David Suzuki: B.C.’s gas plan is a short-sighted pipe dream

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      B.C. appears to be pinning its economic hopes on natural gas—much of it obtained by fracking. While the world should be turning from fossil fuels to cleaner energy and conservation, we’re poised to dig ourselves deeper into the climate-altering carbon hole.

      Taking a cue from the liquidation-sale policies of the Alberta and federal governments, B.C.’s leaders want to get fossil fuels out of the ground, piped to the coast, liquefied, and shipped to Asia or wherever they can find buyers, as quickly as possible. It’s a short-sighted plan based on outmoded thinking. In the long run, it’s not good for the economy or the environment.

      Whether politicians believe fossil fuel supplies are endless or can only see as far as the next election, they’re selling out our future and leaving a shattered legacy for our kids and grandkids. To start, natural gas is not the clean-energy solution it’s touted to be. According to the Pembina Institute, if only five of 12 proposed liquefied natural gas terminals were built on the B.C. coast, they could spew 63 million tonnes of carbon a year into the atmosphere—exceeding the amount now produced by the Alberta tar sands and equal to all of B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. Discharges of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds would also be significant new sources of pollution.

      Liquefying the gas for export, which requires enormous amounts of energy, isn’t the only source of greenhouse gases. Leaks—or what the industry refers to as “fugitive emissions”—during drilling, extraction, and transport are also concerns. Although the B.C. Environment Ministry claims just .3 to .4 percent of gas escapes into the atmosphere, independent studies say it’s likely many times that amount.

      According to an article in Nature, scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado in Boulder found leaks of methane—a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide—amounted to between four and nine percent of total production at two gas fields in the U.S.

      Even the economic benefits of the province’s LNG plans are suspect. Many analysts expect price corrections, and U.K. LNG expert Peter Hughes told the CBC the perceived windfall is “wishful thinking” because B.C. will have to compete with producers in places like Qatar, East Africa and Australia. Most of the money wouldn’t even stay in B.C., as many gas companies are from other provinces and countries. As for jobs, natural gas extraction, transport, and production create relatively few compared to almost every other economic sector—including tourism, science and technology, health care, education, and small business.

      On top of that, hydraulic fracturing or fracking—hooting water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into the ground to shatter shale and release natural gas—has many other environmental consequences. It requires massive amounts of water, contaminates drinking water, damages habitat and ecosystems—even causes small earthquakes!

      As well as seeing natural gas as an economic panacea, some argue it could be a “bridging fuel”—something cleaner than oil or coal to use while we make the transition to renewable energy. But it’s a hazard-strewn bridge, and subsidizing and investing in natural gas extraction and infrastructure without any real commitment to wean us off oil, coal, and gas will only keep us on the fossil fuel road and discourage investment in clean energy and conservation.

      The industry also relies on taxpayers’ money to subsidize it, through tax and royalty credits, and to provide water, roads, and the massive amounts of energy required to liquefy the gas, perhaps from a new Site C dam on the Peace River. And fugitive emissions from gas operations are exempt from the carbon tax. If we are really “bridging” to reduce fossil fuels, why are we subsidizing companies for their carbon costs?

      It’s time to invest our money and human resources in long-term, innovative ideas that will create good, lasting jobs, and ensure that we and our children and grandchildren continue to enjoy healthy and prosperous lives and that our spectacular “supernatural” environment is protected. We have abundant renewable resources and opportunities to conserve energy and lead the way in developing clean energy. It’s time to move forward.

      Comments

      13 Comments

      RSK

      May 28, 2013 at 9:41pm

      Davied Suzuki says it all in the last paragraph, now it's time for the cash rich enviromental organizations to start investing those free untaxed donated monies on something real instead of fighting the government at every turn. Let's see what innovative ideas they can come up with to create new jobs and industry, why wait and lecture others, lets see how enterprising David and his band of negative conservationists. Lead the way Davied Suzuki! Oh wait, that might mean you have to think out of the box and actually earn a living instead of your regular tirade of quilt trips to old ladies and young children.

