Forestry, mining, and agriculture all made cameo appearances in this week’s throne speech, but liquefied natural gas (LNG) had the starring role.
According to the premier, over the next 30 years, taxes and royalties from LNG will allow B.C. to pay off the provincial debt, get rid of the provincial sales tax, and fund improved social services. This will supposedly be accomplished by setting up a “Prosperity Fund” consisting of natural gas royalties. The money in this fund could then be used to smooth out the boom and bust of our natural resource economy, allowing the government to achieve its fiscal goals with more consistency and certainty.
A rainy-day fund topped up from B.C.’s natural-resource revenues is a great idea, and I’ve argued for such a fund myself, but there are a few problems with the Liberals’ proposal:
1) This fund won’t be in place until 2017. That’s two elections from now!
2) Investing in LNG as the Liberals suggest will be bad for B.C.’s environment. Increasing our reliance on LNG means rapidly depleting a nonrenewable resource, permanently toxifying trillions of litres of fresh water every year, increasing the fragmentation of our land base, and releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These emissions will ensure we break B.C.’s law requiring us to reduce GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
3) It’s hard to take seriously the idea that B.C. will receive billions in additional natural gas revenue over the next 30 years. This government hasn’t been able to project natural gas revenue correctly in any of the last 10 budgets. The 2009–10 revenue from natural gas was projected to be $1.7 billion in 2007, $1.3 billion in 2008, and $522 million in the 2009 budget. Actual revenue collected in 2009–10: $464 million.
4) B.C. will be far too late into the Asian market to benefit from pricing premiums, which means that British Columbians will most likely end up subsidizing the industry instead of benefitting from it. We’ll also end up paying higher domestic prices for our own natural gas to boot.
Anyone paying attention to the unfolding saga of the global rush to export LNG to Asia knows that the premier’s 2017 LNG cure-all is snake oil, and nothing more. I pity the Liberal MLAs and candidates having to make promises for 2017 while they’re still fighting the 2013 election.
Bob Simpson is the independent MLA for Cariboo North.