A Shell insider is behind LNG Canada’s disputed claim about reducing carbon pollution

Headlines of op-eds and sponsored content taken from Postmedia and the Canadian Energy Centre. Background image is handout photo of LNG Canada. Postmedia, Canadian Energy Centre screenshots, LNG Canada photo

A disputed environmental claim publicized by the fossil fuel firms backing a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in B.C. can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautioned in interviews that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Rob Seeley has been held up as an independent consultant who has demonstrated the green bona fides of natural gas coming from the proposed B.C. project, LNG Canada. The Coastal GasLink pipeline being built through unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory is meant to transport fracked gas to this terminal, where it would be liquefied, loaded onto ships and exported to Asia.

One particular claim by Seeley has taken on a life of its own. It appeared in a piece of sponsored content, or “advertorial,” that LNG Canada paid to have published in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun in 2018. The claim has been quoted by everyone from federal Conservative finance critic and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre to pro-oil and gas websites including one run by Alberta’s energy “war room,” officially known as the Canadian Energy Centre.

Seeley’s claim is that if LNG Canada can ship liquefied natural gas from B.C. to China, and the Asian nation uses it to displace its coal-generated electricity, it would reduce carbon pollution by “60 to 90 million tonnes annually” — a stunning figure that is roughly equivalent to all of B.C.’s annual emissions.

This tantalizing piece of information would seem to underpin what both the federal Liberals and Conservatives have said in support of LNG Canada: that on top of the promised jobs and economic benefits, it could also help the environment. The Trudeau government is on board, chipping in $275 million to the project, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has blasted Coastal GasLink opponents.

But there’s a catch: Seeley’s heavily quoted figure represents a disputed conclusion about the benefits of natural gas, and he says he intentionally left out real-world factors in his calculations.

Other analysts point to the fact that natural gas exploitation releases methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with coal and gas in China. What’s more, the man behind the famous figure is not just a run-of-the-mill energy consultant. LNG Canada did not return a request for comment.

Rob Seeley appears in an advertisement from Shell Canada about exploiting oil in the oilsands. Wunderman Thompson Toronto screenshot

‘I was hired by LNG Canada’

In a series of interviews with National Observer, Seeley acknowledged that much of his career was spent with Shell Canada, the subsidiary of British-Dutch firm Shell that has the largest slice of the LNG Canada joint venture. Shell owns 40 per cent, Malaysia’s Petronas owns 25 per cent, Japan’s Mitsubishi and PetroChina own 15 per cent each, and the Korea Gas Corporation owns five per cent.

Seeley said he’s a chemical engineer with 40 years of experience in energy projects like gas plants and refinery retrofits, as well as oilsands development, and emissions management. At one point, he was even featured in a TV commercial for Shell. He retired in 2013 and moved into consulting — a year before the companies behind LNG Canada formalized their joint venture.

“I was hired by LNG Canada based on my experience and the leadership roles that I had held in my Shell career, including the role of general manager, sustainable development, for Shell Canada, which included greenhouse-gas management,” Seeley said. “Although I have not been directly involved in the article that you are referring to, (the) Vancouver Sun advertorial by LNG Canada, I have been providing analysis and advice to LNG Canada regarding GHG management.”

A disputed environmental claim that has been championed by pro-fossil fuel voices can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautions that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Carol Clemenhagen@ottawaccarol

“…LNG…could reduce global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes annually, equivalent to all of B.C.’s GHG emissions in a year…” 20 elected band councils approve. 5 hereditary clan chiefs don’t. http://business.financialpost.com/wcm/c65c5619-c6ed-4593-9f78-7d3e78d7dbff 

Philip Cross and Pierre Poilievre: Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal

If protesters truly cared about the environment, they’d be demonstrating for projects like LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, not against them

business.financialpost.com

Nor are these facts mentioned by Poilievre, who used Seeley or his consulting firm and the “60 to 90” figure in two op-eds promoting the benefits of natural gas: “Taxed green tomatoes” in the Toronto Sun on July 12, 2019 and “Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal” in the Financial Post on Feb. 14, 2020, which he co-authored. Both newspapers are owned by Postmedia.

Nor are they mentioned in the Dec. 5, 2019 article posted on the website of the Alberta “war room,” titled “If you care about climate change, here’s why you should support Canadian natural gas.” Like the Poilievre articles, it just names Seeley and his consulting firm.

Another publication, the energy-industry-linked Canada Action, simply linked to the Vancouver Sun. And an article on the website of the Christian Labour Association of Canada union mentioned the “60 to 90” figure without reference to Seeley or his firm. Finally, the Conservative Party’s 2019 candidate for Ottawa Centre, Carol Clemenhagen, linked to Poilievre’s co-written article in a tweet where she also quoted the “60 to 90” figure.

It is possible Poilievre and the others did not know about Seeley’s background and his recent status with LNG Canada. “Taxed green tomatoes” links to an op-ed that Seeley contributed to the Vancouver Sun in June 2018 — six months before the LNG Canada-sponsored article appeared in the same paper — and that contains a version of the “60 to 90” claim. Like the advertorial, the op-ed does not mention Seeley’s formal associations with Shell or LNG Canada. Poilievre’s office did not return a request for comment.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tours the LNG Canada site in Kitimat, B.C. in January 2020. B.C. Government Photo

‘There’s a lot of sensitivities around it’

Seeley cautions that his “60 to 90” figure is not totally comprehensive. “I would call it a theoretical point or position,” he said.

He explained that he arrived at the figure by examining the hypothetical amount of energy that LNG Canada would produce, and then calculated what would happen if it was all offloaded in Asia and all used for producing electricity, essentially acting as a replacement for coal.

He pulled in part from International Energy Agency numbers, as well as a lifecycle analysis that he worked on in 2014-15 for Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm owned by Siemens, the manufacturing conglomerate. The report was prepared for the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade association of producers, shippers and others.

