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BC NDP: Green light and tax breaks for a devastating new fossil fuel project

Graphic of protest against pipelines and tankers
Patrick Schreck

November 4, 2018

It is time to take the energy sector out of the hands of corporations and politicians. In the same week that the IPCC announced that immediate, “unprecedented” world-wide action can still reverse greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to keep temperatures from soaring above 1.5 degrees Celsius, the BC NDP government has given the green light and economic incentives for joint-venture LNG Canada to build a massive liquified natural gas (LNG) export facility in Kitimat, BC. This will also include the expansion of the pipelines and natural gas fracking required to feed the LNG Canada facility.

IPCC: Aggressive CO2 reduction now can avert climate catastrophe
The latest IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report makes it clear that the agreed goals of the 2016 Paris Climate Accord are currently unlikely to be met, and moreover, are themselves inadequate to avoid temperatures that could trigger runaway climate change.

However the scientific consensus of the IPCC is that it is still possible and feasible to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees or more. Staying below 1.5, compared to hitting 2.0 degrees, would mean significantly reducing the risk and severity of a litany of climate change consequences: water scarcity, drought, crop failure, food shortages, more extreme weather events, unprecedented forest fires, heat-related illness, re-establishment of once-eradicated diseases, biodiversity loss, species extinction, loss of tropical coral reefs, collapse of fish stocks, melting of polar ice sheets, and rising sea levels leading to the displacement of 10s of millions of people. There’s a lot at stake for human civilization.

The IPCC report concludes that a massive reduction of GHGs (mainly CO2 and methane) emissions needs to take place in the next 12 years. The goal must to be to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The hopeful message in the IPCC report is that staying below 1.5 degrees is both possible and feasible, but only with a massive shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewables along with significant changes in economic, industrial, and land use systems.

BC NDP: Green light and tax breaks for a devastating new fossil fuel project
So, it is breathtaking that within days of the IPCC report, the BC NDP government, side-by-side with the federal Liberal government, celebrated at the LNG Canada deal-signing event. The project is a climate and environmental disaster from beginning to end. On the ‘upstream’ end, the project will unleash a 40-year frenzy of natural gas fracking in the Montney Formation in northeast BC. More fracking will mean further dam construction and diversion of fresh water, injection of fracking chemicals into the earth and water table, and methane (a GHG worse than CO2) release as hundreds of new gas wells are fracked each year to feed the LNG Canada export facility. To transport the fuel, TransCanada Corp will construct the 670-kilometer Coastal GasLink pipeline across northern BC which will pump 2.1 billion cubic feet of fracked gas per day to the LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat. Once there, the energy-intensive liquefaction process will burn up to a third of the gas supply itself for electricity. LNG carrier ocean ships will sail up and down the Douglas Channel loaded with LNG to be delivered overseas, to be burned in factories and electricity generation plants.

LNG Canada activities will explode Paris-Accord BC’s carbon budget…
The CO2 emissions from fracking, extracting, transporting, liquifying, and shipping the natural gas for the LNG Canada project will make meeting BC’s targets of the Paris Climate Accord out of reach. In fact, LNG Canada will become BC’s single largest CO2 polluter. At full capacity, emissions would be in the range of 9–12 Mt (megatonnes) of CO2 each year — double BC’s current emissions from the oil and gas sector. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports, “The rest of BC’s economy would have to fully decarbonize to accommodate emissions from LNG Canada while staying within new legislated targets. … [These targets] permit BC economy-wide emissions of 39 Mt in 2030, falling to 26 Mt in 2040 and 13 Mt in 2050. This means the LNG Canada supply chain from wellhead to loaded ship would consume 23–31% of BC’s allowable emissions in 2030, 35–46% of 2040 emissions, and 69–92% of 2050 emissions. And don’t forget that this is intended to be new production above that of the existing natural gas industry, which was responsible for 12 Mt of emissions in 2015.”

…and add more CO2 to other carbon budgets
Heaped on top of LNG Canada’s own CO2-emitting activities, is the CO2 that will be unleashed from the fracked-and-liquified-in-BC gas shipped to and burned in overseas factories and power stations. When government decisions are made to extract fossil fuels and are reported in the media, the final CO2 emitted when the BC gas is burned outside of BC rarely gets mentioned, let alone figured into the BC carbon budget. LNG Canada is going to emit massive amounts of CO2 in order to sell a fossil fuel that will emit even more massive amounts of CO2.

Natural gas is a barrier, not a “bridge”, to a fossil-free future
Oil and gas corporations aggressively push the message that natural gas is “cleaner” than coal and oil. As vast reserves of natural gas trapped in shale formations become available to new extraction methods like fracking and horizontal drilling, the oil and gas industry is rushing in to bring natural gas to market and reap huge profits for their shareholders. The notion of natural gas being a ‘bridge’ or ‘transition’ fuel is largely an oil-industry ruse that keeps it in business while undermining the urgent move to the fossil-free economy we need. Right now natural gas is as cheap or cheaper than renewables like solar, wind, geothermal and tidal. And natural gas is forecast to get cheaper as the global oil industry expands into natural gas as new technologies, weak regulations, and government subsidies make it more and more profitable. Reuters reports that LNG Canada is “just the tip of the megaproject iceberg” of many new huge LNG projects currently being pursued by the major oil companies. Shell inked a similar  deal in Qatar just weeks before.

The old oil companies now getting behind so-called “transition” fuels are interested, not in the IPCC recommendations or stopping climate change, but in maximizing the profits from their capital investments for as long as possible. For them, the longer so-called “bridge” fuels crowd out renewables, and major conservations efforts such as public transportation expansion, the better for them and their profits.

What are we waiting for? De-privatize and democratize the energy sector!
The BC NDP government has just made this LNG exporting, pipeline building, and fracking frenzy possible with an array of economic incentives, including tax reprieves, tax subsidies, discounted electricity rates, and even a break on BC’s own carbon tax. Clearly, the strategy of relying on politicians to steer us away from climate catastrophe has failed. As have market-based strategies. It has been, rather, the market-based pursuit of profit that lies behind the climate crisis we now face.

We urgently need a socialist solution. Studies show it is possible to completely eliminate fossil-fuel use in a few decades with wide-scale conservation efforts and the intensive adoption of renewables. The logic of capitalism will not get us there. It is recklessly focused on the expanding profit making potential of corporate shareholders. Capitalism is not focused, unlike socialism, on the needs of ordinary working people or the communities and the environments they live in.

A socialist solution includes organizing together and pushing aggressively for the de-privatization and democratization of an energy sector that is in the hands of workers and communities and an energy policy that is set democratically and focussed on human needs and the environment, not profit. That starts with resisting LNG Canada and all new fossil-fuel projects as well as all continuing fossil-fuel extraction enterprises. We must reclaim democratic control and social ownership of the energy industry. Then we can restructure it through a planned and orderly transition to renewable energy under local worker and community control — including the livelihoods of current oil industry and related workers.

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