The article written by Margaret Wente and published in the G&M on June 14th was alright until the last paragraph. Ms. Wente’s thesis being if fracking is OK for Obama and a great many scientists (paid by the petroleum industry) its OK for her. Then she says this,

“I’m no expert on fracking technology, and I’m in no position to evaluate the risks. I have to rely on experts for that. The real issue is whether the risks can be managed, and whether the public thinks the risks are worth the rewards. European countries such as France and Bulgaria have decided not. But we’ll have to power up our iPads somehow. Our energy needs are forecast to grow by another 15-20 per cent over the next few years. And it seems to me that tapping into a supply of cleaner, greener, abundant and reliable energy is a no-brainer.

More and faster, please.”

My problem with the article is that it doesn’t do justice to both sides of the issue. The potential benefits for allowing such an industry to flourish may well be an increase in jobs and greater access to cleaner energy sources. These are indeed laudable goals. I hate to be the one to rain on her parade but there is another side to the issue. Disturbing problems with fracking have been witnessed in the United Kingdom, The United States and in Canada. Many scientists not aligned with the petroleum industry have argued that fracking can potentially destroy fishing stocks in river systems and off shore and pollute water tables and put communities at risk because of the high volume of toxic chemicals needed for the procedure. See: http://www.canadians.org/energyblog/?p=320; and: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/blogs/vermont-becomes-first-state-to-ban-fracking and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14432401

The greatest source of disquiet and danger has to do with the future of our fresh water systems and the need to protect them. In the next number of years water will surpass oil and gas in importance for the continued viability of many countries. There are many jurisdictions in the world which are at the breaking as regards their need for an increased fresh water supply. Farcking uses obscene amounts of water and pollutes the surrounding area so that significant volumes of water are rendered unusable. Rather than allowing such procedures to provide more fossil fuels we should be protecting our most precious resource.

Margaret Wente shows an arrogant disregard for the communities that are on the front line of where fracking will happen. Her claim, “I’m no expert on fracking technology, and I’m in no position to evaluate the risks. I have to rely on experts for that. The real issue is whether the risks can be managed…” I find such an approach rather demeaning and simplistic. It is demeaning because we who have to face the potential hazards are usually the people who least have the ear of government. As we now observe, the petroleum industry has their best friends in office, the same parcel of rogues who have just gutted environmental assessment in Canada.

Her approach is simplistic because it puts unquestioning faith in a government and in an industry which have already shown themselves to be enemies of the people. Indeed, Ms Wente, you are no expert. You may well trust the Harperites and the petroleum industry where we obviously do not. But what will you do if even a portion of our concerns for the environment become realities. Will you apologize, retract your statements or hope that everyone has forgotten your incursion into an area which you should have avoided, because as you quite rightly opine, you know nothing about the issue. We unfortunately will have to live with the results. Thank you so much.