Trying to look ‘virtuous’ and ignoring the facts about natural gas costs Quebec billions in lost wealth

A few months ago, I met with a mayor who confessed to me, with his chin down, that he was very interested in being able to produce natural gas at home, but that it doesn't "look good" in Quebec.

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He’s not the only one. Of the hundred or so mayors I’ve met in recent years, most of them want to be able to get rich from the resources, but very few are taking action.

We can understand them. Convincing a city council to expose itself to criticism and to have to debate with activists with generous press coverage is not the first thing to put on your agenda in the morning.

The whole economic tragedy of Quebec is played out in this example. Rich in abundant and quality hydroelectric, mining and gas resources, Quebec should in principle be among the richest states in the world. But it prefers to give it up, for fear of tarnishing its image, that of a virtuous state, better than the others, and of course much greener.

How much does this political stance cost us? Importing all our gas from the West and Pennsylvania costs us $2 billion a year. The government forgoes annual royalties of $250 million, and every municipality that refuses natural gas escapes the modest sum of $1 million a year. One million. Per year. For the consumer, gas would be cheaper and at half the price of propane.

But what about the environment? Here again, Quebec has no good reason to say no. Clean gas, i.e. gas produced locally with little or no emissions, would allow it to emit 300% fewer emissions on the planet than the gas it consumes, which has to be transported and is produced with older technologies.

Already forced to defend its position as the best, Quebec also finds itself hostage to the dominant discourse in the media: the end of the world is coming, and environmental groups are there to explain it to us.

For the environment, for the economy, and now for reasons of energy security in a more volatile world, the Quebec government has three reasons to act.

To do so, it must stop saying that we are always the best, and assume the part of the debate that comes with the decisions that commit us. It will then see that the mayors and the population have already understood all this.

Éric Tetrault is the CEO of the Association de l’Énergie du Québec- Reversing climate change with innovation and technology.

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