Rich Coleman, right, B.C. minister for natural gas development, with industry representatives for a tour of an LNG facility in the town of Kitimat.Province of British Columbia
The provincial government has resisted revealing its own numbers for future emissions. For months, opposition politicians have complained that it has ducked questions and dragged its feet responding to freedom of information requests.
B.C.’s Ministry of Natural Gas and Development declined to make a representative available for an interview. An emailed statement emphasizes B.C.’s aim to supply international markets with the cleanest-burning fossil fuel available.
“China has decided to increase the use of natural gas in its energy supply to 8.3 percent,” the statement reads. “This is expected to displace some of the growth in coal-fired electricity and could avoid 93 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s one-and-a-half times B.C.’s total GHG emissions.”
One of Canada’s most vocal proponents for the Alberta oil and now B.C. LNG is Ezra Levant, a political commentator who has a new book on fracking coming out in May. He describes fracking and horizontal drilling technologies as “miraculous” developments that have allowed the United States to approach energy independence.
“For those that believe in the theory of man-made global warming, it’s also been amazing because natural gas has about half the global warming impact — if you’re worried about that sort of thing — as coal,” he says. “The United States … is one of the greatest reducers of greenhouse gas emissions because of fracking.”
Levant claims the same reduction in emissions could occur north of the border.
The key factors are regulation and technology, according to Mark Jaccard, a B.C.-based climate scientist who has worked with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Nearly a decade ago, he published a book, “Sustainable Fossil Fuels,” which he’s still learning lessons from — namely, that dirty technologies don’t have to be dirty.
“There does not need to be methane leakage [in LNG operations],” Jaccard says. “I remember when we thought we had to have sulfur emissions when we used fossil fuels. No, you just regulate it, and we did regulate it.”
Thomas Pedersen, executive director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Change Solutions, similarly emphasizes that LNG facilities will need to power their operations with renewable forms of energy and not natural gas, as most do.
“If you can do that, we’ll be ahead of the game, and we will make progress on climate change,” he says. “If we don’t, then we will not achieve the targets that we need to achieve as a human species.”