Fueling up the Gaspe
by billybastien on October 24, 2017 - 12:21pm
Quebec’s poorest region is on the edge of growing rich. But why is the Gaspe not rich yet? Its habitants fear the unknown; will oil extraction transform their region that’s renowned for being a natural paradise. Certain sites are already being used for production, while others still serve for exploration purposes. These sites aren’t located along the coast, though there are exceptions, but rather in the hinterlands where the population don’t hear nor see what is going on. Pollution is still happening despite being invisible claim environmentalists. That is without considering the visual pollution, argues the tourism industry’s leaders. In Mario Dumont’s text entitled “Une terrible nouvelle” published September 27, 2017 in the Journal de Montréal, we learn more about the ambivalence facing oil exploration in the Gaspe peninsula. Despite all these negative side effects of oil exploration, Dumont believes it’s important to consider wether the region can actually miss out on the opportunity it has. Oil cannot be brought or created somewhere, it just sits where it is and that happens to be in the Gaspe peninsula’s undergrounds. Already blessed by nature for it’s unbelievable geology, the region’s people don’t see oil discovery as a blessing, or at least not yet. If we look at the Gaspe’s neighbours, Newfoundland and Labrador, their oil industry has brought employment and wealth back in the region and in the government’s wallet. Only in 2016 “The estimated value of production increased by 7.3% to $4.4 billion”, now picture this in the Gaspe for a moment. The region’s economy is based on two seasonal industries, tourism and fisheries, and holds the highest unemployment insurance rate. Development in petroleum exploration would diversify the economy, attract well-paid and annual jobs, and undoubtedly create hundreds of indirect jobs. The Gaspe cannot go past such an opportunity though many feel that Petrolia and Junex, the two main exploration companies interested, aren’t welcome.
Dumont continues by explaining that surprisingly no elected municipal authorities are publicly voting and campaigning for the development of petroleum exploration because they fear environment activists. Authorities are scared that activists will turn against them and consequently hurt their reputation in the community. Yet, many of them are aware of the potential economic upturn petroleum would bring to the region. A billion-dollar industry such as petroleum exploitation should be welcomed even though it has a given environmental cost. I am convinced that Gaspesians can work together to negotiate along with provincial and federal instances to assure the retention of wealth and jobs in the region, as well as limiting the environmental impact of this exploration. Similar concerns have been brought up in the past when the government first spoke about wind turbines on the region’s mountains years ago. There has been regulations regarding pollution, visual pollution, and private property implemented to protect the Gaspe’s citizens and unique landscapes. In flagship landscapes, for example, a law forbids Petrolia and Junex to settle a wind turbine park since it would visually clash with nature. Such regulations will be necessary if the two industry players want to eventually extract oil from the Gaspe, since the habitants won’t let them do whatever. Months and years of negotiation are ahead if we want this to work out for everybody, though as a young Gaspesian I can’t imagine my region being indifferent to such a chance !
To further explore the topic of oil exploration on the Gaspe peninsula, I believe it’s interesting to make further research and maybe find solutions to the issue. I found different academic articles that depict the potential impacts of oil exploration on the social, economic, and environmental spheres of a region. The first is an article entitled “Just Oil? The distribution of social and environmental impacts of oil production and consumption” found in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources. I’ve read the article quickly and it contains very interesting topics like the impacts of the different steps in petroleum production (extraction, transport, refining, etc.) as well as a set of possible solutions to better regulate the industry. Already, the information contained in here should be available to the people concerned with further oil extraction in the Gaspe. The second article is “A review of the Nigerian petroleum industry and the associated environmental problems” from the Environment systems & decisions journal. It covers the Nigerian petroleum industry, its economic benefit but also its downsides. I knew the article would be of concern for me when I read the first sentence of the abstract; “exploitation has improved the economy substantially, but with serious environmental costs”. I believe Gaspe can look at what has, or rather what has not, been done in Nigeria to better prevent and regulate the petroleum exploration activities it could host. We definitely do not want to know a similar outcome with environmental problems not yet addressed and social issues piling up. Finally, the last article I studied is “Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples”, a research article from PLOS environmental journal. I found it good since we can relate the fear of petroleum exploration in the amazon with that of the Gaspe. The article states “Without improved policies, the increasing scope and magnitude of planned extraction means that environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify.” wherein it is possible to find that the Gaspe is approximately at the same stage of petroleum exploration as the Western Amazon.