This week, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan gave a speech at the Gastech 2020 conference where he erroneously promoted liquified natural gas (LNG) as a sustainable and competitive resource and called on international investors to invest in Canadian LNG projects. This support for a high-emitting fossil fuel industry is contradictory to Prime Minister Trudeau's recent promise that an "ambitious green agenda" would be in the upcoming throne speech.
Forgive the pun, but I can't help but feel like the Minister is trying to gaslight us. Allow me to counter the pro-LNG propaganda the Minister is touting.
LNG is bad for the people
There are all kinds of health and environmental impacts associated with LNG, and also with the closely-related fracking industry. In brief, fracking is used to extract natural gas and the process uses millions of litres of water, pollutes groundwater, creates local health impacts for neighbours, causes fugitive emissions of methane and more. Learn more by reading this blog about the many impacts of LNG, or this report called Climate and Health Risks of Liquified Natural Gas.
There are economic and social impacts that come with this extractive industry, too. Private companies access the resources of lands stolen from Indigenous nations by getting approvals from colonial governments to do so, and Canadian colonial governments require companies to pay very little in royalties and taxes. Private companies, and specifically their executives, can get quite rich by exploiting these natural resources, while Indigenous Peoples are continuously criminalized for defending their territories and are generally afforded few of the benefits of resource development. The Canadian public gets sold short on public services we rely on because corporations don't pay their fair share in tax or royalties.
Finally, let's not forget that during the height of the COVID-19 shutdowns, natural gas projects in northern B.C. refused to shut down despite outbreaks at work camps.
LNG is bad for the climate
A common element of pro-LNG talking points is that LNG somehow magically reduces global greenhouse gas emissions. This is demonstrably false. Natural gas is primarily made up of methane, which is a hydrocarbon and powerful greenhouse gas. In B.C., where most of Canada's LNG projects are located, most of the natural gas that would be liquified comes from fracking, which is a high-emitting form of extraction and comes along with unaccounted for "fugitive" methane emissions. Liquifying natural gas is a high-energy process, and after it's liquified, it's still a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gasses when burned.
The Pembina Institute has written several reports about the climate impacts of LNG and their overwhelming message is that the proposed expansion of the LNG industry would "pose a serious challenge to Canada and B.C. making good on their climate commitments."
Minister O'Regan and the Liberal government claim to be committed to their climate targets under the Paris Agreement. These greenhouse gas reductions cannot be achieved by investing in further fossil fuel expansion like LNG. An "ambitious green agenda" isn't very green if it includes LNG (especially not when coupled with other recent government proposals like privatized transit or utilities, for example)! By touting LNG as a clean, green solution, the Liberal government is understating and obfuscating its real climate impacts.
LNG is not a safe investment, not part of a stable economy
LNG is unlikely to be the economic boon that O'Regan is making it out to be. LNG projects in Canada are already having a hard time getting financing because they aren't a solid investment. Earlier this year, Energie Saguenay in northern Quebec had its financing fall through. Goldboro LNG in Nova Scotia has had many delays due to financing and community opposition. Thirteen LNG projects in Canada have been stalled or abandoned in recent years due to a combination of the enormous start-up costs, the low price of natural gas and the global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Energy Agency, hardly a progressive or radical organization, says that for global emissions to match Paris Agreement targets, natural gas use needs to peak by 2030. This doesn't leave room for the major expansion of the industry that O'Regan is calling for. In recent months we've seen numerous fossil fuel companies reconsider oil and gas expansion due to the changing economy. This week we learned that Petronas, the fourth largest LNG exporter in the world, is cutting production globally and moving towards expanded investments in renewables in response to the changing economy.
LNG is not the way forward. Canada would be better off with a wise investment in community-driven renewable energy projects, publicly owned transportations systems and energy efficiency, all rooted in respect for the Indigenous lands upon which we live. LNG takes us further away from that bright future.
Why is LNG even being discussed? Corporate pressure.
The Canadian LNG Alliance, which evolved from the smaller B.C. LNG Alliance, has lobbied numerous federal offices to increase "natural gas trade between Canada and other nations" and "promote natural gas and LNG as a strategic tool to assist countries in meeting their energy needs." Additionally, this alliance has lobbied the federal government to support skills training for the LNG industry to ensure a steady supply of labour. This is particularly offensive when we consider two things:
Workers across the country are asking for support for a just transition towards environmentally and socially sustainable employment and to be included in making that plan, and
Renewable energy industries create many more jobs than fossil fuel based industries, and those jobs are spread geographically rather than being centralized.
OK, I get it, there's a lot of LNG propaganda out there. What now?
First, we all must keep our eyes open for this kind of propaganda in the future and ask ourselves critical questions – who really benefits from major resource extraction industries like LNG?
Next, we can help to combat LNG propaganda in public. Will you write a letter to the editor to share your perspective about what LNG would really mean for our communities?