      It’s time to invest our money and human resources in long-term, innovative ideas that will create good, lasting jobs, and ensure that we and our children and grandchildren continue to enjoy healthy and prosperous lives and that our spectacular “supernatural” environment is protected. We have abundant renewable resources and opportunities to conserve energy and lead the way in developing clean energy. It’s time to move forward.

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      Lay Man

      May 28, 2013 at 11:49pm

      Would rather see jobs created from renewable technologies from our educated population than exploiting natural resources detrimental to environment. If we get good enough at it, we will be the go-to nation that other countries consult. We already have a nation of smart, educated youth we can tap into to do this....why is our government so dumb? Do they not have kids or care about well-being of future generations? Is it reluctance due to upfront capital costs of renewable technology R&D?

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      Profit

      May 29, 2013 at 7:06am

      As with all governments - past, present and future - governments are here for one thing only, to service the wealth of the economic nobility. And than god for it. Imagine the misery and destitution should our governments do otherwise. We would still be in the stone age. Only through the immediate and complete exploitation of natural resources can we maintain the standard of living we enjoy today, because if we were to stop, all wealth generated from such activities would be for the benefit of the economic nobility, and there would be nothing left for the rest. At least now, the rest of us can enjoy some of the benefits too.

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      Salvin Parnot

      May 29, 2013 at 7:18am

      RSK, you may try doing a minute's research before displaying your ignorance (which you hide behind anonymity at least). The Suzuki Foundation and others are doing lots of research on alternatives. I've read about the work Suzuki is doing with its Trottier Energy Futures Project to identify opportunities with renewable energy, for example. These organizations are helping to find solutions. What are you doing?

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      EG

      May 29, 2013 at 8:20am

      Judging by the recent election, the average voter doesn't care about the environmental damage associated with LNG or the huge subsidies requested by the industry.
      So keep the message real simple: LNG exports will double your hydro bill and double your heating bill. Then maybe they'll wake up.

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      NoLeftNutter

      May 29, 2013 at 9:41am

      Suzuki imagines himself to be carbon neutral because he can suck and blow at the same time. His carbon footprint is significantly larger than the average Canadian, he has multiple homes and 5 kids and flies around the world spreading his eco-weenie nonsense...do as he says not as he does.

      Alan Layton

      May 29, 2013 at 10:18am

      I agree with Suzuki. We should expect our elected officials to have some creativity, rather than just being ambitious, loud and boisterous. Sometimes just building 'big things' isn't enough. LNG is a huge gamble and a large drop in prices (as has happened before) could wind up increasing our debt dramatically. I don't think people realize at how expensive these projects are to begin with, so if they don't pan out we are screwed for decades to come. We should be electing people who can think outside of the box.

      Alan Layton

      May 29, 2013 at 10:20am

      NoLeftNutter: wow, what an excellent rebuttal on the problems with basing our future on LNG. Boy you sure showed Suzuki a thing or two. Impressive.

      big j

      May 29, 2013 at 10:27am

      rsk - you want davis suzuki to get a job? well he is in his 70's and retired from his previous job as the head of the genteics department at ubc, but still he still seems kinda busy, spending a lot of frivolous time producing or hosting hundreds of tv shows and documentaries, and also writing all those silly books (over 50 at last count) - not sure if he can squeeze in another job flipping burgers or chucking pipe at a frack site.

      i know you too must be very busy in your role as a fossil fuel industry stooge, or maybe just an ordinary internet troll, to have read any one of the dozens of publications by suzuki and others about "innovative ideas to create new jobs and industry" while transitioning away from fossil fuels, so who can blame you commenting on something you clearly have no comprehension of.

      good luck with those burgers.

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      lets play the numbers game

      May 29, 2013 at 3:01pm

      Because if going to put your future in media lies and Liberal schemes then get used to the reality of it all your job is on the line and your future looking pretty grim.
      In April BC unemployment was at to 7.1 percent but an election was coming around so government did some hiring of approximately 8000 employees to bring those numbers to 6.2 along with other dibious doings as BC loses 15,000 jobs that month. And what a difference an election makes as those numbers have climbed back and even higher to 7.3% above the national average as BC loses over 30,500 jobs. BC can put their trust in liars but the truth is BC is going to burnt along with the environment.