The federal Cabinet should reject Petronas’ C$36-billion Pacific Northwest LNG project because of its “significant adverse environmental effects from greenhouse gas emissions,” a group of 90 scientists and climate specialists told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a letter released this week.
“It would be a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere,” one of the signatories, Simon Fraser University Prof. Kirsten Zickheld, told the Vancouver Sun.
“If you are in a hole, you shouldn’t dig deeper. What you should really do is start to get out of that hole. In this case, what it really means is leaving fossil fuels behind and embarking on a renewable energy trajectory.”
“As an Australian living with the consequences of gas exploitation, I know that LNG is the wrong pathway to take—from both an environmental and financial perspective,” agreed renowned Australian climate specialist Tim Flannery, chief councillor of the country’s Climate Commission.
In February, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) “estimated greenhouse gas emissions at 5.28 million tonnes for the plant on B.C.’s northwest coast near Prince Rupert, and 6.5 to 8.7 million tonnes for upstream emissions from gas extraction, processing, and transport on pipelines,” writes the Sun’s Gordon Hoekstra. “The emissions from the liquefaction plant alone would increase B.C. emissions by 8.5%, and for Canada by 0.75%.”
Project proponents, including B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak, say LNG production will offset more carbon-intensive coal generation in Asia. “In cases where you are replacing products that would’ve been dirtier, you are reducing emissions,” Polak said Monday. “You would likely only see about 3.7 megatons annually as a result of [the Pacific NorthWest facility], which is far, far below what the scientists are estimating in their letter.”
But as the federal Cabinet considers its decision on the project, Reuters columnist Clyde Russell predicts continuing price uncertainty in a global market that has so far frustrated B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s promise of a provincial economic boom built on LNG exports.
“Although LNG and crude aren’t competing fuels, there has traditionally been a strong link between them, given that long-term LNG contracts have been linked to oil prices,” Russell writes. “The decoupling of crude and spot LNG prices so far this year is likely to have both negative and positive aspects for the industry, but the overall impact is likely to be heightened uncertainty for participants.”