Green MLA Andrew Weaver challenges natural gas arguments

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      As B.C.’s first Green MLA, Andrew Weaver likens his job to that of an “honest broker”.

      The world-renowned climate scientist says so because he believes that British Columbians are being sold a bill of goods. It’s in the form of a wealthy future founded on natural gas.

      It’s a vision being pitched by the B.C. Liberal government, and according to the recently sworn-in Oak Bay–Gordon Head representative, even opposition New Democrats have bought into it.

      “My role will be to raise issues with respect to this that I think would otherwise not see the light of day,” Weaver told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview on June 11.

      On the same day, Malaysian state-owned energy company Petronas indicated that it may spend up to $16 billion on a planned project to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Prince Rupert in northwestern B.C. The announcement was hailed by Premier Christy Clark and newly minted Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman as a validation of the B.C. Liberal vision.

      However, the Wall Street Journal reported that according to Spencer Sproule, spokesperson for the Petronas project, called Pacific Northwest LNG, a final investment decision isn’t due until late 2014. Pacific Northwest LNG president Greg Kist said the same thing to the Globe and Mail last month, a fact that Weaver cited during the interview.

      “So we hear this hoopla, hurrah-hurrah with re-announcements of the potential investments, but the reality is that they have not made the final investment decisions,” Weaver said.

      A Fraser Institute study released last fall builds a case for marketing B.C.’s gas to Asia, where prices are indexed to Japan’s oil imports, making them significantly higher than those in North America.

      In “Laying the Groundwork for BC LNG Exports to Asia”, authors Gerry Angevine and Vanadis Oviedo note that Japanese buyers are paying at least $15.45 per thousand cubic feet of LNG. Western Canadian suppliers are getting the equivalent of only about $3.38 from U.S. clients.

      But Canadian producers will not get the entire price differential of more than $12 because exporting to Asia will involve costs like cooling natural gas into a liquid form that can be transported by tankers. The authors cite one industry estimate of additional earnings of $3.85 per thousand cubic feet if LNG goes to Asian markets.

      Weaver pointed out that prices in the region should be at least $10 for Canadian exports to be viable. “So the assumption here is that that natural-gas price will stay in Asia above that cost,” he said. “Now the question to me is, is that really going to be the case?”

      The Green MLA also said that he’s not buying the provincial government’s suggestion that B.C. will somehow play a dominant role in a “very competitive market” that it has yet to break in to.

      According to the Oslo-based International Gas Union representing industry players worldwide, 18 countries were exporting their gas resources as LNG as of the end of 2011. Qatar is the largest supplier, accounting for 31 percent of the 241.5 million tonnes of global LNG exports during that year.

      A leading expert on global warming, Weaver is likewise concerned that the government’s LNG aspirations will obliterate its legislated goal of reducing the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent by 2020.

      “If British Columbia moves down this path, it has no hope of meeting its regulated targets,” he said. “It would need to repeal the 2007 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act.”

      The legislation calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 43.5 million tonnes by 2020. In a study released in October 2012 titled “BC’s Legislated Greenhouse Gas Targets vs Natural Gas Development: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, author and economist Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives outlines three scenarios demonstrating that the expansion of natural-gas production and the development of an LNG industry aren’t compatible with B.C.’s climate-action program.

      The “low” scenario assumes that the natural-gas industry is going to double its 2010 emissions to at least 26 million tonnes. That would take up more than 60 percent of the province’s targeted emissions for 2020. Lee notes that this increase leaves little room for growth in all other sectors of the economy.

      Weaver can only hope that “clean” electricity from hydro, wind, and geothermal sources will power up LNG plants.

      That was the original plan laid out in February 2012, when the government unveiled its natural-gas strategy to set up three LNG plants by 2020. Five months later, it amended B.C.’s Clean Energy Act, classifying natural gas as a form of clean energy that can be used in generating electricity for LNG facilities.

      Weaver noted that although burning natural gas produces fewer emissions than burning oil or coal, it is “not clean energy”.

