Alfred Sorenson is an illusionist. As the CEO of Pieridae Energy, the company behind a proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) facility in Goldboro, Nova Scotia, he has managed to convince German banks, Canadian MPs and MLAs, his shareholders, and a handful of Mi’kmaq leaders that the project would reduce emissions and create stable jobs, and that Pieridae is experienced enough to pull it off.
Part of Sorenson’s smoke-and-mirrors show involves regularly bringing up how he was part of the management team that dreamt up the Kitimat LNG project on the west coast — the first LNG facility to be permitted in Canada.
Conspicuously, he leaves out the part of the story where Kitimat LNG was never built, and yet somehow Sorensen took home $30 million.
Now he’s taking his illusions to the federal level, asking Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mark Miller for nearly $1 billion to subsidize the Goldboro LNG.
The good news is there is still time to stop the federal government from financing Goldboro LNG. We need to make sure that rather than subsidizing LNG and deepening the pockets of Big Oil, public investments are used to fund a just transition.
What is Goldboro LNG?
Goldboro LNG is a proposed liquified natural gas facility in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia.
If successful, the project would involve first extracting natural gas in Alberta (likely through fracking) and then shipping that gas to Nova Scotia through pipelines. The gas would then be liquified at the Goldboro plant and eventually put on tankers and exported across the Atlantic Ocean to Uniper, an energy utility company in Germany.
Goldboro is planning for two liquefaction units, each producing 4.8 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year.
There are many physical, political, and financial barriers involved in getting this project off the ground. The effort and money that would be needed to bring Goldboro LNG into reality would be better spent investing in social and physical infrastructure for a just transition.
Pieridae begging for a billion
Recently leaked documents show that Pieridae has asked the federal government to provide a $925 million “grant, repayable contribution, or loan guarantee” to the company as the initial investment in Goldboro LNG.
Imagine just what could be possible with a billion dollars in a small province like Nova Scotia where the total budget is about $12.5 billion.
Here are a few options:
- Provide high-quality universal and affordable childcare system for all families that want it for almost six years
- Build 15 modern and efficient 125-bed long-term care homes (like this one built in BC)
- Reduce all post-secondary tuition by 10% for 5 years
- Increase income assistance by at least $100 per person per month for more than three years
- Directly employ 14,980 people in energy system transition for a total cost of $524 million in salaries and wages, and still have $401 million left over for other efficiency and renewables projects
In short, $1 billion could a long way if it's invested in Nova Scotia’s people and public services — rather than a dying fossil fuel industry.
The first investment in a company is generally the riskiest. And with CEO Alfred Sorenson’s track record of walking away from incomplete projects with money in his pocket, any federal government funding for Goldboro feels even riskier.
Pieridae — and the federal government — should also be aware that Nova Scotia is inhospitable ground for fracking and related infrastructure. Social movements on the east coast and across the country have organized powerfully to stop both fracking and a major west-to-east pipeline. Nova Scotia legislated a moratorium on fracking in 2014 and the proposed Energy East pipeline folded in 2018.
These movements are still very much alive today.
LNG is a climate no-go
Building the Goldboro LNG facility would increase Nova Scotia’s emissions by 3.7 megatons, or an increase of about 33%, according to energy analyst Dr. Larry Hughes. This is totally out of sync with the directive from international scientists to lower emissions and fossil fuel production, and out of line with Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin’s promise to take effective climate action.
Liquifying natural gas at Goldboro would require the extraction of natural gas using both fracking and conventional gas extraction, transportation of that fracked gas across the country through pipelines that don’t exist yet, and then cooling it to extreme temperatures, shipping it across the ocean, and then burning it for electricity and hydrogen production. Every step of this process is very energy intensive, and the company is relying on unproven carbon capture and storage technology to bring emissions to net-zero. Additionally, fracking usually results in highly potent “fugitive emissions” — emissions of natural gas that leak out from fracking projects.
Pieridae could also take a cue from Quebec, where the province’s environmental review board recently confirmed in a report that the environmental and social risks of the proposed multi-million-dollar LNG plant in Saguenay would outweigh any potential benefits.
Laying on the lobbying
Pieridae has been lobbying members of the federal government as well as staff in various federal departments to build support for Goldboro and the billion-dollar funding request. As CBC News has reported:
As recently as Feb. 4, a consultant representing Pieridae lobbied policy advisers with the federal department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development about "securing federal support" for the Goldboro LNG project, and about "securing federal recognition of the reconciliation, climate change, and job benefits" of the project.
Specifically, Pieridae has been lobbying these MPs: Mike Kelloway (Cape Breton – Canso), Sean Fraser (Central Nova), Sean Casey (Charlottetown), Geoff Regan (Halifax West), Bernadette Jordan (South Shore – St. Margarets). The company has also lobbied Export Development Canada (a frequent funder of fossil fuel projects), the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, and more.
We know that when fossil fuel lobbyists put pressure on politicians, they often get their way unless we work together to break the cozy relationship between big oil and our government. Now is the time to let our MPs know that we want a just transition, not continued investment in a fossil-fueled economy.
Take action now
To meet its export obligations to the German energy company Uniper, Pieridae has said it needs to make a final decision about the feasibility of the Goldboro LNG project by the end of June 2021. Without a $1-billion investment from the federal government, it will likely be unable to move ahead on the project.
This deadline is fast approaching, and we have an opportunity to stop the federal government from making this ill-advised investment.