Seeley said he stands behind his calculations. “It’s still a pretty good anchor number,” he said. “I think those numbers are still strong, and in fact I think if you took a theoretical position on gas versus coal displacement for power, the numbers are probably even bigger.”

But he acknowledged his figure was “presented in a range to allow for many uncertainties in this type of analysis,” and that “there’s a lot of sensitivities around it.”

Those “sensitivities” are real-world factors, such as the fact that natural gas drilling, processing and transport releases large amounts of methane, which is 86 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 20-year period. A 2019 study in the journal Biogeosciences connected a rise in global methane levels since 2008 with the boom in fracking operations.

Scientists say this steep rise in atmospheric methane is jeopardizing the planet’s efforts to hold the global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels and slow the more extreme effects of climate change.

The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial contributor to methane emissions in Canada. The industry flares or vents methane into the atmosphere, and methane also leaks accidentally from oil and gas equipment. A 2017 peer-reviewed study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that methane leaks from B.C.’s oil and gas industry were at least two and a half times higher than provincial estimates.

Wahiba Yaici, a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said that in a straight-up comparison between natural gas and coal, coal is clearly worse. Not only is it more carbon-intensive, it also releases particulate matter when it’s burned, as well as pollutants and heavy metals linked to asthma, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Given that natural gas processing and transport releases methane, however, these sorts of comparisons are “exactly the challenge,” said Yaici, who studies how to reduce emissions from energy generation. She said converting systems to use hydrogen, which doesn’t emit carbon pollution, could be superior to either coal or natural gas.

Jinsheng Wang, another research scientist at Natural Resources Canada who studies unconventional oil and gas, confirmed that LNG could only result in less carbon pollution than coal if the methane emissions from increased natural gas exploitation were minimized.

Coal-to-gas or coal-to-renewables?

This minimization is exactly what Seeley is counting on. He acknowledged that accounting for methane is an important consideration, and the lifecycle analysis that he worked on does include an extensive description of methane leaks and how they can affect questions about carbon pollution.

But he also pointed to the Trudeau government’s commitment to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Ottawa has negotiated a draft deal with B.C. that would recognize its own methane regulations as contributing to that goal.

Foreign LNG-producing nations, like Nigeria, which signed a deal in December to boost its LNG output by over 30 per cent, won’t have such stringent regulations in place, Seeley warned.

“That’s the point that I’d really like to make. ‘Well, what about methane?’ or ‘what about this?’ or ‘what about that?’ — those questions are correct, they need to be asked. But Canada isn’t accountable for everyone else,” he said. “If we don’t develop our own highly-sustainable LNG, it just means more from Nigeria, Qatar and other places that really don’t have the same regulations. And so then we end up with carbon leakage.”

That’s not necessarily true, argued Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and University of Toronto part-time instructor who has worked on climate policy for almost 20 years.

Reuters reported last year that renewables are “set to compete on an equal footing with coal- and gas-fired electricity” in China, according to the country’s state planning agency. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has also said the average levelized cost of electricity for solar and wind is already cheaper than gas in China, and will be competitive with coal by 2026.

“Natural gas is on balance better than coal, but I think that’s no longer the only choice,” said Stewart.

“A lot of these calculations were done when it was assumed that renewables were always going to be more expensive than coal. But now in many places it’s actually cheaper to build and operate wild and solar plants than it is to buy the coal to go into a coal plant.”

The Pembina Institute conducted similar research when it examined the pollution-saving claims of the former Pacific NorthWest LNG project. The think tank concluded that LNG from B.C. “would not only compete with carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal, but also with low- and zero-emitting sources of energy, including nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind.”

The most “likely scenario,” it found, is that B.C. LNG will actually “displace clean and renewable forms of electricity, resulting in a significant increase to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

LNG Canada did not return a request for comment as to why its advertorial does not disclose Seeley’s status, background, or “sensitivities.”

The ‘bridge to nowhere’

It is also not clear what the global gas market will look like down the road. Thanks in part to the fracking boom, the world is currently awash in cheap natural gas — so cheap that, in some places like the Permian basin in Texas, gas prices have fallen to negative numbers, meaning producers are paying others to take it off their hands. They are also flaring, or burning it off, at record levels.

Seeley acknowledged the difficulty of predicting gas demand. “Actual global greenhouse gas reductions from the sale of B.C. LNG to China would depend on the end use of the gas and what it will displace or replace,” he noted.

Over the past two years, he said, China has largely used LNG for industrial heat and for residential areas, as opposed to swapping it in to coal power plants, but this would still deliver 40 per cent lower emissions on a lifecycle basis.

In the end, Stewart argued, the issue boils down to corporations attempting to lock in fossil fuel emissions for decades by building large pieces of energy infrastructure, regardless of how much LNG might actually be in demand.

“Increasingly we’re seeing renewables coming in so cheap that if you’re investing in natural gas, you’re kind of blocking out renewables,” he said. “From Greenpeace’s perspective, we need to get off fossil fuels, and LNG is a bridge to nowhere.” SOURCE

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Coastal GasLink broke B.C. pipeline rules more than 50 times

What If We’d Gone Hard for Treaties Instead of Fossil Fuels?

Our politics likely would be more stable, our economy more diversified.

Woodfibre LNG plan

An artist’s rendition of the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish, one of 20 such projects once floated, but either cancelled or yet to be built.

Weeks of national rail blockades, Indigenous relations in tatters, and an emergency agreement between Ottawa and Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. So what has been resolved?

Not much apparently. The B.C. government made it clear that it intends to push ahead with the contentious natural gas pipeline and the same route opposed by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary leadership.

How did we get in this mess and how do we get out?

