Opinion

Enviro-villain of 2013: natural gas?

Matt Damon stars in Promised Land, a typical Hollywood agenda movie pounding home its anti-corporate message that the decades-old technology of
Matt Damon stars in Promised Land, a typical Hollywood agenda movie pounding home its anti-corporate message that the decades-old technology of 'fracking' will suddenly destroy the world.
— image credit: Warner Bros.

VICTORIA – They’re well on the way to stopping the expansion of oil exports to Asia. Now will B.C.’s American branch-plant environmental machine turn on natural gas?

A couple of weeks ago I described the dispute between the Haisla Nation and the rest of the Coastal First Nations group over the pioneering of liquefied natural gas development on Haisla territory at Kitimat. Powerful chiefs of the Heiltsuk, Gitga’at, Haida and others in the so-called Great Bear Rainforest oppose the idea of kicking off a new LNG export industry without extending the hydro grid to support renewable power for the region.

LNG is shaping up as B.C.’s largest-ever industrial project, if it gets built. And there are signs the American-directed environmental attack is swinging to our gas boom.

Some in the Canadian media insist no such U.S. influence exists, or that it is trivial and benign. They mock federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s description of “foreign radicals,” pretending this applies to everyone opposed to oil pipelines.

There weren’t many reporters with me when I covered the negotiations for the Great Bear Rainforest in 2006. To the Vancouver media it was just a big forest deal up in the middle of nowhere. Along with B.C. cabinet minister Pat Bell, Coastal First Nations and forest companies, the Sierra Club, ForestEthics and Greenpeace muscled their way to the table.

How they did so became clear in early 2007. Behind these big three eco-propaganda groups was a $60 million war chest from an obscure outfit called Tides Canada.

Another front group, as it turns out. The actual source of the money was the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Wilberforce Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Most made their billions in computers and software in San Francisco or Seattle. The Rockefellers are inheritors of vast oil and banking fortunes. They and other American billionaires have funded scientifically suspect campaigns such as “Yellowstone to Yukon” and “boreal forest” aimed at turning more than a third of Canada into parks. Increasingly, they are partnering with aboriginal people, particularly in B.C.

Some in B.C.’s major media have since grudgingly credited independent B.C. researcher Vivian Krause with filling in the blanks. Among many other things, she has shown that starting in 2002, these foundations began formally organizing against Canadian fossil fuel production.

When the B.C. and Canadian governments matched the $60 million Great Bear Rainforest fund for “ecosystem-based” forest management, they didn’t realize they were reinforcing a blockade against oil exports. Tides and its backers have continued to fund and create new protest groups, which are quoted as they pop up by credulous B.C. media.

Their argument against oil exports centres on the sexy but false premise that Alberta’s “tar sands” somehow uniquely threaten the global climate. Lately, as the size of B.C.’s gas development has become clearer, the protests have started to refocus.

Now we hear dire claims about the decades-old technique of “fracking” in gas development, and previously obscure groups are springing up to protest gas projects.

Hollywood is about to gas us with an anti-fracking movie starring Matt Damon. Previews suggest that Promised Land works the usual evil-greedy-capitalist themes, in the Avatar tradition. Recent history suggests that Canadian fracking will be seen as particularly problematic.

ForestEthics, Sierra Club and Greenpeace, meanwhile, are campaigning against their original forest preservation deal on B.C.’s Central and North Coast. Sustainable development solutions aren’t good for their business model. If people think a problem is solved, they stop sending money.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is surging ahead with its own shale oil and gas boom. Plans are underway for LNG exports from the U.S. to Asia.

I think 2013 would be a good year for Canada to start making its own decisions on energy development.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

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