Could fracking produce another Wiebo Ludwig?
On CBC’s Edmonton AM radio show this morning, co-host Lydia Neufeld asked Alberta journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk how Wiebo Ludwig, who died on his farm just north of Hythe, Alberta on April 9 from esophagal cancer, would be remembered by Albertans.
Nikiforuk, the author of Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil, replied that he thought Ludwig would be remembered in different ways by Albertans.
Nikiforuk is right that in a province with roughly 3.7 million residents, there will be a diversity of views on the man who waged such a bitter and controversial battle against the oil and gas industry.
But I think the majority of Albertans will remember Ludwig as a terrorist who should have rotted in jail.
I’m not blogging today to pass judgement on Ludwig, though. Instead, his death got me thinking about the man and his battles with an industry that is the economic backbone of Alberta.
Whatever view you have of Ludwig, in some ways he wasn’t very different from a lot of other Albertans. He was big on being self sufficient, he was deeply religous and he had a healthy respect for nature.
Ludwig also had a problem with the industry’s habit of flaring gas, something many Albertans aren’t keen about, either. And as we reflect on Ludwig’s passing, it’s fair to wonder if Alberta could produce another Ludwig-like individual on another controversial issue – hydraulic fracturing.
While regulator’s like the Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board come to grips with an industry that is increasingly turning to fracking to unlock large stores of shale and tight gas (as well as oil), the Canadian public is growing more skittish about how safe fracking is. The practice has been blamed for contaminating drinking water and causing earthquakes.
This winter, Alberta Oil and Leger Marketing worked together on a national survey where 1,400 Canadians were asked to give us their views on a number of energy issues (a similar survey was done in 2010.)
The results of our latest survey will be released in May, and one of the subjects respondents were quizzed about was fracking.
I won’t go into any detail on what Canadians told us about fracking, but let’s just say the oil and gas industry has a lot of work to do, even in Alberta, to get the general public comfortable with this extraction technique.
In fact, the concerns surrounding fracking are so serious and industry’s outreach efforts up to know have been so inadequate, that there is a risk another reckoning is coming for the oil patch.
Thanks to fracking, the legacy of Wiebo Ludwig may live on.