As car wrecks go, this was as slow-motion as they come, political failures decades in the making. The same basic choices presented themselves to one political leader after another. Repeatedly they chose wrong or dithered.

Had they not, today’s government could enjoy stable and just relations with First Nations, partnering in a 21st-century economy that’s more clean and diversified. Instead we are mired in the consequences come home to roost.

The needless debacle of a RCMP intrusion onto Wet’suwet’en Traditional Territory is a result of successive governments failing to resolve outstanding title claims, which in the case of the Wet’suwet’en predate their 1985 court challenge to the B.C. government. This case eventually resulted in the landmark Delgamuukw decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997 articulating the nascent principle in Canadian law of Aboriginal title.

What should have happened then was the hard and necessary work on the part of elected governments to negotiate settlements with individual First Nations, consistent with direction provided by the courts.

Twenty-three years later, pitiful progress has been made. The province has treaties with only three B.C. First Nations. Fifty-seven others that signed up with the B.C. Treaty Commission process are either still laboring at the table or “not currently negotiating” — including the Wet’suwet’en. There is no free lunch as the free-marketers say and the consequences of failing to resolve title issues were on obvious display at railway crossings across the country.

The foolish bet on LNG

True, to have wagered serious provincial resources on resolving complex treaty deals would have meant a bold roll of the dice 20 years ago. But it’s not as if B.C.’s government hasn’t instead bet huge on a play that today shows little prospect of ever paying off.

Seven years ago then-premier Christy Clark won election while misleading voters about the supposed riches liquefied natural gas would bring B.C. Even as she promised that by 2017 at least three LNG plants would be generating a $100-billion savings fund, erasing all debt and employing tens of thousands of people, experts declared that to be a fantasy.

By three years ago, methane prices had collapsed 75 per cent due to a worldwide glut and Australia’s LNG industry was bleeding losses.

Today, bizarrely, B.C.’s government continues to aggressively scale up natural gas extraction on unceded lands at the very moment in history such contentious pipeline projects make the least economic sense.

Natural gas prices around the world are tanking. Natural gas royalties in B.C. have shrunk to a minuscule portion of provincial government revenue while gas production — and emissions — have ballooned.

582px version of ChristyClarkJohnHorganHands.jpg
Christy Clark and her successor BC Premier John Horgan. Both bet huge tax money and political capital in the LNG dream. Photos: BC Broadcast Consortium.

In the last ten years provincial gas production has increased 45 per cent while public revenues collapsed by over 90 per cent. With more than $380 million in provincial subsidies, the net return to taxpayers from gas production last year was only $153 million — less than 0.25 percent of Crown revenues. This supposed boom sector now provides the B.C. treasury one quarter as much money as taxing cigarettes.

According to B.C. government figures, the oil and gas sector directly and indirectly employed 12,600 people in 2019, or 0.49 percent of the provincial workforce — about the same number of people employed as couriers. Meanwhile reported emissions from well sites and pipelines now exceed that of all personal vehicles on the road in the province.

If we also include eventual emissions from burning the 52 billion cubic metres of natural gas produced in B.C. in 2017, the atmospheric burden amounts to more than 170 per cent of the entire B.C. economy.

Methane is over 20 times more powerful than CO2 in heating the atmosphere so limiting leaks over the vast and remote network of fracking facilities and pipelines is critical for fighting the climate emergency. However, peer reviewed research based on the first and only independent field sampling of well sites in northern B.C. found official estimates of fugitive methane from this supposed “green” energy are two-and-a-half times higher than reported by industry and the B.C. government.

Lead or get out of the way

The two most pressing issues facing the Canadian resource sector are honourably resolving issues of Aboriginal Title, and providing credible and predictable policies to address the climate crisis. However, various provincial governments seem to be still pretending that these imperatives do not exist.

Apart from an abysmal economic case, the CEO of Teck Resources made it clear that the absence of consistent public policy on climate change made their $20.6 billion Frontier bitumen mine project untenable. While Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sees political advantage in endless fights with Ottawa, industry instead seeks certainty. Most major fossil fuel companies have in fact been calling for predictable carbon pricing for years.

And finally now, after the Teck withdrawal and amidst the blockade crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has decided, “What I think we need to do now is have a very urgent, very serious conversation between the federal government, the provincial government, the oil sector and indeed, the whole country….”

Here in B.C., the supposed imperative of natural gas extraction is blowing both our climate goals and efforts towards Indigenous reconciliation out of the water. It is long overdue to begin an honest conversation with the B.C. public about this planet-killing sunset sector.

The $10.7 billion Site C dam was approved largely in service of a long-hyped LNG boom that so far has only resulted in one single project under construction that is years from completion.

world awash in cheap natural gas and the U.S. fracking industry will keep North American prices close to historic lows for the foreseeable future.

Much of our provincial production, meanwhile, is sold in Alberta to extract bitumen — itself a dying industry. LNG exports from Kitimat to mythically lucrative Asian markets are at least five years away — likely too late to secure global market share.

Vast amounts of monetary and political capital have been squandered on this boondoggle. When will we have the political courage to cut our losses and move on? Apparently not yet.

Likewise, there seems no likelihood of Jason Kenney’s government having an honest conversation about the future of the fossil fuel sector with Alberta’s voters. Even as private capital flees the sinking sector, he plans to throw scarce public money and pension funds at a doomed industry.

Why? Because it easier than admitting that years of overheated rhetoric to the contrary was simply untrue. Ripping up carbon pricing and picking fights with rating agencies only drives away what little investment might be interested in Alberta’s oil patch, but apparently the show must go on.

First Nations and their supporters have again reminded provincial and federal governments that resource extraction without respecting Indigenous rights is no longer acceptable. Markets have made it clear that the days of easy money thrown at fossil fuel megaprojects have also gone by the wayside, especially in the absence of credible carbon pricing.

