

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