Over the past year, a strong opposition to the exploration and exploitation of shale gas has been mounted in Québec, particularly where the industry began its drilling activities. The gas industry acted as savagely as the requirements of capitalist development allowed them to do, ignoring the concerns of affected populations.

Aided by a practically non-existent legislative and regulatory framework, the industry embarked on a mad race to identify the most easily exploitable basements without bothering to obtain the consent of the communities; they even went so far as to begin drilling without notifying the neighbourhood in advance. There was no question of paying exploration fees worthy of the name, or royalties to the provincial and municipal governments.

In short, only one goal seemed to motivate the scavengers of the gas industry: achieving the maximum profit as fast as possible. They didn’t give a damn about the concerns of those who fear the environmental impact of the process of hydraulic fracturing of the shale, or “fracking,” and its likely impact on the immediate and everyday lives of the people living in areas with new drilling.

To calm things down, the Charest government decided to hold hearings of its “Bureau d’Audiences Publiques sur l’Environnement.” That office’s report was finally released on March 8. Its main proposal is to conduct a “strategic environmental assessment” during which gas exploration could continue but the hydraulic fracturing would be prohibited, except for experimental purposes. If all goes as planned, the industry could begin exploiting shale gas within three or four years from now. Not surprisingly, the report was welcomed by the industry spokesperson, Lucien Bouchard.

Despite this diversion, the opposition to shale gas exploitation remains strong, especially in the most immediately affected areas. Organized by the “Campagne pour le Moratoire d’une Génération,” a 600-km march will start from Rimouski on May 15 and go to Montréal. The march will stop in Québec City on Sunday, May 29 where a public rally will take place (for full details, write to quebec@pcr-rcp.ca or call 418 948-7367).

The people certainly have good reasons to be sceptical of and fear the way the gas industry plans to develop this new energy source. The capitalist relations of production, based on the attainment of maximum profit and the predominance of private interests over collective ones, hinder the development of productive forces that could both meet the basic needs of the masses while being in harmony with ecosystems. The working class, when in power, will ensure that sustainable exploitation of natural resources will benefit the most, because that will be its sole interest.

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