It is the job of elected governments to provide leadership and certainty on the pressing issues of the day. Judging by the smoldering situation with First Nations in Canada and the jittery mood of investors in the resource sector, our leaders need to do better. Much better.  [Tyee] SOURCE

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How BC’s LNG Fiasco Went So Wrong

Disputed environmental claim championed by Tories comes from Shell insider

Headlines of op-eds and sponsored content taken from Postmedia and the Canadian Energy Centre. Background image is handout photo of LNG Canada. Postmedia, Canadian Energy Centre screenshots, LNG Canada photo

A disputed environmental claim publicized by the fossil fuel firms backing a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in B.C. can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautioned in interviews that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Rob Seeley has been held up as an independent consultant who has demonstrated the green bona fides of natural gas coming from the proposed B.C. project, LNG Canada. The Coastal GasLink pipeline being built through unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory is meant to transport fracked gas to this terminal, where it would be liquefied, loaded onto ships and exported to Asia.

One particular claim by Seeley has taken on a life of its own. It appeared in a piece of sponsored content, or “advertorial,” that LNG Canada paid to have published in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun in 2018. The claim has been quoted by everyone from federal Conservative finance critic and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre to pro-oil and gas websites including one run by Alberta’s energy “war room,” officially known as the Canadian Energy Centre.

Seeley’s claim is that if LNG Canada can ship liquefied natural gas from B.C. to China, and the Asian nation uses it to displace its coal-generated electricity, it would reduce carbon pollution by “60 to 90 million tonnes annually” — a stunning figure that is roughly equivalent to all of B.C.’s annual emissions.

This tantalizing piece of information would seem to underpin what both the federal Liberals and Conservatives have said in support of LNG Canada: that on top of the promised jobs and economic benefits, it could also help the environment. The Trudeau government is on board, chipping in $275 million to the project, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has blasted Coastal GasLink opponents.

But there’s a catch: Seeley’s heavily quoted figure represents a disputed conclusion about the benefits of natural gas, and he says he intentionally left out real-world factors in his calculations.

Other analysts point to the fact that natural gas exploitation releases methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with coal and gas in China. What’s more, the man behind the famous figure is not just a run-of-the-mill energy consultant. LNG Canada did not return a request for comment.

Rob Seeley appears in an advertisement from Shell Canada about exploiting oil in the oilsands. Wunderman Thompson Toronto screenshot

‘I was hired by LNG Canada’

In a series of interviews with National Observer, Seeley acknowledged that much of his career was spent with Shell Canada, the subsidiary of British-Dutch firm Shell that has the largest slice of the LNG Canada joint venture. Shell owns 40 per cent, Malaysia’s Petronas owns 25 per cent, Japan’s Mitsubishi and PetroChina own 15 per cent each, and the Korea Gas Corporation owns five per cent.

Seeley said he’s a chemical engineer with 40 years of experience in energy projects like gas plants and refinery retrofits, as well as oilsands development, and emissions management. At one point, he was even featured in a TV commercial for Shell. He retired in 2013 and moved into consulting — a year before the companies behind LNG Canada formalized their joint venture.

“I was hired by LNG Canada based on my experience and the leadership roles that I had held in my Shell career, including the role of general manager, sustainable development, for Shell Canada, which included greenhouse-gas management,” Seeley said. “Although I have not been directly involved in the article that you are referring to, (the) Vancouver Sun advertorial by LNG Canada, I have been providing analysis and advice to LNG Canada regarding GHG management.”

A disputed environmental claim that has been championed by pro-fossil fuel voices can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautions that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Carol Clemenhagen@ottawaccarol

“…LNG…could reduce global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes annually, equivalent to all of B.C.’s GHG emissions in a year…” 20 elected band councils approve. 5 hereditary clan chiefs don’t. http://business.financialpost.com/wcm/c65c5619-c6ed-4593-9f78-7d3e78d7dbff 

Philip Cross and Pierre Poilievre: Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal

If protesters truly cared about the environment, they’d be demonstrating for projects like LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, not against them

business.financialpost.com

See Carol Clemenhagen’s other Tweets

None of Seeley’s background with Shell, or the fact that he was hired by LNG Canada to provide advice on emissions, is mentioned in the Vancouver Sun sponsored article, which was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division. The news agency did not return a request for comment.

Nor are these facts mentioned by Poilievre, who used Seeley or his consulting firm and the “60 to 90” figure in two op-eds promoting the benefits of natural gas: “Taxed green tomatoes” in the Toronto Sun on July 12, 2019 and “Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal” in the Financial Post on Feb. 14, 2020, which he co-authored. Both newspapers are owned by Postmedia.

Nor are they mentioned in the Dec. 5, 2019 article posted on the website of the Alberta “war room,” titled “If you care about climate change, here’s why you should support Canadian natural gas.” Like the Poilievre articles, it just names Seeley and his consulting firm.

Another publication, the energy-industry-linked Canada Action, simply linked to the Vancouver Sun. And an article on the website of the Christian Labour Association of Canada union mentioned the “60 to 90” figure without reference to Seeley or his firm. Finally, the Conservative Party’s 2019 candidate for Ottawa Centre, Carol Clemenhagen, linked to Poilievre’s co-written article in a tweet where she also quoted the “60 to 90” figure.

It is possible Poilievre and the others did not know about Seeley’s background and his recent status with LNG Canada. “Taxed green tomatoes” links to an op-ed that Seeley contributed to the Vancouver Sun in June 2018 — six months before the LNG Canada-sponsored article appeared in the same paper — and that contains a version of the “60 to 90” claim. Like the advertorial, the op-ed does not mention Seeley’s formal associations with Shell or LNG Canada. Poilievre’s office did not return a request for comment.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tours the LNG Canada site in Kitimat, B.C. in January 2020. B.C. Government Photo

‘There’s a lot of sensitivities around it’

Seeley cautions that his “60 to 90” figure is not totally comprehensive. “I would call it a theoretical point or position,” he said.

