When it comes to fracking, consider the source

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I thought it would be a good idea to respond to the letter from Paul Barnes of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), printed in your Nov. 5 issue.

The letter from Mr. Barnes is wonderfully crafted. It purports to correct disinformation and present facts about the safety of extracting natural gas through the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it is more commonly known.

Mr. Barnes uses forceful and definitive language to proclaim that fracking is quite safe for the environment and for humans who reside in jurisdictions where fracking is being undertaken. His letter was printed after the provincial government’s recent interim moratorium on fracking, the latter being, to my mind, a courageous decision.

Mr. Barnes frames his letter thoughtfully and uses formal corporate prose. The reader is bound to hear in the letter the respectable opinion of a successful entrepreneur.

No doubt CAPP members have smart people working for them, and they give money to worthy charities. They sit on boards and bend the ears of governments.

Most of us respect these often laudable actions, and so when a forceful letter with conclusive language is presented in a public newspaper, these opinions tend to influence opinion. Indeed that’s what this letter is intended to do. But we would be wise to consider carefully the substance of Mr. Barnes’ claims, and other messages we get from CAPP. The latter is one of the petroleum industry associations that is currently bombarding our television media with advertisements.

CAPP, in particular, is big on promoting the tarsands. In advertisements, it shows a beautiful vista of evergreen trees surrounding a small circle of industrious workers and equipment. The voiceover describes how the tarsands industry is becoming greener.

If you actually get in a helicopter and fly over tarsands projects in Northern Alberta (as documentary filmmakers have) you see a vast, nightmarish expanse of clear-cut, devastated land, with processing facilities polluting the air, water and soil on an almost unfathomable scale.

When you see the CAPP advertisements and then see the actual tarsands operation, you get the clear message that CAPP is not beyond stretching the truth.

The petroleum industry has also been financially connected to the tiny fraction of climate science that still denies human-induced climate change. Who’s up for a last-minute vacation to the Philippines? 

So CAPP now says, “there have been no reports of drinking water contamination” in Western Canada and New Brunswick.

Maybe there is a way to thrust thousands of litres of poisonous chemicals into the ground and they never find a way into drinking water.

Count me as unconvinced on that one.

Regardless, at this early stage in terms of understanding the risks associated with fracking in Newfoundland, it is important to note that Mr. Barnes would claim that fracking is safe if it is or if it is not. Opinion manipulation is his job, not presenting facts. 


David A. Peters

St. John’s


Geographic location: Northern Alberta, Philippines, Western Canada New Brunswick Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • david
    November 15, 2013 - 11:15

    It's funny how no one ever accuses a dog owner as being a deceitful promoter of the SPCA. Or that a grocery store chain has a "hidden agenda" when it promotes healthy eating. But if the beleaguered oil industry forms a group to at least counter the never-ending eco-BS that it endures every single day around the world, by people with the mantra "the selfishly misguided end justifies any means", well that's obviously a source of outright lies. And THIS in a place where unemployment is a career, and Joey Smallwood and Danny Williams are deified. You couldn't make this stuff up.

  • Marion
    November 14, 2013 - 17:50

    Thank you Mr. Peters for this letter, you have done your homework. and you are very wise. I have heard 3 different totals from the industry re number of wells drilled: 200,.000, 175,00 and 166,000 (of course with no reported contamination). The last one was from Ted Morton, former Alberta Energy Minister in a debate on television last month. Where is the onshore to offshore, peer-reviewed, debated, proven safe-no contamination-published research papers for high volume multi stage, slick water hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling? Answer: In sterile labs and slick advertising, supported or protected by non-disclosure agreements and threats. One may have to attend Propaganda School to be able to dish out this clever rhetoric, but not to be able to recognize it.

    • david
      November 15, 2013 - 13:37

      Research that reaches or supports a conclusion that you don't want is just lies. God guard thee Newfoundland, home of the intellectual giant!

  • EDfromRED
    November 14, 2013 - 17:44

    Funny how you can find multitudes of "very highly trained and experienced, professional applied scientists" paid handsomely by cigarette companies who will swear on a stack of bibles that smoking has no adverse effects whatsoever. Where millions or billions are to be made morals and integrity are bought off at a bargain. When the pro-frackers and their scientist lackeys agree to live on fracked land and drink the water, just maybe I'll believe them.

    • david
      November 15, 2013 - 13:41

      To summarize: Witches! They're witches! Burn them! Witches!

  • david
    November 14, 2013 - 15:32

    " In advertisements, it shows a beautiful vista of evergreen trees surrounding a small circle of industrious workers and equipment." Mr. Peters: You are clearly implying one of two things.... that either this photo has been faked or tampered with, or that it does not actually show a specific location that has been reclaimed to this condition following oilsands mining. This really would be a shocking revelation, one that could almost certainly cause an immediate PR backlash throughout the world. It is unimaginable that oilsands lobbying could ever recover from the scandal. .........And yet, here we are. Crickets. Why is that, do you think? I'll give you as many guesses as you need.

  • Joe Wiseman
    November 14, 2013 - 12:05

    "Strangely enough, they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possession is a disease in them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not.They have a religion which the poor worship, but the rich will not! They even take tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own use, and fence their neighbors away from her, and deface her with their buildings and their refuse." Sitting Bull

    • david
      November 14, 2013 - 13:19

      BTW...nexct time you see him, you might want to explain to Sitting Bull how his "brothers" in North Dakota have taken like ducks to water to the evils of fracking, and are appreciating the immense wealth that comes with it, thank you very much.

    • Chantal
      November 14, 2013 - 14:13

      Yes David. It's all about money with those opponents. Unlike the industry which is all about altruism.

  • david
    November 14, 2013 - 10:53

    The headline shouts "Consider the Source". Good advice. Paul Barnes speaks for an august group of very highly trained and experienced, professional applied scientists who have spent much of their productive careers engaged in research in this field. .......Who are you ? And other than vague generalities, factless slurs lazy stereotypes, fear mongering, and an agenda of predetermined opposition, what do YOU bring to the discussion?

    • PaulStJohn's
      November 14, 2013 - 12:38

      Paul Barnes speaks for the group with the biggest incentive to downplay the environmental risks.

    • david
      November 14, 2013 - 13:04

      And this is the exact kind of baseless slander of which I posted. Thanks for the update, Dr. Einstein....and where might I find your peer-reviewed, debated, published research papers? Got any spare reprints kicking around your basement? Better yet, let me just throw out a similarly outlandish " you're a crackpot with a drug problem", and we'll call it even.

  • Tourist Operator Joe
    November 14, 2013 - 07:08

    Paul Barnes also suggested that the Tourism Industry form an alliance with CAPP similar to the one the fishery. What a joke! The oil companies band together, form the association, pay the operating costs, appoint and pay a director and all at no cost to the tourism industry. The purpose? So CAPP can spill the same garbage to operators that Paul Barnes spilled in his recent letter. So CAPP can spill the same garbage to tourism that it has been spilling to the fishery. All the while they scare or kill everything off the Grand Banks with their seismic operations and or with the chemical dispersants they use to sink the accidental discharge's of drilling mud and oil! No thanks Paul! My industry can't be bought by BIG OIL!