Shale gas has been opposed by environmental groups, by local communities, by First Nations, and by regional, state, and national governments. We expect that in the long run, the environmental and financial benefits of shale gas and oil will prove irresistible. In the meantime, however, much of the opposition can be addressed and won over through understanding of the concerns raised, and by addressing them directly. We have found that most groups (although not all) have genuine concerns about their own well-being, and that countering this with promises of wealth has limited success. It is more important to educate without exaggeration, to inform the stakeholders of the real issues and also point out the exaggerations and distortions of the shale opponents.
A case in point is our experience in British Columbia, in which environmental groups oppose shale because development and export of the shale gas resources would cause the province to lose its status as carbon neutral. Indeed that would happen. To counter this concern, we argue that local action is best predicated on global thinking. Even if British Columbia loses its carbon neutral designation, if the mining and export of shale gas can significantly reduce the use of coal in China and thereby lead to an overall reduction in global carbon emissions, then the development of shale resources in Canada is the environmentally proper approach to take.
We find that many (although not all) environmental groups are sensitive to this approach. Perhaps more importantly, having a valid environmentally-sensitive answer to the anti-shale arguments is effective in reducing the influence of alarmists and others who are exploiting fear of the new technologies. We believe that the key to success in the environmental community is respect of their views and concerns, and honesty and objectivity. We must first address environmental issues; when the local groups are aware of the global warming and air pollution benefits of shale, then they can be told of the financial opportunities.