He explained that he arrived at the figure by examining the hypothetical amount of energy that LNG Canada would produce, and then calculated what would happen if it was all offloaded in Asia and all used for producing electricity, essentially acting as a replacement for coal.

He pulled in part from International Energy Agency numbers, as well as a lifecycle analysis that he worked on in 2014-15 for Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm owned by Siemens, the manufacturing conglomerate. The report was prepared for the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade association of producers, shippers and others.

Seeley said he stands behind his calculations. “It’s still a pretty good anchor number,” he said. “I think those numbers are still strong, and in fact I think if you took a theoretical position on gas versus coal displacement for power, the numbers are probably even bigger.”

But he acknowledged his figure was “presented in a range to allow for many uncertainties in this type of analysis,” and that “there’s a lot of sensitivities around it.”

Those “sensitivities” are real-world factors, such as the fact that natural gas drilling, processing and transport releases large amounts of methane, which is at least 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. A 2019 study in the journal Biogeosciences connected a rise in global methane levels since 2008 with the boom in fracking operations.

The oil and gas industry — the largest contributor to methane emissions — flares or vents methane into the atmosphere. Methane also leaks accidentally from oil and gas equipment. A 2017 peer-reviewed study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that methane leaks from B.C.’s oil and gas industry were at least two and a half times higher than provincial estimates.

Wahiba Yaici, a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said that in a straight-up comparison between natural gas and coal, coal is clearly worse. Not only is it more carbon-intensive, it also releases particulate matter when it’s burned, as well as pollutants and heavy metals linked to asthma, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Given that natural gas processing and transport releases methane, however, these sorts of comparisons are “exactly the challenge,” said Yaici, who studies how to reduce emissions from energy generation. She said converting systems to use hydrogen, which doesn’t emit carbon pollution, could be superior to either coal or natural gas.

Jinsheng Wang, another research scientist at Natural Resources Canada who studies unconventional oil and gas, confirmed that LNG could only result in less carbon pollution than coal if the methane emissions from increased natural gas exploitation were minimized.

Coal-to-gas or coal-to-renewables?

This minimization is exactly what Seeley is counting on. He acknowledged that accounting for methane is an important consideration, and the lifecycle analysis that he worked on does include an extensive description of methane leaks and how they can affect questions about carbon pollution.

But he also pointed to the Trudeau government’s commitment to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Ottawa has negotiated a draft deal with B.C. that would recognize its own methane regulations as contributing to that goal.

Foreign LNG-producing nations, like Nigeria, which signed a deal in December to boost its LNG output by over 30 per cent, won’t have such stringent regulations in place, Seeley warned.

“That’s the point that I’d really like to make. ‘Well, what about methane?’ or ‘what about this?’ or ‘what about that?’ — those questions are correct, they need to be asked. But Canada isn’t accountable for everyone else,” he said. “If we don’t develop our own highly-sustainable LNG, it just means more from Nigeria, Qatar and other places that really don’t have the same regulations. And so then we end up with carbon leakage.”

That’s not necessarily true, argued Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and University of Toronto part-time instructor who has worked on climate policy for almost 20 years.

Reuters reported last year that renewables are “set to compete on an equal footing with coal- and gas-fired electricity” in China, according to the country’s state planning agency. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has also said the average levelized cost of electricity for solar and wind is already cheaper than gas in China, and will be competitive with coal by 2026.

“Natural gas is on balance better than coal, but I think that’s no longer the only choice,” said Stewart.

“A lot of these calculations were done when it was assumed that renewables were always going to be more expensive than coal. But now in many places it’s actually cheaper to build and operate wild and solar plants than it is to buy the coal to go into a coal plant.”

The Pembina Institute conducted similar research when it examined the pollution-saving claims of the former Pacific NorthWest LNG project. The think tank concluded that LNG from B.C. “would not only compete with carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal, but also with low- and zero-emitting sources of energy, including nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind.”

The most “likely scenario,” it found, is that B.C. LNG will actually “displace clean and renewable forms of electricity, resulting in a significant increase to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

LNG Canada did not return a request for comment as to why its advertorial does not disclose Seeley’s status, background, or “sensitivities.”

The ‘bridge to nowhere’

It is also not clear what the global gas market will look like down the road. Thanks in part to the fracking boom, the world is currently awash in cheap natural gas — so cheap that, in some places like the Permian basin in Texas, gas prices have fallen to negative numbers, meaning producers are paying others to take it off their hands. They are also flaring, or burning it off, at record levels.

Seeley acknowledged the difficulty of predicting gas demand. “Actual global greenhouse gas reductions from the sale of B.C. LNG to China would depend on the end use of the gas and what it will displace or replace,” he noted.

Over the past two years, he said, China has largely used LNG for industrial heat and for residential areas, as opposed to swapping it in to coal power plants, but this would still deliver 40 per cent lower emissions on a lifecycle basis.

In the end, Stewart argued, the issue boils down to corporations attempting to lock in fossil fuel emissions for decades by building large pieces of energy infrastructure, regardless of how much LNG might actually be in demand.

“Increasingly we’re seeing renewables coming in so cheap that if you’re investing in natural gas, you’re kind of blocking out renewables,” he said. “From Greenpeace’s perspective, we need to get off fossil fuels, and LNG is a bridge to nowhere.” SOURCE

RCMP arrest 11 more pipeline opponents on third day of Wet’suwet’en raids

An RCMP officer peers through a gate at Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en territory on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano

Using an ever-changing set of rules, RCMP in British Columbia arrested 11 opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline Saturday, the third day of raids on Wet’suwet’en Nation territory.

