B.C. Energy Minister Michelle Mungall debates in the B.C. legislature, March 26, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. VIEWS: Hippie pseudoscience leaks into our NDP government

Energy minister clings to urban myths about gas drilling

Letters are going to parents of B.C. public school students this week, seeking consent for a new round of vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella (a less serious illness sometimes called German measles).

More than 20 cases of measles have been detected in B.C., as this once-vanquished virus has again spread from underdeveloped countries like the Philippines. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Education Minister Rob Fleming are preparing mandatory vaccination registration for schools next fall, to get B.C.’s “herd immunity” back up to a level where diehard anti-vaccination parents don’t put at risk the few who have genuine medical reasons not to be protected.

Dix avoids talking about “anti-vaxxers,” as they are known in today’s post-literate culture. This is because efforts to educate people who have seized on false information peddled by celebrities, online quacks or their own friends have tended to backfire.

It’s called “confirmation bias,” where people only accept information that supports their pre-determined conclusions. You can now see this in politics and media daily. People speak of “my truth,” as if everyone can design their own version of reality.

I encountered a troubling example of hippie pseudoscience when I requested an interview with Energy Minister Michelle Mungall to ask about Green Party claims that the province’s deep-well drilling credits have meant B.C.’s natural gas is effectively being given away.

I was provided a background briefing on how gas royalties and credits work, and met Mungall at the appointed time. She changed the subject to safety of deep-well drilling and “fracking” in northern B.C., which some claim is a threat of well water contamination.

“In B.C., we’re drilling about 300 km below the surface, so below water table,” Mungall told me. “In the United States that hasn’t always been the case, and we know that from the documentary that was done called Gasland.”

I reminded her that this “documentary” was quickly debunked, because key “viral” images of people lighting their tap water on fire were captured in places where shallow coal seams have been documented for decades to dissolve methane into surface well water. That’s why the filmmaker went to places like Colorado to capture lurid images of methane-contaminated water.

I wrote about this in 2013 when David Suzuki used these images for his own anti-fracking hit piece on CBC’s The Nature of Things. Suzuki admitted that their connection to fracking is questionable, but they were such compelling images he couldn’t resist using them.

READ MORE: Research needs to catch up with B.C. gas drilling

READ MORE: B.C. industry has to pay for old gas well cleanup

Mungall’s estimate that B.C. gas wells reach 300 km deep is also wildly inaccurate. Perhaps she misspoke, but she did it twice, and she’s been energy minister for a year and a half.

In fact, the gas and petroleum liquids-rich Montney shale formation that runs under Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and into Alberta is from two to four km deep, similar to the Marcellus shale in the U.S. With proper gas well casing, that’s certainly deep enough to protect drinking water, such as the well on my family’s Dawson Creek-area farm that went down about 100 metres to reach water.

The late Bob Hunter, co-founder of Greenpeace and one of my journalism instructors in the 1980s, coined the term “mind bomb” for this kind of persuasive image. Hunter was protesting atmospheric nuclear testing at the time, not using tricks to manipulate uninformed people as today’s activists tend to do.

One such group has toured northern B.C. to use isolated cancer cases to attack gas development.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Federal Green Party leader visits Ashcroft

Elizabeth May was in town with Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon Green Party nominee John Kidder

Historic Cornwall fire lookout to get some tender loving care

Volunteers are being sought for a work bee at the lookout in August

Ashcroft resident now in his 25th year of riding to raise funds for BC Lung Association

Wayne Chorneychuk once more getting ready to ride in the Bicycle Trek for Life and Breath

Wildfire smoke can pose serious health risks

Tips to help you stay safe during the smoky summer season

Communities in Bloom judges coming to Ashcroft

All are invited to a meet and greet, where prizes for best gardens and street will be presented

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

Most Read