BC’s LNG Boom could Rival Tarsands’ Carbon Pollution
It’s a strange time in British Columbia. Just a short while ago, BC was well on its way to becoming Canada’s greenest province. A revenue neutral carbon tax applied in 2008 led to a dramatic reduction in fuel use without any adverse effects on the economy. In fact, BC’s economic picture was looking rather rosy. The province was reaping the benefits of the transition to a clean energy economy, including start-up investments and massive amounts of venture capital for green technology businesses. It seemed that the spectacular beauty of Canada’s westernmost province would be preserved with smart policies that sustained its benefits for future generations.
And then something strange happened. In 2012, the BC provincial government embarked on a plan to aggressively promote the development and export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). BC’s LNG ambitions led the government to make the Orwellian claim that natural gas was a “clean” energy source. Apparently, the BC government needed to square a very difficult circle: it’s mandated by law to source 93 per cent of its electricity from clean energy sources. It seemed that redefining “clean” was the easiest way out of this sticky situation.
As our friends at Pembina Institute point out, LNG now threatens to become a major source of carbon pollution for BC.
In fact, a conservative analysis of the BC government’s LNG revenue plans indicates that the province’s LNG boom could have a carbon footprint approaching that of the Alberta tar sands. The LNG boom could result in 73 million tonnes of carbon pollution per year by 2020. BC would also need to build up to seven LNG facilities, over 10,000 wells, and a maze of infrastructure such as new roads, pipelines and gas processing plants. Finally, it would ramp up gas exports along a pristine coastline already threatened from tar sands expansion.
To say the least, this doesn’t sound very encouraging. With the tar sands, Canada already has one unconventional fuel sector making climate goals out of reach and giving Canada a black eye on the international stage. The last thing we need is to launch full steam ahead into LNG at a time when the world is looking for ways to reduce its reliance on coal, oil and gas. This sounds dangerous even from a purely economic vantage point – the fact that most of the planet’s carbon resources can’t be burned without sending temperatures skyrocketing to dangerous levels means assets like BC’s LNG facilities could become worthless, “stranded” assets, leaving investors with an economic bubble just waiting to burst.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s to never count out the commitment to the environment of BC’s First Nations and civil society. From Clayoquot Sound to the unbroken wall of opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, there’s still time for British Columbians and all Canadians to speak out against BC’s mad dash for dirty energy.
The High Costs of Fossil Fuel Addiction
You’ve heard it all before: the world would transition to clean energy if only it didn’t cost so much. Also, depending on who you ask, pipelines and rail are touted as perfectly safe means of transporting oil and gas.
This week, a massive pipeline rupture south of Winnipeg brought the conversation around oil and gas back to reality. A TransCanada pipeline exploded, forcing the evacuation of homes and leaving area residents without heat as temperatures plunged below -20°C. Luckily, the explosion took place in a relatively isolated area and no one was injured. However, Manitoba in January is no place to be caught without heat for days on end – especially when residents are caught up in a bout of particularly frigid temperatures likely brought on by global warming.
Meanwhile, a new US study points to the danger of transporting Alberta tar sands products. The US scientists behind the study warn that there are environmental risks, regulatory holes and serious unknowns regarding the shipment of Alberta oilsands products by pipeline, rail and tanker. Essentially, it’s a question of when, not whether, another oil disaster will take place. And then there’s the question of how quickly future accidents will be detected. As it turns out, most pipeline leaks aren’t discovered through the use of high-tech sensors and remote-monitoring systems so often touted as “world-class” by energy and pipeline companies. Instead, the majority of spills are spotted by on-site workers and residents. But Big Oil doesn’t seem to care. Incredibly, they’re persisting in asking regulators not to rush oil transport safety rules even as they push for ever-increasing tar sands development.
Explosions, oil spills and climate change are the high costs of our addiction to oil, coal and gas that go unmentioned by fossil fuel companies. As events like the Manitoba explosion demonstrate, it’s high time that Canadians make the transition to clean energy solutions for these and other reasons. Not only are investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency a way out of explosions, spills and carbon pollution. They also offer other co-benefits in areas like human health, energy resilience and decentralized energy access. All of this would go a long way to making the world’s energy picture safer, more reliable and more equitable.