Opinion: Blocking a B.C. LNG plant could actually worsen climate change

Despite all the noise to the contrary, the fact is that building a liquified natural gas plant in B.C. could actually help slow climate change.

The reason is simple – climate change is a global issue. We all share the same air. If a plant is built here, B.C.’s comparatively clean natural gas could replace some of the dirty fuels currently being burned to produce electricity in China and other countries, resulting in a reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In his comments to media critical of B.C. Premier John Horgan’s trade mission to China, B.C. Green party leader Andrew Weaver claims one LNG plant would produce 9.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide pollution each year.

Weaver is overstating the emissions of the facility significantly. The actual figure is about four megatonnes, less than half of what he claims (a megatonne is one million tonnes).

China currently relies heavily on coal to produce electricity for its growing economy. The coal they use produces vastly more pollution when burned than LNG does. If China used all the LNG produced in just one B.C. plant (I’m using LNG Canada’s proposed facility for this example) to produce electricity instead of coal, it would reduce carbon emissions by a net 60 to 90 megatonnes each year. That’s 15 to 22.5 times less carbon being emitted into our air by burning the LNG from one plant instead of a similar amount of coal.

That would benefit the entire world.

While speaking with CKNW’s John McComb, Weaver seemed to suggest that B.C. can either have a future in the technology industry or the LNG industry – the truth is that B.C. can and does have both. In fact, any success in an expanding LNG industry is tied to technological innovation.

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B.C. LNG is among the cleanest in the world, because our companies and workers are committed to being part of the solution every day. They have innovated homegrown green technologies allowing them to radically reduce carbon emissions, and put those technologies to work.

By way of example, testing by a number of organizations found methane emissions at gas wells in northeast B.C. have actually declined significantly in recent years. That’s happened because B.C.’s LNG companies and workers have created technologies that capture methane, a potent greenhouse gas, before it escapes into the air. It’s important work, and innovations continue

Earlier this month, Geoscience B.C. issued a report about its new work monitoring industrial, agricultural, and landfill emissions using aerial drones, gathering data and identifying any issues so they can rapidly be addressed. They are working with the likes of NASA as well as local First Nations on the projects.

Our companies and workers have innovated dozens of such technologies, significantly reducing emissions. B.C. industry is a global leader in using technology to reduce its environmental impact.

That is a success our politicians should be celebrating.

If vested interests opposing the LNG industry in B.C. succeed in preventing an LNG plant from being built here, the reality is countries which would otherwise buy our gas will simply get fuel of some sort somewhere else. Chances are those countries won’t have the same environmental standards, including greenhouse gas regulations, that we have. This is called carbon leakage – and it is real.

The end result – B.C. loses and so does the planet.

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In the same CKNW interview, Weaver suggested B.C. is not a resource-based economy and then championed RioTinto Alcan’s multi-billion dollar upgrade of their facility in Kitimat as an example of a British Columbia business working to lower greenhouse gases. RioTinto Alcan produces aluminum for the world market – they are a resource-based business. Outside of urban centres in B.C., such as Vancouver and Victoria, the resource economy is B.C.’s past, present, and future.

It’s important to add that an LNG plant in B.C. would be significant for hundreds of families and our provincial economy. Just one plant would mean an investment of as much as $40 billion into our province – hundreds of jobs, money for hospitals and schools. First Nations communities could benefit from jobs and economic development. Threatening to topple a government trying to advance those prospects would be folly.

Just one plant would be great for our economy and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions – a true win-win. And, there’s no reason why we couldn’t build more and multiply the benefits.

Brian Cochrane is business manager for IUOE Local 115, which has more than 11,000 members in B.C. working in industries including crane and heavy equipment operation, road building, aerial firefighting, hydroelectric dam building and maintenance.

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