Premier needs to keep energy promise

There's a way to build a 'clean' LNG energy industry

By Gerald Amos and Des Nobels

We were promised a couple of important things in the last election. One was that British Columbia would have the world’s cleanest and greenest LNG industry. What does that mean? Is it actually possible?

Clean Energy Canada recently came out with a report that answers both those questions. The answers are simple: to be considered the world’s cleanest LNG, the proposed LNG plants in B.C. would have to use “outside the fence” power sources, and preferably, as much power from renewables, like wind power, as possible. Producing LNG, which involves cooling natural gas down in order to liquefy it, is one of the most energy intensive industries in the world. A large LNG plant will use about as much power as an aluminum smelter. How you produce that power, and how you use it, defines whether or not you can claim to have the greenest LNG possible.

The technology to use renewables and outside the fence power sources already exists. Other jurisdictions are doing it; it is proven and existing technology. If we can convince industry and government to implement what is already proven and the proposed LNG facilities were built to those standards, we actually could have the cleanest LNG plants in existence. Or at least as clean as other countries have insisted on. While the LNG plants themselves can be built to the highest standards, they will still be a significant source of greenhouse gasses. And questions regarding the production of the natural gas to be liquefied, issues like fracking are contentious and difficult.

Promises from politicians during elections are fragile and easily broken. Christie Clark’s government is not keeping her promise, or even trying.

They are pretty much allowing foreign energy giants to dictate what environmental standards will be used. Just as the oil companies wrote recent federal environmental legislation affecting the Tar Sands, B.C. is following the same pattern with LNG industry.

The excuse? That building the cleanest LNG industry is not “affordable”. But the Clean Energy report offers the following perspective on that: building the LNG facilities right would cost an additional 1.5 per cent. That additional cost is not enough to make B.C. LNG uncompetitive. And like all things “green” nowadays, consumers, including massive industrial consumers, are paying more for green products, including green energy. The potential exists to actually make more money by simply doing it right.

So the question that really needs answering is “Why wouldn’t you build the LNG production capacity right?”

One obvious answer to that is simply the world’s current economic model requires companies to make as much profit as possible in the shortest time frames, regardless of the consequences to local communities.

It’s the same model that is driving Rio Tinto Alcan to try to persuade us to accept a massive increase in deadly sulphur dioxide pollution in our local airshed, and it’s the model that drives Enbridge and the Alberta oil industry to actually tell us that they could clean up an oil spill on our coast when everyone knows that’s a ridiculous claim.

Clean Energy Canada does not take a position for or against LNG development; they simply lay out the options for B.C. What they do propose is not some radical environmental agenda – it is exactly what Christy Clark promised us, the cleanest LNG in the world.

And that closely mirrors what Coastal First Nations proposed some time ago – building permanent renewable energy sources in our region that will be a legacy for centuries, instead of doing what’s convenient for foreign gas companies. Building an energy infrastructure that could make this region a center for responsible development, not the poster child for broken promises, and road kill for Enbridge and Alberta oil companies.

Maybe it’s time we should insist that a promise is a promise. Maybe being able to tell your grandkids that we stood for what’s right, and made leaders keep their promise, will be something to be proud of.

We don’t have to settle for less than the best. We don’t have to accept broken promises.

Tell Christy Clark to keep her promise.

Gerald Amos from Kitamaat Village works for the environmental information project called the Headwaters Initiative and Des Nobels from Prince Rupert works for the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation.