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