RCMP also continued to obstruct journalists on the remote forest road in northern B.C. where the conflict is playing out, drawing international criticism. A spokesperson for one of the nation’s five clans, Molly Wickham of Gidimt’en, said the police broke a promise not to make more arrests until after a meeting with the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

“The RCMP have come in with their guns,” said Wickham, also known as Sleydo. “They’re doing this all while we are waiting… to talk to the RCMP.”

Police are enforcing a court injunction to force the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters out of the path of the pipeline, which is planned to run through the nation’s unceded territory even though Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs haven’t consented. The tiny community has built four camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road, about 1,200 kilometres from Vancouver, as they reoccupy their unceded territory and oppose Coastal GasLink.

The raids began Thursday. With Saturday’s total included, police have made 21 arrests over three days, also temporarily detaining two journalists on Thursday and one journalist on Friday.

Saturday’s raid happened at the first camp along the road, a gathering place for supporters which is located at the 27-kilometre mark of the snowy road.

Originally, the RCMP said people were welcome to gather there, as it was outside the zone affected by the court injunction. But police extended the restricted area ⁠— known as an exclusion zone ⁠⁠— to include the 27-kilometre camp late Friday. It happened after Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters used their vehicles to block RCMP officers from leaving the area to process four pipeline opponents who were arrested that day.

In a statement, the RCMP said commanders decided to expand the exclusion zone because metal spikes on the road made several police vehicles “inoperative.”

Police were eventually able to clear the vehicles and asked everyone at the 27-kilometre camp to leave. “People can’t leave because police towed their vehicles away,” said a statement from Unist’ot’en Camp, the settlement furthest along the forest road.

Eventually, Sleydo said in a live video posted to Facebook, police agreed to meet with the hereditary chiefs at 10 a.m. and not arrest anyone at the camp until 11 a.m. But the RCMP didn’t show ⁠— instead, she added, officers surrounded the camps and made arrests at about 1:30 p.m. and blocked the chiefs from going past the four-kilometre checkpoint.

RCMP arrested 11 people as the conflict over the Coastal GasLink pipeline stretched into its third day. Meanwhile, the RCMP drew international condemnation for repeatedly violating freedom of the press. #bcpoli

In the live video, two RCMP officers from a specialized liaison team can be seen approaching a vehicle where hereditary chiefs and Wet’suwet’en supporters are assembled.

“We’re supposed to be meeting before anything happens at 27,” Sleydo says to a male officer.

“People there have been asked to leave,” says the officer, adding that he needs to get up to the camp.

“Why?” asks Sleydo. The officer walks away without answering the question, and both liaison officers hop into an RCMP truck and drive away.

Several people were also allowed to leave the camp voluntarily. They declined rides from police, choosing to walk to the four-kilometre checkpoint. Others were arrested after they barricaded themselves inside a cabin.

Earlier in the day, at about 11:20 a.m. Pacific time, officers used helicopters to get over Wet’suwet’en barriers and approach the gates of Unist’ot’en Camp. Unist’ot’en is the largest and oldest camp, home to a $2-million healing centre.

“Unist’ot’en matriarchs and indigenous supporters went into ceremony and refused to speak to police,” read a statement from the camp. As they burned the injunction, a traditional funeral pyre was lit with a homemade flag on top reading, ‘Reconciliation is Dead.’”

The RCMP left the area in their helicopters just after noon, Unist’ot’en reported.

Unist’ot’en Camp@UnistotenCamp

Feb 8, 2020, RCMP officers landed at @UnistotenCamp by helicopter. Chiefs, house members called on ancestors & held cremation ceremony for Canadian/Indigenous . Copy of CGL injunction burned. After 30 mins, RCMP left.

Embedded video
RCMP under fire for blocking freedom of the press

RCMP temporarily blocked reporters from getting through the four-kilometre mark, despite a statement to the contrary on Friday night. After waiting for an hour and a half, CBC reporter Chantelle Bellrichard said on Twitter that she had been allowed in, only to have RCMP hold her back and block her view of arrests at 27-kilometre.

“Increasingly frustrating to do our job on the ground and have never had to argue for press freedoms so strenuously,” Bellrichard tweeted.

RCMP have repeatedly impeded reporters on the road. In a statement Saturday, the online media outlet Ricochet said its journalist on the ground, Jerome Turner, was “continuously” detained during an RCMP raid on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint Friday, at the 44-kilometre mark of the road.

Police detained Turner in a ditch 60 feet from where officers were arresting people, Ricochet said.

“This ditch was in a location where Turner could not connect to the internet, and he was not allowed to get to a location where he could get a signal and send updates to his editors,” the statement said.

“As a result, he was out of contact for eight hours yesterday, with his editors unsure of his status or safety.”

Later, Turner agreed to leave. But RCMP detained him again and prevented him from going to the blockade at the 27-kilometre camp, only releasing him after the vehicles in the road had been towed.

Earlier, on Thursday, journalists were told they’d be arrested if they recorded tactical officers holding guns or officers smashing a truck window to make an arrest, tweeted Jesse Winter, a reporter on assignment for Vice.

The continuous infringements on press freedom have been condemned by the international Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Canadian Association of Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and Amnesty International.

The RCMP have declined to provide a map showing what’s inside the exclusion zone. Though the RCMP previously said any journalists in the area would be arrested, the force walked that statement back Friday following condemnation from the Canadian Association of Journalists and others.


Matriarchs and supporters at Unist’ot’en Camp burned a copy of a court injunction meant to clear them out of their traditional territory on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano

Coastal GasLink, explained

The controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline is owned by TC Energy, a Calgary-based energy company formerly known as TransCanada Corp. If built, the 670-kilometre pipeline would cut through Wet’suwet’en territory to bring natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the proposed LNG Canada facility in Kitimat, B.C., for processing and export.

