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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The global assault on environmental rights behind Jason Kenney’s war


File photo of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney by Tijana Martin

MichelleBellefontaine@MBellefontaine ·

I have been updating my story all day. The quote from Kenney has been included, along with the reaction from Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. http://cbc.ca/1.5277846 

Amnesty International says Jason Kenney’s ‘fight back’ strategy violates human rights | CBC News

Amnesty International Canada says the Alberta government’s plan to fight people who criticize the oil and gas industry exposes them to threats, intimidation and violates their human rights.

cbc.ca

MichelleBellefontaine@MBellefontaine

Here is the video of @jkenney making remarks in Fort McMurray today about the jailing of Greenpeace activists is Russia

Embedded video

Authoritarian governments moving in lockstep to discredit environmentalists

“Foreign funding” has emerged as a powerful propaganda cudgel for governments to turn on environmental and human rights activists around the world.

The leader of Russia’s Ecodefense sought political asylum in Germany this June to avoid imprisonment in Putin’s ruthless crackdown on environmental groups designated as “foreign agents,” a term that in Russian denotes “spy” or “traitor.”

In Narendra Modi’s India, where flooding and drought threaten more than 100 million lives, a 2014 intelligence report called dissident environmental and human rights organizations a threat to national security, accusing them of “serving as tools for foreign policy interests.”

“The world is facing the most pressing moral imperative in the history of human civilization, and Jason Kenney’s inquiry has all but criminalized opposition to fossil fuel expansion, before a single witness is called. ” @Garossino #cdnpoli #oped

Despite being praised by Stephen Harper for his visionary global leadership, Modi ​​was nothing short of brutal. Cancelling the licences of 20,000 NGOs, his government froze bank accounts and raided offices, including those of Amnesty International India and prominent human rights lawyers who had challenged his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

To prevent a Greenpeace India activist from testifying in the British parliament about the local impact of a British mining company’s Indian operations, Modi’s government blocked her from boarding her flight to the UK, then put her on a no-fly list. MORE

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He used to work for a site that promoted racists — now he edits a Canadian news outlet


Before Cosmin Dzsurdza worked for The Post Millennial, he worked for a pro-Kremlin site called Russia Insider and a blog that promoted racists. Illustration by Emma McIntosh, photos from Free Bird Media and screenshots

Cosmin Dzsurdzsa is an editor at what has quickly become one of the most widely shared right-wing news websites in Canada.

According to the About Us page on The Post Millennial’s website, the University of Waterloo graduate used to be a “researcher on The Oxford English Dictionary.” The dictionary’s publisher, Oxford University Press, said in an email that it has “no record” of Dzsurdzsa working for the company, but that he appears to have worked on an unaffiliated research project examining the text.

But that short biography leaves out a few steps. Before Dzsurdzsa was hired at the Post Millennial, he also worked for websites that promoted racism and peddled pro-Kremlin content.

While he was a creative director and correspondent at Free Bird Media, the blog promoted Richard Spencer, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the U.S. as a “professional racist” and white supremacist. It did the same for Faith Goldy, who praised white nationalists at the deadly Charlottesville neo-Nazi protest, said a neo-Nazi slogan on a podcast for the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer and added that she “doesn’t see that as controversial,” advocated to “return” Canada to a population that is “96 per cent Euro Canadian” and said she wants “launch the next Crusade” to “reclaim Bethlehem.” (Neo-Nazi ideology is driven by a hatred of Jewish people, along with other minority groups and the LGBTQ community, says the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

Free Bird Media also gave a friendly platform to Kevin J. Johnston, who has advocated for physical violence against Muslims and lost a major defamation case for online hate speech directed at a Mississauga restaurateur. The judge in that case said Johnston’s words were a “loathsome example of hate speech at its worst.”

And for Russia Insider, a pro-Kremlin site that BBC and Newsweek have called “propaganda” — “Russia’s Arctic Military Drills Are Truly Massive,” reads one 2015 headline from the site — Dzsurdzsa once advocated for Canada to drop trade sanctions against Russia.

This editor used to work for a site that promoted racists and a Russian propaganda site. Now he works for The Post Millennial, a rising star in Canada’s conservative media scene.

The Post Millennial is seeking a larger presence in Canada’s media ecosystem ahead of the October federal election, planning to build a six-figure video studio and conduct its own polls. Its online following has grown quickly since it was founded in 2017.

But the outlet’s willingness to hire someone with a background working for sites that promoted hate is “disturbing,” said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.

“Editors shape the climate and culture of the newsroom,” Perry said. “What does that say in terms of the kinds of stories (Dzsurdzsa is) assigning to whom, or not assigning?”  MORE

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Conspiracy theory of ‘foreign-funded’ tar sands opposition reveals ugly truth

The process of dehumanization, whether around the world or closer to home in Postmedia’s conspiracy-pushing columns, splits our species in two

Image result for ricochet: Conspiracy theory of 'foreign-funded' tar sands opposition reveals ugly truth

The attendees of last month’s “Big Guns” Stampede breakfast put on by Calgary’s oil and gas industry were there for the pancakes, sausages, and “frac juice” cocktails, not the speeches. And so, over the happily chattering sea of cowboy hats and plaid, I had to listen hard just to make out parts of the following:

“We have been beaten to death by the eco-alarmists…. We’ve got people, foreign-funded, taking us to task…. To the eco-alarmists: You have touched the bear. You have awoken the giant. We’re pissed and we’re not going to stand for it.”

