Running on empty in New Brunswick

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We become what we think we are.

If we believe that we are weak, uneducated and profligate, the chances that we will lie down, refuse to crack a book, and spend whatever money the state sends us to load up on Kraft Dinner and past Christmases’ chocolate treats rise precipitously.

If, on the other hand, we are convinced that we are strong, innovative and prudent, the odds of our crafting a real future for our neighbours and ourselves – one we build with reason, critical thinking, social deliberation, and daily service – improve significantly.

New Brunswick sits uncomfortably somewhere between those two poles of conscience.

On the one hand, in this province we are gorgeously engaged, generous and rational. On the other, we are thicker than a sack of hammers at the bottom of the Petitcodiac River.

We, for example, continue to muck and moil over the possibilities of a shale gas industry in this province even though we know that market forces, combined with our own government’s foot-dragging, have effectively shut the door on that avenue of commercial enterprise.

With the price of Texas crude spluttering just below $32 a barrel, the entire oil and gas industry in Canada is in suspended animation (if not actual free-fall). Now, there is almost no point in imagining a future in which we control the uses to which we put our indigenous fossil fuels (if we ever have).

Still, as Adam Huras of the Saint John Telegraph-Journal reported earlier this month, New Brunswick Energy Minister Donald Arseneault thinks “the 12-year lows facing natural gas prices could buy the province more time to get the industry right – that’s of course if the province decides to go in that direction.”

Says Mr. Arseneault: “In terms of lifting – or not – the moratorium (on shale gas development), even if there is down time, it gives people more time to get better educated with the issues. . .and it will give government more time to review the report submitted to us by no later than March 31.”

He refers, specifically, to the research his department has commissioned from a three-person panel on the environmental, social and economic efficacy of hydraulic fracturing in the province. The question now becomes: Is he kidding?

He’s right in one sense. What, exactly, is the rush? Given the industry’s pricing structures these days, we have all the time in the world to, effectively, decide not to decide, which is, after all, what this provincial government has desperately desired for this fractious issue since the beginning of its mandate.

Again, we become what we think we are. If we believe that we are, by nature, cautious and conservative, then we will rejoice in every opportunity that removes risk from the process of democratic decision-making.

Sure, let’s take this whole shale-gas thing and give it a good look-see. It’s not as if the issue matters much these days. The market has bottomed out; exploration companies are no longer testing, drilling or producing; and as for public debate, well, all is quiet on the eastern front of environmental protest.

Still, what if we applied that standard to every other challenge the province faces?

Should “wait-and-see” become the new motto we teach our children as we ask them to find their personal and professional bliss elsewhere in Canada or the world?

Should we “be” in this place or merely sleep in it?

Are we timorous or bold and forthcoming?

It’s a decision we choose for ourselves, and it always has been.

In the end, we become what we think we are.

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One thought on “Running on empty in New Brunswick

  1. Khalid Amin says:

    Good article. Stupid comments by the minister. NB has missed another opportunity which will NEVER be available again……The natgas market, capital markets and energy sector in general are bleeding to death and NB is not reallllllyyyyy top of the mind for investment.

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