      As Weaver settles into his new job following his election on May 14 as B.C.’s only Green MLA, he promises to continue challenging the fundamental assumptions being made about natural gas as the stuff of prosperity for decades to come.



      gilbert marks

      Jun 13, 2013 at 10:49am

      Andrew loves to criticize others like mathematicians and retired dentists for pretending they are knowledgeable in climate science but he over and over repeats this extremely stupid statement no matter how many times he is corrected. No doubt it's because he seems to think he is an engineer.

      "burning natural gas produces fewer emissions than burning oil or coal"

      Real science peer reviewed and published in reputable journal, shows when the 75 times as potent as CO2 GHG effect of methane leaks in the natural gas system from production to delivery are included gas produces more GHG's than ooal.

      If you look on Andrew's website where he discusses nuke power he believes nuke power is an excellent option for countries like China - already cheaper than coal. With the Japanese Abe government promising to fire up all its nukes over the next two years, and finish building 3 new ones, it would seem the Asian gas market is not going to booming for long.

      Welcome to the Westminster System

      Jun 13, 2013 at 1:27pm

      Well that's all very good BUT as a single MLA within our Parliamentary Democracy in based upon the Westminster System the Majority Party is in effect a Dictatorship.

      Therefore a single dissenting MLA from the (split the Vote) Greens is about as effective as Dog Shit (I love Dogs have a couple) on the side of the Road.

      And because of this the Lying Fi-berals and the Oil 7 Gas Industry will pay as much attention to the Green Andrew as they do to Dog Shit, little to none.

      Rick in Richmond

      Jun 13, 2013 at 1:55pm

      Westminster makes a good point, but omits a better one.

      It is certainly true that our system requires the government to maintain its majority at all times. If they lose a budget vote, or a confidence motion, they're gone. Except in periods of minority government, such defeats are extremely rare.

      Thus, it may be true that Christy Clark will ignore the new MLA for Oak Bay.

      However, Dr Weaver will NOT be ignored by the voters. He has a capacity for academic objectivity, and policy disinterest, that is extremely rare in our Legislature.

      If he is smart, and holds his best fire for the most important occasions, Dr Weaver will have an audience far beyond Belleville Street, and that is all to the good.


      Jun 13, 2013 at 8:42pm

      Robo Cons and Neo-Cons who represent the Oil & Gas Industry like Crusty does (she does not represent the people) will pay as much attention to the real arguments and Science that Andrew brings as mush as they do to Dogshit.

      They have already and will continue to ignore the majority of Voters as long as they are in Office.

      Where have you been in the last Decade?

      Ni ether Gordo or Crusty ever listened to the people of BC they listen only to Industry (Oil & Gas).


      Jun 13, 2013 at 9:59pm

      Setting aside all the current arguements fail, the permits are obtained and the petronus LNG terminal is in operation...
      Why would Malaysia pay world prices for a product they own from well head to consumer. There are no laws to prevent them from running at a loss to avoid taxes and likely most royalties.
      It sounds terrific, well all be rich by 2020 but in fact its just a be happy ad so don't worry about the $62B and climbing public debt.


      Jun 13, 2013 at 10:02pm

      The same goes for the gateway pipeline. China owns everything from the ground to the consumers so why would they not operate at a loss.
      Alberta has been developing the tar sands for export for 40 years and are still running a deficit. Think about that.


      Jun 15, 2013 at 7:12am

      "Honest Broker"....
      Vote for Guy Fawkes the only man to ever enter parliament with honest intentions.

      Gas Face

      Jun 18, 2013 at 5:37pm

      Natural gas is a "clean form of energy", eh?. You wanna' drink fracking fluid?!

      Point of reason

      Jun 26, 2013 at 1:10pm

      Last I checked, both BCNDP and BCLibs were clamouring over themselves to see who could best promote the LNG sector best in BC. Looking at the results map, it seems that the BC Libs held their ground (and then some) in the entire interior of the Province.
      Most of these ridings did not have a Green candidate running so as not to get criticized for "splitting votes" in our archaic electoral system. Would have been interesting to see what would have happened in 2005 when the NDP had the ability to back the willing majority of pro-STVers (59.7% or so...).
      We are fortunate to have an MLA that stands for science and reason in Victoria despite a weakened and battered opposition and fossil fuel friendly government.
      Weaver will hold the feet to the fire of both major parties for once.