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David Suzuki

British Columbia (B.C.) appears to be pinning its economic hopes on natural gas—much of it obtained by fracking. While the world should be turning from fossil fuels to cleaner energy and conservation, we’re poised to dig ourselves deeper into the climate-altering carbon hole.
 
Taking a cue from the liquidation-sale policies of the Alberta and federal governments, B.C.’s leaders want to get fossil fuels out of the ground, piped to the coast, liquefied and shipped to Asia—or wherever they can find buyers—as quickly as possible. It’s a short-sighted plan based on outmoded thinking. In the long run, it’s not good for the economy or the environment.

Whether politicians believe fossil fuel supplies are endless or can only see as far as the next election, they’re selling out our future and leaving a shattered legacy for our kids and grandkids. To start, natural gas is not the clean-energy solution it’s touted to be. According to the Pembina Institute, if only five of the 12 proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals were built on the B.C. coast, they could spew 63 million tons of carbon a year into the atmosphere—exceeding the amount now produced by the Alberta tar sands and equal to all of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. Discharged particle matter and volatile organic compounds would also be significant new sources of pollution.

Liquefying the gas for export, which requires enormous amounts of energy, isn’t the only source of greenhouse gases. Leaks–or what the industry refers to as “fugitive emissions”–during drilling, extraction and transport are also concerns. Although the B.C. Environment Ministry claims just .3 to .4 percent of gas escapes into the atmosphere, independent studies say it’s likely many times that amount.

According to an article in Nature, scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado in Boulder found leaks of methane—a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide—amounted to between four and nine percent of total production at two gas fields in the U.S.

Even the economic benefits of the province’s LNG plans are suspect. Many analysts expect price corrections, and LNG expert Peter Hughes told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the perceived windfall is “wishful thinking” because B.C. will have to compete with producers in places like Qatar, East Africa and Australia. Most of the money wouldn’t even stay in B.C., as many gas companies are from other provinces and countries. As for jobs, natural gas extraction, transport and production create relatively few compared to almost every other economic sector–including tourism, science and technology, health care, education and small business.
 
On top of that, fracking—shooting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the ground to shatter shale and release natural gas—has many other environmental consequences. It requires massive amounts of water, contaminates drinking water, damages habitat and ecosystems—even causes small earthquakes!
 
As well as seeing natural gas as an economic panacea, some argue it could be a “bridging fuel“–something cleaner than oil or coal to use while we make the transition to renewable energy. But it’s a hazard-strewn bridge, and subsidizing and investing in natural gas extraction and infrastructure without any real commitment to wean us off oil, coal and gas will only keep us on the fossil fuel road and discourage investment in clean energy and conservation.
 
The industry also relies on taxpayers’ money to subsidize it, through tax and royalty credits, and to provide water, roads and the massive amounts of energy required to liquefy the gas. And fugitive emissions from gas operations are exempt from the carbon tax. If we are really “bridging” to reduce fossil fuels, why are we subsidizing companies for their carbon costs?
 
It’s time to invest our money and human resources in long-term, innovative ideas that will create good, lasting jobs and ensure that we and our children and grandchildren continue to enjoy healthy and prosperous lives and that our spectacular “supernatural” environment is protected. We have abundant renewable resources and opportunities to conserve energy and lead the way in developing clean energy. It’s time to move forward.

Visit EcoWatch’s LNG and FRACKING and pages for more related news on this topic.

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Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy

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  • Vulcan Alex

    I hope the author uses no fossil fuel, no goods that are transported by fossil fuel and no services from folks who use fossil fuel. Of course this is not possible, and neither is a society with only renewables any time soon. Honest folks understand that some risks must be accepted not burying their heads in the sand.

    • http://www.focusink.com Nancy Denker

      Increasing our fossil fuel production is ridiculous. If we invested the same money into renewables, we would be in a much better place far sooner. The exploitation of new fossil fuel sources is delaying our conversion to a cleaner world, while speeding up climate change and geologic damage.

    • Jim Young

      I believe the gas industry has charged far ahead, drilling everything they can with existing resources, while they are still below the radar on the true scope of their rush to get it while they can. I wonder how much they could really expand given a totally free reign. I doubt they could get much more equipment on line without further reducing the price to lower than it already is.

