As almost everyone in BC knows our Liberal government is betting the bank on Liquefied Natural Gas. They claim that this fossil fuel is going to make BC “debt free”, provide numerous “well-paying jobs” and “reduce greenhouse gases.”
Unfortunately no one knows if the first two claims will be true. The third claim is false and the government undoubtedly knows this. It appears that when governments see billions of dollars of economic ‘development’ they tend to ignore the destruction of our planet.
The facts on natural gas
Natural gas does produce less CO2 than coal or oil, about 44% and 29% less respectively. Note that natural gas still produces 71% of the CO2 that oil does. Here is the rest of the story that our governments have failed to mention.
Natural gas is mostly methane, a global warming gas that is much more potent than CO2. About 80 times more potent over 20 years however it does not last as long in the atmosphere as CO2 so over 100 years it is 34 times as bad and over 500 years 9 times as bad.
If natural gas is burned the 44% and 29% reductions in global warming potential that I mentioned above apply. LNG proponents think this is worth spending billions to achieve. The truth is that a large (vast) amount of unburned natural gas (mostly methane) is released from leaks that occur at the wellhead, both in fracked and conventional wells and in millions of other ways. This leaked methane makes natural gas worse than coal. LNG is worse than natural gas because of the carbon associated with cooling and keeping LNG at – 260 degrees F.
Wells may leak methane when they are being drilled, operating, flaring and when abandoned. The methane leaks from valves, connections, when stored, transported, turned into LNG, on board ships, during distribution and when finally used. Ever leave your natural gas stove or barbecue on for a few seconds before lighting it? If you leave your barbecue on for 10 seconds before lighting it and it releases 5 cubic feet of natural gas then you have just release a global warming gas equal to 400 cubic feet of CO2.
It turns out that if 3% of the natural gas produced leaks out into the atmosphere natural gas is no better than coal and if more than 1% leaks out natural gas is not much better than oil. The EPA currently estimates natural gas leakage at a very convenient 1.3%. A 2013 study over gas fields in the US showed leakage at 6% to 11%. Of course the fossil fuel gangs dispute these numbers but a more recent study in Colorado showed leakage at 2.6% to 5.6%. These numbers do not include all the other distribution leakage sources but billions of small leaks add up.
The Environmental Defense Fund drove around Boston with Google in their ‘street view’ cars measuring natural gas leaks in July 2014. They found thousands of leaks, some serious. Although their focus seems to have been on the danger associated with gas explosions their study revealed that natural gas leaks are everywhere and cumulatively make natural gas worse than coal. You won’t hear that from the BC government.
The true cost of LNG
There are two other reasons why LNG is not the clean fuel that the BC government says it is. Getting the required natural gas out of the ground is a big CO2 producer. From making the thousands of machines required to extract natural gas, to the well leaks, to the CO2 produced by thousands of workers, to the fuels burned to power all the machines, to the associated aircraft flights, road building, plant building, forest destruction plus all the paper produced in Victoria, etc.
Secondly there is the CO2 produced when you produce LNG. Add up all the CO2 produced building the special ships required for LNG, operating those ships (on a typical 20-day voyage, anywhere from 2 – 6% of the total volume of LNG originally loaded is lost), building the LNG ports, the pipelines, the pumps that power the pipelines, the steel required for all this, mining all that steel, the distribution infrastructure, the energy to cool and purify massive amounts of natural gas to – 260F, etc. etc. etc. = a fuel worse than coal.
Another big consideration. Selling LNG all over the world will not reduce global warming for the same reason that you don’t save at Costco even when the products you buy are less expensive. You buy more and the same thing applies to LNG. Quite simply the export of BC LNG will NOT reduce global warming – it will make it worse!
Alternative clean energy
Of course there are better alternatives that also create jobs and energy without some of the massive downsides associated with fossil fuels. In Australia today there are more people working in solar than coal, which their greedy government eagerly promotes and exports. Wind, solar, etc. are called ‘renewables’ but the BC Conservative/Liberal government is not really interested because they don’t know what renewables can do and they are too busy pushing LNG to find out.
Already the 2 degree C global temperature rise that many countries, including Canada, agreed to, will be exceeded because like other countries we continue to increase our carbon output for the almighty dollar.
We can use far less energy and still live happy lives. We can transition to renewables and this will create many jobs. We can do a little homework and not believe the vested interests. Unions can provide better leadership and not focus on a few dirty jobs today when much cleaner long-term options can be created. Most importantly governments and the mainstream media could tell us the whole truth!