Under Wet’suwet’en law, hereditary chiefs from five clans have authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory. The hereditary chiefs have repeatedly opposed Coastal GasLink.

But TC Energy touts agreements it’s made with elected Wet’suwet’en band councils, which were created under Canada’s colonial Indian Act. The elected councils have jurisdiction over reserve lands but not the area adjacent to the pipeline.

The hereditary chiefs’ land claim is backed by a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision. But a second trial ordered by the court hasn’t yet happened and many aspects of the dispute are still unresolved.

Last year, RCMP enforcing an earlier court injunction violently arrested 14 people at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint. Documents later revealed by the Guardian showed that officers had been prepared to use lethal force.

In the aftermath of that raid, the hereditary chiefs said they were concerned about safety and agreed to allow GasLInk in for pre-construction work on the pipeline. But the hereditary chiefs evicted the company shortly after a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted Coastal GasLink the second injunction on Dec. 31.

The RCMP began steadily increasing police presence on Wet’suwet’en territory on Jan. 13, putting up a blockade at the 27-kilometre mark of the road. Officers poured into the surrounding towns as they prepared to enforce the second injunction.

Though the hereditary chiefs and the province agreed last week to seven days of talks to de-escalate the situation, the discussions broke down Tuesday night. The next day, the RCMP warned they would begin enforcing the injunction imminently.

The first round of raids began hours before dawn Thursday. Officers with the court injunction in hand stormed a media camp and supply post at the 39-kilometre mark of the road, arresting four.

Officers arrested six more during Friday’s raid on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, the result of a seven-hour standoff that left the camp still standing.

Police had also tried to get people barricaded inside a trapping cabin off the road near Gidimt’en Checkpoint to leave Friday. “Heavily armed” officers tried again Saturday, but Unist’ot’en said the people inside that cabin remained inside.

The six people arrested Thursday were released without charges, while the four arrested Friday will have their first court appearance Monday in the nearby town of Smithers, B.C., Unist’ot’en Camp said.

The situation has been condemned by the B.C. Human Rights Commission, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Meanwhile, solidarity demonstrations have played out across the country since Thursday, with Wet’suwet’en supporters blocking highways and major rail lines ⁠— including the VIA Rail route between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. SOURCE

Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1,650 per Canadian. It’s got to stop.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vow to phase out ‘inefficient’ subsidies for coal, oil and gas still hasn’t happened — despite the escalating costs of the climate emergency

Alberta's oilsands North of Fort McMurray.

According to a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, Canada subsidized the fossil fuel industry to the tune of almost $60 billion in 2015 — approximately $1,650 per Canadian.

Yet subsidizing one of the world’s wealthiest industries is folly.

Such subsidies not only hurt Canadian taxpayers and the economy — they also exacerbate the climate emergency.

Indeed, the G20 countries have already agreed that subsidizing fossil fuels is irrational in a warming world — and have called for action to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that distort markets.

The problem is that subsidies encourage the production and wasteful consumption of fossil fuels all while impeding the shift to cleaner renewables.

For these reasons, during the last election campaign Justin Trudeau sensibly committed to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

The problem is that government has not yet delivered on this promise.

A new 2019 report by Canada’s Auditor General reveals government’s review of such subsidies is “incomplete and not rigorous,” is “not based on all relevant and reliable information” and “did not consider economic, social and environmental sustainability over the long term.”

Canada continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry in myriad ways. First, it provides tax breaks under the federal Income Tax Act. For example, in 2015 the federal government introduced a new accelerated depreciation rate for equipment used in LNG facilities, which was a change proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Encana gas wellA natural gas well pad with numerous wells for fracking near Farmington, B.C. The LNG industry in British Columbia is the recipient of numerous tax breaks and exemptions. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Second, government provides funding to the fossil fuel industry at favourable rates through direct financing and loan guarantees. A recent example is Export Development Canada’s administration of a nearly $5 billion loan to support the government’s controversial purchase and operation of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Ottawa has no plan to recoup that principal cost from industry — and is also subsidizing half the interest expense with taxpayer dollars.

Third, Canada provides direct funding to the fossil fuel industry through research, development and other services provided by federal agencies.

For example, the federal government is paying $1.5 billion for the Oceans Protection Plan, an initiative to safeguard bitumen transport through the Port of Vancouver. This plan was necessitated by new oil tanker traffic — and should be paid for by oil shippers.

Justin Trudeau Trans Mountain Oceans Protection PlanPrime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Victoria in April of 2018 to reiterate the federal government’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline and commitment to the Oceans Protection Plan. Photo: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Finally, there is the $60 billion subsidy that the IMF focused on — the “social costs” of carbon that governments pay, instead of fuel producers.

Lacking adequate carbon taxes, governments continue to pick up the tab for the impacts of climate change — for example, repairing damage from extreme weather events, building new levees, sea walls and storm sewers and paying for wildfire control and increased health costs.  MORE

 

Youth Activists Tell Washington “We’re Coming for You” on Climate Change


Sabirah Mahmud speaks at the Philadelphia Youth Climate Strike in March 2019.YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE

This crisis will take away our ability to live unless we do something,” Sabirah Mahmud, a 16-year-old youth climate organizer, told me earlier this month.

I had invited Mahmud — the Pennsylvania director for Youth Climate Strike, a national youth-led organization committed to climate justice for marginalized communities in the U.S. and globally — to share her thoughts on the climate crisis. As we sat together on a shaded patio in West Philadelphia in the muggy September weather, Mahmud turned to me with a look of determination on her face and explained why youth leadership is essential for the climate justice movement.

“We have a right to a future, and now that future is in jeopardy,” she told me. “We have all of these big dreams and we are always being asked: ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ I can’t have a response to that question because of this crisis. I don’t even know if we will have a future or what kind of future that will be.”

