The natural gas bake sale
Cool Tips for a Hot Planet
When my mom baked cookies, pies, or cakes for the church bake sale that meant less dessert for us, but it was raising money for a good cause.
That’s the line proponents use in telling us that shipping Canada’s liquified natural gas (LNG) to Asia will help those countries get off of coal, thus reducing their climate-harming emissions. Somebody’s got to do it, and it’s for a good cause.
But that self-interest cloaked in good intentions can’t stand the smell test these days.
New studies show fossil gas (or “natural” gas) is as bad as coal for the environment if you include emissions from not only burning the stuff, but also producing and transporting it. That’s because fossil gas is mostly methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The latest research by methane scientist Bob Howarth of Cornell University shows that it’s at least 24 per cent worse than coal.
Not only that, but it looks like selling off our fossil gas would bump up natural gas prices here at home. Basic economics: if supply goes down in Canada (because we’re shipping some off shore), the price goes up. That’s what U.S. utilities have been telling regulators and customers. As Rocky Mountain Power explained recently to the Wyoming public service commission in defending a 30 per cent rate hike, “the increased competition (from exports) over domestic supply has driven regional natural gas fuel prices upward.”
Then there’s our own emissions. More export terminals and pipelines increase methane leaks in addition to helping the industry boost production. A recent study calls out the 20 most “planet wrecking” countries, ranked by their plans for fossil fuel expansion from now to 2050. Canada ranks No.2, behind “planet wrecker in chief” the United States. Our expansion plans equate to opening 117 new coal plants.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned in a recent report that demand for fossil fuels will peak on or before 2030. That means all that new infrastructure will soon become stranded assets – and a huge waste of money. Not to mention that the IEA has warned we can’t afford to expand gas and oil production if we want to maintain a liveable planet.
While Canada is a top-10 emitting country, it’s true that we currently contribute less than two per cent to the world’s emissions. But the World Resources Institute puts that in perspective: of the almost 200 countries in the 2015 Paris climate accord, the combined emissions of the bottom 100 contribute only 2.9 per cent.
One final point. The flour mom used to bake those pies and cookies was a renewable resource. Wheat is planted and harvested annually. Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource that take millions of years to form naturally. We need to conserve what’s left.
When it comes to fossil fuel extraction, we’re digging ourselves into a climate hole that’s more like a cliff edge. So, what can we do about it?
Call Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson (613-995-1225) and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault (613-992-6779). Tell them to say no to any new licences or permits for pipelines or gas and oil production.
Tell the Ford government to back off expanding natural gas infrastructure in Ontario.
Remind them that the first rule of holes is to stop digging.