Gas processing plant at Fort Nelson

Hot gases spew from B.C. legislature

Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness shunned for speaking heresy that we may not yet have climate change totally figured out

VICTORIA – The climate debate, which all left-thinking people insist is over, has erupted in the B.C. legislature over our nascent liquefied natural gas industry.

Chilliwack-Hope B.C. Liberal MLA Laurie Throness heated things up by announcing that he’s “agnostic” on the subject of human-caused global warming. The religious terminology is intentional, he said, because this is how climate change is currently discussed – deniers, believers and so on.

Throness mentioned the inflated elephant in the room, 18 years with little or no average global surface temperature rise, even as greenhouse gas emissions keep rising around the world.

Needless to say, Green Party MLA and climate scientist Andrew Weaver was aghast at this heresy. And NDP MLAs lined up behind former Sierra Club high priest George Heyman to ridicule Throness, inadvertently proving his point about their rather nasty religious zeal.

I’m also skeptical on global warming, as regular readers will know, and so are many voting adults in Canada and elsewhere. And I agree with Throness’ main point that B.C. shouldn’t sacrifice its energy economy while the jury is still out.

Most politicians who presume to decide the fate of this vital and threatened industry have at best visited a well or plant site, and media information about the industry is often from questionable protesters. So today I’d like to provide some background on the natural gas industry, as someone who grew up with it and worked in it in northeastern B.C.

Natural gas is mostly methane, the main ingredient in farts. It is many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, which is one reason it is often flared rather than vented if it isn’t captured for use as fuel.

Raw natural gas may contain carbon dioxide, a key plant food and component of exhaled breath that has been rebranded as pollution. Gas from the Horn River Basin, one of B.C.’s largest deep shale formations, contains 10 per cent or more CO2, more than conventional gas.

B.C.’s most lucrative gas field is the Montney shale around Fort St. John, which contains nearly CO2-free gas as well as light petroleum liquids.

(This is similar to the Bakken shale in North Dakota, where American roughnecks continue to burn off vast amounts of gas to get at the more valuable light liquids. Oddly, President Barack Obama and former Canadian singer Neil Young don’t notice this.)

Weaver and the NDP are correct in their main objection, which is that the B.C. government’s new limits on CO2 from LNG production are a sham. As much as 70 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the gas industry occur before the LNG stage, which is the only thing the new rules regulate.

CO2 that comes up with gas is extracted and vented. A government-subsidized pilot project to capture and store CO2 at Spectra Energy’s operations at Fort Nelson seems to be going nowhere. Restricting LNG-related emissions is mostly a cosmetic gesture.

Environment Minister Mary Polak correctly notes that gas producers pay carbon tax. Yes, but only on the fuel they use, not “process emissions” such as flaring. Big LNG proponents plan to burn more gas to compress and cool LNG, and their greenhouse gas emissions beyond a certain limit will force them to buy carbon offsets or pay into a technology fund.

If LNG investment isn’t scared away by protests and piled-on taxes, it surely means B.C.’s greenhouse gas reduction targets are history. The question now is how much that actually matters.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

More than 1,500 people expected at Victoria peace rally for Black lives

‘To speak up, all you need is a voice and the will to be heard’

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

MISSING: High-risk woman last seen on May 25

Police are asking for the public’s help in locating Jennifer Daughinee-Mendelson

Oak Bay clinic opens virtual classes to public for fundraiser

Patient activity is up for cancer-supporting clinic during COVID-19 crisis

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

‘There is something better on the other side of this,’ says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom

Limit gun capacity to five bullets, victims group urges Trudeau government

Current limits are generally five bullets for hunting rifles and shotguns and 10 for handguns.

COVID-19: Closed B.C. businesses allowed to sell liquor stock

Sales allowed to other licensees that can reopen

Trudeau to offer premiers billions to help reopen the economy safely

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Vancouver Island First Nations gather to remember woman fatally shot by police

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council requests an independent investigation

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Most Read