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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Highway 23 North to see construction delays starting this week

BC Hydro is working on a slope stabilization project near Revelstoke Dam

Tim Hortons serves up a thank you to front-line workers

On May 21 the Tim Hortons coffee truck came through Revelstoke

City of Revelstoke expects to stay on budget with $1.5 million roadworks project

Pavement, deep utility maintenance and sidewalks are in the plan for the Lowertown area

Revelstoke schools reopen

The Superintendent said 80 per cent of elementary and 40 per cent of high school students returned

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

High water levels on Shuswap Lake may close popular Canoe Beach

Rain forecast could flood entrance tunnel, city staff to evaluate

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

Summerland man rescued following ATV accident

Helicopters used to transport injured man to Kelowna for treatment

Mother bear and two cubs spotted in West Kelowna

Residents of Shannon Lake are urged to be on the look out for three bears in the area

Social justice advocate yells at Kelowna council, demands presence at Black Lives Matter rally

Heather Friesen has again taken to council chambers to make her opinion heard

Youth filmmakers tackle technology addiction, relationships, cyber-bullying

The Kelowna couple won a grant from Telus STORYHIVE

Vernon videographer captures thunderstorm

See the ‘best bits’ of Saturday’s storm

Most Read