The myth of clean LNG

At a moment in time when millions of youth around the world are protesting and calling on their leaders to take action, the myths perpetuated by proponents of liquified natural gas (LNG) are manipulating the facts at the expense of the survival of future generations (and, I’d like to point out, the entire global economy).

 

A recent story in Business in Vancouver, headlined “B.C. LNG touted as cleanest in the world” begins, if protesting teens “had been invited inside” the annual Canada Gas and LNG Exhibition Conference, “they might have learned ... that there is a net benefit to [LNG] in terms of greenhouse gas reductions.”

This myth has been espoused loudly by proponents of LNG, including corporate directors and the BC NDP. And it is just that – a myth.

The argument that an LNG plant will emit less than a coal plant is equivalent to arguing that smoking five cigarettes a day, as opposed to an entire pack, is a net health benefit.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that LNG will result in a reduction of greenhouse gases overseas. In fact, LNG is more likely to be “in addition to” rather than “instead of” dirtier fuels.

LNG Canada will be the largest single point of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C. It’s also sourced via hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking causes earthquakes, leaks significant amounts of fugitive methane emissions, and contaminates water tables. The government’s own scientists have stated that we do not know the extent of the environmental implications, much less those for human health. Fracking is the primary suspect in a spike of extremely rare and lethal cancers in the very communities LNG claims to be benefiting. Doctors are actively advising pregnant women to leave these towns during their pregnancies.

Let’s also take a look at the business case of LNG Canada’s “$40 billion dollar” investment: LNG Canada itself estimates $25 billion to $40 billion for a two-phase project (only Phase 1 has been approved). Between $7 billion and $11 billion of this amount will be spent on foreign soil. And, the NDP government has given LNG Canada over $5.35 billion in tax breaks (they’ve also created a system where LNG Canada is able to avoid paying the complete carbon tax). Not to mention that the cost of worsening climate change for B.C. could be dragged into the trillions.

The 10,000 jobs that LNG Canada purports to be creating? I asked the minister of finance if there is a guarantee that these jobs will be in B.C. Her answer? No. There has also been reporting on leaked internal documents, which estimated that only 35% to 55% of the construction workforce will be British Columbians.

It’s not as if LNG development is BC’s only option for investment. A report published this week highlights that Canada’s clean energy accounts for 3% of Canada’s GDP (more than agriculture and forestry combined) and employs 298,00 people. This sector is big and growing, attracting more than $35 billion in investment in 2017 alone. The biggest and fastest-growing international markets for clean energy are China and India.

Nowhere in this debate are the environmental and health impacts, let alone the true economic costs, being given the emphasis they deserve. Canada is warming at twice the global rate. Over a million species are facing imminent extinction. We are in a planetary crisis that requires immediate action. We don’t have time for a 60-year so-called “transition phase.”

LNG might represent a path towards profits for a small group of corporations, but for British Columbians, the harm far outweighs the benefits. Millions of youth have been striking around the world this year – and it’s not because they simply fail to grasp something that a few adults “understand.” It’s because we are gambling with their futures.

Next year I hope the Canada Gas and LNG Exhibition Conference invites those teenagers inside. Instead of telling them what’s “good” for them, presenting them with incomplete analyses, it’s time for the corporations and politicians to listen and take heed.

Andrew Weaver is leader of the BC Green Party.