Matt Horne: B.C.’s LNG quiz gets failing grade

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If you’re like me, you worry that British Columbia’s government is rushing its pursuit of liquefied natural gas (LNG) development without taking the time to think through and manage the consequences, both social and environmental. The province’s new LNG awareness quiz doesn’t ease those concerns.

The quiz includes some “must-have information” for British Columbians interested in the LNG future that has Premier Christy Clark so excited. My personal favourite is the quiz’s second question:

Natural gas will continue to be an important part of the world’s future energy needs, because it is:

  • Safe
  • Clean
  • Plentiful
  • All of the above

There’s plenty more if that whets your LNG awareness appetite. Wondering why natural gas is considered clean? Check. Looking for reassurance that everything will be fine in the event of an LNG spill? You’re covered. Wondering how awesome LNG will be for B.C.’s economy? Look no further.

There aren’t any questions on how LNG may lead to world peace, cure cancer, or solve the Caramilk secret, but I’m sure those are coming in future iterations.

Jokes aside, this is a pretty depressing effort at education—if that’s what the government was actually interested in doing. An effective effort to increase collective awareness about LNG, which is how Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman describes the initiative’s intent, would tell the full story.

If LNG is coming to the province, there will undoubtedly be benefits, as the quiz goes to great lengths to explain. But there will also be significant social, economic, and environmental challenges. Whether it’s cost overruns and labour shortages that Australia’s LNG industry has grappled with, or Alberta’s reputation as an environmental laggard thanks to the oilsands, there’s no shortage of examples of what could be ahead for B.C.

In the spirit of looking at the full costs and benefits, here are a few questions I would like to see in future editions of the quiz:

  • If major LNG development compromises B.C.’s carbon pollution reduction targets, what happens to the province’s climate change strategy?
  • Faced with a significant increase in shale gas wells and the associated hydraulic fracking, how will the province safely manage water resources in northeast B.C.?
  • What is the province doing to ensure B.C. has a vibrant economy when we can’t, or decide not to, rely on LNG as an economic saviour?
  • What will the network of pipelines, roads, wellpads, and seismic lines needed to supply LNG facilities mean for the already stressed ecosystems in northeast B.C.?

Whatever your views on LNG, these questions all deserve to be addressed in a serious way by our government. Unlike in the province’s LNG quiz, however, there are no easy answers.

Comments (7) Add New Comment
another question
Instead of wasting massive amounts of electricity to liquefy gas to send to China, why don't we use the gas here in BC to generate cheap, reliable electricity for British Columbians?
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Lee L
The business case for LNG ought to be extraordinarily compelling if it is to suck large amounts of electrical capacity from the grid just to operate. Indeed, we ough to consider cheap and plentiful natural gas in BC as a competitive advantage over dirt cheap Asian labour. Nonetheless to enjoy those advantages, there must be adequate SCALE. The infrastructure ot transport, compress and distribute the gas needs VOLUME to make sense and, to some degree at least, that means export.
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John How
Here in NW B.C. [Terrace] we have a Natural Gas pipeline that gets taken out roughly every second year by slide, flood or avalanche -- for periods up to 10 days at a stretch. While it's true that burning NatGas produces some of the 'cleanest' heat around, in its raw (unburnt) state it has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 84 times that of the CO2 reference molecule. Sure, it's 'clean', but so was Zyklon-B.

For the Fossil Fools like Harper and Clark and their band-wagon full of (mostly foreign) Petro-Profiteers, I would suggest a scientific test of their claim that LNG will be innocuous -- it's a variation on the old 'Canary-in-the-Coalmine' routine.

Load'em up in their climate-controlled LNG-powered campaign bus; and give them a single test pipeline -- one leading from the exhaust pipe right into the passenger compartment. [this way we'll be using a small group of test specimens rather than our entire species]. We'll check back in a few months to see just how beneficial LNG can truly be.
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Michael Puttonen
I recently read a book that explodes the gas bubble Christy's Cowboys are blowing...

"Cold, Hungry and In The Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth" by Bill Powers

(in Print from New Society and in audiobook from PostHypnotic Press)

Christy's Cowboys will get very rich, but for the rest of us the economic damage of this fracked-gas bubble at least on par with the environmental damage. The depletion rate on the wells is so fast there is simply no money to be made after the leases have been sold and re-sold in the initial rush.
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Forest
For those interested in the real truth and consequences of LNG, I highly recommend a viewing of the documentary film "GasLand" or its sequel "GasLand 2".
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jason wilson
@another question
We do just not in large amounts. There are several smaller private or co-op generating sites in the north of the province.

@John How
The PNG line was put into service decades ago and it is a small diameter line. Do you think that a company owning a multi billion dollar pipeline isn't going to go through unpressidented efforts to eliminate down time. A one day outage would be millions of dollars, they are planning them well and will protect them. These pipelines have been in the design stage for 2-3 yrs and wont be built for another 1-2 years.
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John How
@jason Wilson
So you recommend we leave our environmental security to industrial giants who don't care a whit what happens "several decades" hence to our grandkids? Make that line #1 in your will..."to my grandkids...it was a crap shoot: Shell won, you lost, suck it up"
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