Nat­u­ral gas from the Grand Banks

The Compass - - OPINION -

Nal­cor, the lit­tle muskrat, heard the door close, and af­ter a minute or two, a car start and then the sound of tires crunch­ing over the gravel drive­way.

Mizkat had left for the day, and he was alone with his thoughts. He had the great­est af­fec­tion for Mizkat, the pet name he called Kathy Dun­derdale, who fed and lodged him, and in the time left over was premier of New­found­land and Labrador, Canada’s rich and poor prov­ince. The great­est af­fec­tion yes, but some­times even a per­son you truly cared for could start to drive you cracked.

It wasn’t her fault, she was un­der a lot of stress, but all the same he was happy for a bit of peace when she was out of the house. From the mo­ment the woman put her foot in the door each evening, she couldn’t stop talk­ing — on the phone, on her cell phone, to the tele­vi­sion, to her­self and some­times to him. Man, was she wound up.

Mizkat didn’t know that Nal­cor had been watch­ing tele­vi­sion and cruis­ing the net ev­ery day when she was away to work. A lit­tle muskrat alone in a big house had to do some­thing to keep him­self sane.

He had picked up quite a bit of English from TV, and he could fig­ure out a lot of what he read on the In­ter­net too. Mizkat didn’t know this be­cause she had for­bid­den him use of the In­ter­net, and be­lieved he was obey­ing. Some­times he felt sorry for dis­obey­ing her, but other times he thought, “What odds. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. I’m not harm­ing her equip­ment.”

Be­cause Mizkat had no idea that Nal­cor un­der­stood most of what she said, she was not al­ways very dis­creet. Only the other day she was watch­ing a tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist in­ter­view­ing a pro­fes­sor, an econ­o­mist and an en­ergy ex­pert, when sud­denly she be­gan to shout at the tele­vi­sion. Nal­cor clapped his paws over his ears. Some things a lit­tle muskrat should not hear. Mizkat looked over and saw what he was do­ing and fell silent. She reached over and pulled his paws gen­tly away from his ears.

“I’m sorry lit­tle fel­low, I didn’t mean to scare you but I just can’t stand it. Ev­ery day there is some­body new say­ing that Muskrat Falls is a bad project. It is get­ting to be a stam­pede. It’s not just our po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents any­more. It’s smart peo­ple with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, and they are all say­ing the same thing. We didn’t ex­am­ine enough al­ter­na­tives be­fore de­cid­ing on Muskrat Falls. That we are com­mit­ted to go ahead with Muskrat, be­cause we have al­ready spent so much money that we will look like fools and wasters if we change our plan now. They are say­ing there are bet­ter, safer, cheaper ways to keep us in electricity un­til we get our hands back on the Up­per Churchill power. And you know the worst part. I’m be­gin­ning to sus­pect there may be some­thing to what they are say­ing. I know you don’t know what I’m talk­ing about, but I am be­gin­ning to be em­bar­rassed de­fend­ing our strat­egy when it may not make sense.

“The Amer­i­cans aren’t go­ing to buy our Muskrat Falls power when they can pro­duce it at home smash­ing the planet Earth to pieces to re­lease nat­u­ral gas and con­vert it to electricity. Yes, it’s an eco­log­i­cal hor­ror story, but it’s cheaper and they are Amer­i­cans.

“If Amer­i­cans don’t buy Muskrat power we will never be able to re­pay the money we bor­rowed to build the project. The Nova Sco­tians are study­ing our project un­til the end of the year be­fore com­mit­ting. New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans are go­ing to be­gin to won­der why we didn’t give our own Public Util­i­ties Board the time they needed to do the same. We are start­ing to look scared. Maybe I am, a bit. The project to bring nat­u­ral gas from the Grand Banks to Holy­rood and con­vert it to electricity for our own use is look­ing bet­ter and bet­ter, for a frac­tion of the cost.

“It’s all right here (ges­tur­ing to some draw­ings on the cof­fee ta­ble), and we never even stud­ied it.” Mizkat heaved a great sigh. “I’m beat Nal­cor, I’m go­ing to bed. An­other long day to­mor­row. Good night lit­tle fel­low.”

When he heard Mizkat’s foot­steps reach the top of the stairs, he leaned over and un­rolled the draw­ings. He looked at them for sev­eral Peter Pick­ers­gill is a writer and artist liv­ing in Sal­vage. His col­umn re­turns in two

weeks. pick­ers­gill@ mac.com

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