Gas processing plant at Fort Nelson

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

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Reports of student attendance ‘dwindling’ at Surrey schools: teachers’ association

STA president said he’s heard from staff that students might not attend in-person for 4th quarter

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
One man dead after shooting in Downtown Vancouver

This is Vancouver’s fifth homicide of the year

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Most Read