Gas processing plant at Fort Nelson

Hot gases spew from B.C. legislature

Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness shunned for speaking heresy that we may not yet have climate change totally figured out

VICTORIA – The climate debate, which all left-thinking people insist is over, has erupted in the B.C. legislature over our nascent liquefied natural gas industry.

Chilliwack-Hope B.C. Liberal MLA Laurie Throness heated things up by announcing that he’s “agnostic” on the subject of human-caused global warming. The religious terminology is intentional, he said, because this is how climate change is currently discussed – deniers, believers and so on.

Throness mentioned the inflated elephant in the room, 18 years with little or no average global surface temperature rise, even as greenhouse gas emissions keep rising around the world.

Needless to say, Green Party MLA and climate scientist Andrew Weaver was aghast at this heresy. And NDP MLAs lined up behind former Sierra Club high priest George Heyman to ridicule Throness, inadvertently proving his point about their rather nasty religious zeal.

I’m also skeptical on global warming, as regular readers will know, and so are many voting adults in Canada and elsewhere. And I agree with Throness’ main point that B.C. shouldn’t sacrifice its energy economy while the jury is still out.

Most politicians who presume to decide the fate of this vital and threatened industry have at best visited a well or plant site, and media information about the industry is often from questionable protesters. So today I’d like to provide some background on the natural gas industry, as someone who grew up with it and worked in it in northeastern B.C.

Natural gas is mostly methane, the main ingredient in farts. It is many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, which is one reason it is often flared rather than vented if it isn’t captured for use as fuel.

Raw natural gas may contain carbon dioxide, a key plant food and component of exhaled breath that has been rebranded as pollution. Gas from the Horn River Basin, one of B.C.’s largest deep shale formations, contains 10 per cent or more CO2, more than conventional gas.

B.C.’s most lucrative gas field is the Montney shale around Fort St. John, which contains nearly CO2-free gas as well as light petroleum liquids.

(This is similar to the Bakken shale in North Dakota, where American roughnecks continue to burn off vast amounts of gas to get at the more valuable light liquids. Oddly, President Barack Obama and former Canadian singer Neil Young don’t notice this.)

Weaver and the NDP are correct in their main objection, which is that the B.C. government’s new limits on CO2 from LNG production are a sham. As much as 70 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the gas industry occur before the LNG stage, which is the only thing the new rules regulate.

CO2 that comes up with gas is extracted and vented. A government-subsidized pilot project to capture and store CO2 at Spectra Energy’s operations at Fort Nelson seems to be going nowhere. Restricting LNG-related emissions is mostly a cosmetic gesture.

Environment Minister Mary Polak correctly notes that gas producers pay carbon tax. Yes, but only on the fuel they use, not “process emissions” such as flaring. Big LNG proponents plan to burn more gas to compress and cool LNG, and their greenhouse gas emissions beyond a certain limit will force them to buy carbon offsets or pay into a technology fund.

If LNG investment isn’t scared away by protests and piled-on taxes, it surely means B.C.’s greenhouse gas reduction targets are history. The question now is how much that actually matters.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police arrest suspect in two daytime robberies

A robber told businesses he had a weapon and demanded cash

‘We need to do better:’ VicPD responds to more parties, gatherings

Chief pleads with public to ‘think of the greater good’

Flurries fall on Malahat Monday morning

Showers expected off and on for rest of the day

What Victoria residents are looking to buy while social distancing

New search terms pop up on the Used.ca the top 100 list

Thieves haul off with copper piping from University of Victoria renovation

Oak Bay police pull drug-impaired driver of Hummer off the road

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

24,000 Canadian Forces members ready for COVID-19 response: Defence Minister

No direct requests made by premiers yet, national defence minister says

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Most Read