The important public discussion around the extent to which we base our economy on LNG export has been cast as a simplistic struggle between the reactionary forces of ‘no’ and the good folks who are working hard to get to ‘yes.’
This is not an issue as simple as jobs versus the environment.
No economy that wrecks the environment can create anything other than a relatively short-term economic boom. The price is a poorer long-term economy with fewer choices.
Look no further than our diminished forest industry.
Fracking uses enormous amounts of water with various mixtures that are highly polluting to blast apart the earth’s crust to release the gas. We are giving industry almost unlimited access to this precious resource.
Two problems arise. Ecologically, what is the effect of removing this much water from the environment it is sustaining?
Economically, how much subsidy does an industry require before we recognize it does not have a viable business model?
We do not know the long term effects of fracking. We do know it increases the frequency of earthquakes. We know that it massively pollutes our ground water. Who pays for this damage other than us?
New Brunswick and Ontario have placed moratoriums on fracking because these questions are unanswered. They taking a precautionary approach. Why don’t we? Why don’t we leave the gas in the ground until we know we can extract it safely?
At the other end of the proposed pipeline, more than 90 scientists recently said that one LNG project, Lelu Island, would make it impossible for BC to meet its GHG reduction targets.
We cannot reduce global warming created by fossil fuel use by selling as much of it as we can.
We are using fracked gas in BC because we have already used all our stocks of natural gas that are easily available through conventional drilling. This reality presents us with two more problems.
If we wish to export our natural gas, we are going to have to increase production and that is going to increase the ecological damage.
Second, any amount of gas that is made available for export is no longer available for BC. We need that gas.
By creating an economy based on energy export, we are weakening our domestic energy security. This is strange behaviour for a province that has historically succeeded by creating an economy based on inexpensive public energy.
China is not making this mistake. It has considerable reserves of natural gas. It is leaving them in the ground and buying Australian and Russian gas in order to conserve its own supply.
We need to copy that long-term planning for a stable energy future. Otherwise we are selling into a buyer’s market for the lowest amount of return possible. It makes no public sense! Similarly with oil, we need to increasingly sell to ourselves.
Several years ago our government created its economic development platform on LNG export. It proved a shaky platform and the Premier admitted during a recent visit to Terrace that “…everybody knows this is going to be a lot harder…”
We have learned the lessons that major economic shifts happen and that global corporations will come, if they do, only when it suits them, not us.
Why then is the government continuing to hold onto an economic strategy for us over which it has no control?
British Columbians already have Canada’s healthiest economy without LNG. We would rather continue to get to a better yes, an economy based on secure, stable, renewable energy that does not risk our environment or our society.
We would like our government to join us in this.
Robert Hart teaches social policy at UNBC.