      As far as fugitive gases, I think David Suzuki is being generous, I’ve heard they are loosing 29% the gas in the Bakken (better percentage than the old days, but terrible in the increased volume) simply because it is uneconomical to run the hundreds of thousands of miles of pipe to recover it at today’s temporarily low prices. The artificially low price also means that we are not recovering Helium, an irreplaceable strategic gas that has already been depleted at below rational market prices with the privatization of the National Helium Reserve. Thanks a lot, Christopher Cox and Clinton era legislators. Through all this they fight tooth and nail to suppress the subsidies anything like what they get for what the rest of the world sees as a more sustainable future.

      They will simultaneously trash our water resources (massive use in fracking and even more in spoiled supplies) as they also try to monopolize as much of the water as they can.

      Our oil economy got off to a slow start in 1851 and has only been around for 160 or so years total. Even if you thought it could last another 160 years, try imaging the extraction cost (and true environmental cost)that is already 3 times higher than a dozen years ago. The crap that is left is worse, and harder to extract, though the more money they throw at it, the more they can squeeze out. Are you ready for another tripling of the cost? This is a bubble that will not last very long, but can do immense damage as they cling to short term profits (and subsidies that have no justification at all.

      I’m sick of the “what, me worry,” short sighted pursuit of this particular bubble.

    • cascadian12

      There are risks and there are risks. The risk presented by climate change is EXISTENTIAL. It exceeds “normal” economic risk and will impose many trillions of dollars in costs. Insurance company data shows how much climate change is already costing them in claims and we’re only at the beginning of this ride. Climate change will also condemn millions of people to death and species to extinction, and doom our grand-children to a vastly impoverished existence. Change is not easy, but it is necessary. Quality of life can be just as high with less stuff and a lower GDP, unless we make this planet unlivable for all except tubeworms. We can live simply like our ancestors did (how did they ever do it???), but with the addition of 21st century renewable energy and information technology.

  • http://weasel.net weasel5i2

    If you believe that a TRANSPORT TERMINAL consumes/burns/emits fuel, you are mistaken, and possibly highly gullible. All a terminal does is allow a shipper to connect. You really need to do some better research.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LNG_terminals

  • Ian Hanington

    @weasel: These are processing and transport terminals, where the gas would be liquefied – very energy intensive.

    @Vulcan Alex: That is a silly argument.

    Ian Hanington
    David Suzuki Foundation

  • Schlumberger

    Mr Vulcan Alex, come to Pa. and live in the so called “sacrifice zone” where your property value has been diminished by 50% or more, your family threatened by the contamination and pollution of the air and water and then make your stupid statement about “Honest Folk”!! Your as uninformed/illinformed as all the other jerks that make those stupid statements!!!…..

  • http://www.citizensagainstlng.com Jody McCaffree

    I suggested Vulcan and Weasel do get their heads out of the sand and become better informed on this issue. The Jordan Cove LNG Export Scam in Coos Bay, Oregon, is proposing building a 420 MW power plant in order to run their plant and liquefy the natural gas so that they can ship it overseas. This is a very wasteful and polluting process. I suggest you go look at the studies listed here:
    http://citizensagainstlng.com/wp/2012/04/19/lng-dirtier-than-coal-and-land-theft-to-boot/

    We don’t need to be fracking or building more fossil fuel infrastructure. Natural Gas can be made from Biogas sources (organic waste, manure, landfills, etc) instead of from fossil fuel sources and this would eliminate many of these environmental problems and create thousands of jobs. We have plenty of biogas sources if we just look and it could be a part of a renewable energy mix:

    California cows start passing gas to the grid
    By Nichola Groom, RIVERDALE, California | Tue Mar 4, 2008
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/03/04/environment-energy-cows-dc-idUSN0440606220080304

    The data in this report –
    http://www.ilsr.org/energy/publications/energy-selfreliant-states-second-and-expanded-edition/ – suggest that every state could generate a significant percentage of its electricity with homegrown renewable energy. At least three-fifths of the fifty states could meet all their internal electricity needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders. Every state with a renewable energy mandate can meet it with in-state renewable fuels. And, as the report discusses, even these estimates may be conservative

    For examples of success already underway see:
    http://www.go100percent.org

    Thank you Mr. Suzuki for your coverage on this very important issue.

  • http://blog.shaleshockmedia.org Dory

    Natural Gas not a Bridge Fuel Anymore blog.shaleshockmedia.org/2013/02/12/natural-gas-not-a-bridge-fuel-anymore/

  • Patrick Parenteau

    Our analysis supports Dr Suzuki’s conclusion that natural gas is not a bridge to a safe climate and threatens to delay the shift to renewables and energy efficiency measures thst are critically needed within the next two decades. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2265866

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