Natural gas from the Grand Banks
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