Alongside Mahmud are hundreds of other youth climate organizers in Pennsylvania who are striking from school as part of Fridays for Future, taking to the streets in acts of dissent against the fossil fuel industry, developing protest art, educating the public, and demanding decision-making power in domestic and international deliberations about the fate of the planet.

Reil Abashera, a 16-year-old high school student and resident of Philadelphia, decided to join the struggle when she learned of the scientific reality of the climate crisis and understood the urgency of this moment.

“We don’t have 10 years to turn things around,” Abashera told me. “We have 18 months.”

The fact that these conversations are taking place in Philadelphia is not insignificant. The “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” has a long history of environmental racism that goes hand in hand with its history of state violence against Black people, disinvestment in public education, the criminalization of poverty and the segregation of communities of color. According to the Public Interest Law Center, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the city have long been disproportionately impacted by air pollution from oil and gas operations. This air pollution has resulted in increased rates of childhood asthma, cancer, depression and schizophrenia for many Philadelphians. As recently as July 2019, Philadelphia’s City Council approved the construction of a $60 million LNG plant in South Philadelphia — a section of the city already heavily impacted by environmental toxins. Mahmud and her peers, along with youth organizers from the Sunrise Movement, were actively involved in the fight against the LNG plant. They took part in street demonstrations, elevated dissenting voices from South Philadelphia, and attended public consultations organized by the city government. MORE

Jagmeet Singh’s call for fossil fuels ban leapfrogs the Leap Manifesto

“The NDP is coming late to the issue of dealing comprehensively with climate change. Can it compete effectively with Elizabeth May’s Greens on this front? We shall see.” – Thomas Walkom

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on May 7 in Ottawa. “The NDP is coming late to the issue of dealing comprehensively with climate change. Can it compete effectively with Elizabeth May’s Greens on this front?” asks Thomas Walkom.
Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats have discovered climate change. 

The party had been reluctant to take too uncompromising a stand on global warming for fear of alienating potential voters. That reluctance has gone.

Now the NDP is calling for an end to the entire fossil-fuel industry in Canada.

“The future of our country cannot involve fracking,” Singh said Monday in Ottawa, referring to a controversial method of drilling for oil and natural gas. “It cannot involve the burning of any fossil fuel.”

He said Canada must adhere to carbon reduction targets that are much stricter than those proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government if it to seriously fight climate change.

And he declared that he now opposes ambitious plans by British Columbia’s NDP government to build a massive liquefied natural gas project in the province’s north.

[In the past] the Leap Manifesto’s call to ban any new fossil-fuel energy projects, from pipelines to fracking, was seen as too radical. No more. Now, with his call for a Canada free of fossil fuels, Singh has outleapt the Leapers. MORE

 

Hope for the Haisla: Managing wealth instead of poverty

Reconciliation is the most important challenge facing Canadians. It’s important to understand the many challenges facing First Nations trying to reconcile development and environmental sustainability.


Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, shown here in Kitamaat Village, B.C. on March 9, 2019, has endured threats over her support for Coastal GasLink’s natural gas project. Photo by Brandi Morin

Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith has been called a “traitor” and faced threats on social media, warned not to go anywhere alone at a recent First Nation sporting event.

Smith says she comes from “a long, long line of strong female leaders” in the matriarchal Haisla Nation and has the support of her community against threats, most from outside of Kitamaat Village, B.C. in the Pacific Northwest. The promise of a brighter future keeps her going. She’s never been prouder to be a Haisla Nation member.

The attacks stem from the Haisla Nation signing mutual benefit agreements in 2018 with LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink. Coastal GasLink is the name of the pipeline project that would feed natural gas to an LNG Canada facility, within Haisla territory, where it would be liquefied and shipped overseas. It’s a partnership that will provide extensive economic benefits to the tiny coastal tribe of 1,800 with 800 living on reserve.

The Haisla are working with the companies to build a processing plant of their own called Cedar LNG.

The Haisla aren’t worried about the potential threats to the water, marine life or other environmental effects like many opponents of the project. Smith said they’ve done their due diligence. Following years of negotiations and 86 meetings with Coastal Gas Link, the Haisla decided to get on board. Twenty First Nations have signed project agreements with Coastal GasLink. MORE

We asked Jagmeet Singh about his support for one pipeline and his opposition to another


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in full campaign mode on Sat. Jan. 19, as he got the backing of some star power in the middle of a byelection campaign in the Vancouver region.

Jagmeet Singh answers questions about why he expressed his support for the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline, while he opposes the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and tanker expansion project. Singh was campaigning in Burnaby on Jan. 19, 2019. Video by Michael Ruffolo

 MORE

Glavin: Pipeline protests – how politicians got it all wrong


Alex Spence, centre, who is originally from Haida Gwaii, beats a drum and sings during a march in support of pipeline protesters in northwestern British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Tuesday. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

There may be no right way to do fossil-fuel megaprojects at all anymore if we’re going to have a hope in hell of meeting our 2015 Paris Climate Accord commitments, but as far as the massive LNG Canada Kitimat plant and pipeline project goes – with the showdown this week on a remote British Columbia backroad that immediately escalated into protests and marches and sit-ins across the country – the politics, promises and planning seem to have gotten just about everything wrong.

It’s the aboriginal rights and title of the Wet’suewet’en people that are at stake here, and that’s the subject that the federal Liberal government, and B.C.’s NDP government, are trying to avoid.

You could start with the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cheered LNG Canada’s announcement last October that the green light LNG got from B.C’s NDP government meant full steam ahead for its long-planned $40 billion project, which is to include a new pipeline from Dawson Creek in the Peace River country to a liquifaction plant and export facility at Kitimat on the B.C. coast. MORE