Vague public heraldings of coming retribution against foreign-funded environmentalists are generally not part of my childhood memories of Stampede breakfasts. But, then, in those days, Albertans weren’t being told they’re the targets of a coordinated plot.

If they were recognized as fully human, we would need to undertake a rapid transition away from fossil fuels in order to protect their inviolable rights.

Across the country’s media for the past year and a half or so — particularly in outlets owned by Canada’s dominant corporate media empire, Postmedia — one can find piece after piece after piece about long-running machinations by U.S. charities and foundations to interfere with Canadian politics by fomenting tar sands opposition throughout the country.

It culminated and reified at the start of last month with Alberta premier Jason Kenney announcing a $2.5-million government inquiry into “foreign-funded special interests” opposing the tar sands. And it will likely resurface again in the Conservatives’ federal election campaign later this year.

There is no reason to take the actual claims of this (absurd) narrative seriously, as other writers have argued in detail.

Rather, what we ought to be concerned about is the narrative’s popularity, because what it reveals is something ugly at the heart of the climate crisis: the importance of dehumanization.

The uses of unpeople

A grisly sorting is underway. As climate change forces our political and economic systems to contend with the problem of who really matters, it is sieving us into two species: people, whose rights are inalienable and deserve full respect and consideration, and unpeople, whose burdensome rights and humanity get stripped away wherever they interfere with state-capital aims.

Those who can be degenerated into unpeople perform a crucial function for the contemporary order. If they were recognized as fully human, we would need to undertake a rapid transition away from fossil fuels in order to protect their inviolable rights. Having a humanity that can be conveniently stripped away, however, permits something clearly more important: the prolonging of the period during which the economy can stay wedded to the old energy infrastructure; the ultra rich can horde the wealth we might otherwise marshall towards a renewable energy transition; and political elites can hold power by campaigning as though we need not make a choice between continued fossil fuel dependence and a habitable climate. (Consider how just last month it was determined to be in the public interest to proceed with a tar sands mine, despite adverse effects on Indigenous communities.) MORE

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You Can Have Capitalism, Or You Can Have a Planet — But You Probably Can’t Have Both

Climate Change Isn’t Just “Man-Made” — It’s Made by Capitalism

It’s looking pretty apocalyptic out there. We’re not just losing the fight against climate change — we’re losing it badly. Carbon emissions aren’t just not falling — they’re accelerating: 2018’s going to be the highest year ever.

What’s going wrong here? I think that we need to change the story that we tell about climate change, if we want to change our world. So far, it goes like this.

Climate change is “anthropogenic”, man-made, an inevitable outcome of a crowded, industrializing world. This story is vague, imprecise. It says that we are all responsible. It assigns us all some measure of guilt and shame, and therefore, some measure of responsibility and grief, too. The problem is that this story is true only in the most limited way — and for that reason, it limits our power to ever really fight climate change, too.

If we look a little deeper, I think we see a truer truth. Climate change isn’t just “man-made”, as in caused by all of us, “humankind”, a sad but inescapable outcome of more people using more stuff. This story — which is a Malthusian one — dooms us to impotence, through fatalism, resignation, and sheer powerlessness. But climate change isn’t some kind of hopeless tragedy — whose lines were written by sociobiological destiny.

Climate change isn’t just “anthropogenic.” It’s caused by capitalism. If we’re wise, we’d start calling it CCCC, capitalist caused climate change, or corporate caused climate change if you prefer.

Mom!! Umair’s being mean to me again!! Calm down, Tucker. Before you accuse me of being a college leftist, I invite you to consider two stark empirical realities, which lead me to that conclusion. When I put these two facts together, there is simply no other conclusion that I think any reasonable person can really come to, except that the story of climate change as merely “anthropogenic” is inadequate, a half-truth, a polite evasion — but I’ll return to all that. First, the two realities.

The vast majority of carbon emissions come not from just 100 companies — a full 71% of them. That’s a stunning figure, isn’t it? But what does it tell us? Well, nearly all of them are oil and gas suppliers — and most of them are corporations. It’s a truism to say something like “those companies supply your energy!” Of course they do. The point is that as corporations, they have no incentive to do so on what we might call genuinely economical terms. Their sole purpose is to profit, and sweep their “externalities”, their hidden and unwanted costs, under the rug, or shift them right back to you and me. Hence, you and I pay a far larger chunk of our incomes in taxes than the corporations responsible for 71% of carbon emissions do — and we go on hoping that one day maybe the hugely disproportionate tax dollars we pay will rein these giants in.

That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster — because while government can tax you and me, doing so won’t really alter how energy is supplied in the first place. Under capitalist terms, the supply of energy will always be as dirty, brutal, and costly to society and the planet as a corporation can possibly get away with. Hence, stark evidence emerging that these very same corporations have tried to brush the facts of climate change under the rug, turning what should be a fact into a “controversy”, funding propaganda and pseudoscience and so forth, just like with tobacco.

(That isn’t to say something like “every oil and gas supplier is bad!” Or “India and China are bad!” I want you to really understand the point. The rules of global capitalism still simply don’t count environmental costs as “real”, even while cities are beginning to drown (LOL), and therefore, the way that energy is extracted and supplied has little incentive to ever really change. The cheapest, dirtiest forms, kinds, and methods will always be used until they simply run out. Capitalism needs fundamental, systemic transformation at the level that global GDP is counted, measured, and conceptualized.) MORE

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