UBC professor says claims of LNG reducing overseas emissions “complete bullshit”
Energetic City | Chris Newton | February 13 2018
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A professor with the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia is disputing claims made by a trio of Northern B.C. mayors that LNG exports from our province would result in lower overall global emissions.
In a Business in Vancouver article last week, Professor Hadi Dowlatabadi stated that while B.C. could see a large LNG export facility built and still meet its legislated greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 12 megatons of carbon dioxide by the year 2050, the cost would outweigh the overall economic benefits. In response, the mayors of Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, and Kitimat wrote an open letter disputing Professor Dowlatabadi’s claims, saying that the LNG industry has provided jobs for Northern residents and taxes for provincial coffers for decades.
However, Professor Dowlatabadi disputes the claims by the three mayors and a joint University of Calgary-Johns Hopkins University study claiming that liquefied natural gas exported from B.C. could result in an overall reduction in emissions. He said that claim is “complete bullshit,” since B.C.’s exporters can’t control how LNG is used by purchasers.
“This business of a clean energy export has been a bone of contention in the International climate negotiations since 90’s,” said Dowlatabadi. “There are two elements of bullshit to that statement. One is that from an International negotiation perspective it does not lower Canada’s burden, and it doesn’t alter the provincial targets that are legally binding. Number two: the notion that LNG on net from the wellhead to its use in a power station has net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions compared to an efficient coal plant today is very questionable because of all the leakages along the way. And anything that actually contends that requires electric compression along the transmission line, complete control of upstream emissions, and complete control of the compression process for the LNG side with electricity as the source of energy. Not gas.”
Dowlatabadi explains that since all major proposed LNG export facilities in B.C. with the exception of Woodfibre LNG would use natural gas to power at least a portion of the facility’s compression equipment, “That is not a net GHG saving.” He said that in order to meet mandated GHG reductions, residents would need to dramatically decrease their use of natural gas, similar to a phase-out proposed by the City of Vancouver.
This, according to Dowlatabadi, is before even considering the emissions from an LNG export industry. He said that the overall economic picture would be improved by continuing to allow residents to use natural gas domestically since the additional cost to residents of switching would be prohibitively expensive.
“As we know, electricity is far more expensive than natural gas. If I was to heat my home with electricity instead of natural gas, my monthly bill would be about two and a half times higher than it is right now. Essentially, if our target for 2050 is more or less the model that the City of Vancouver is putting into place, then any kind of a contract that we sign that would increase our emissions further exacerbates the costs of everyone in the province.”
Dowlatabadi says he sympathizes with the plight of the three Northern mayors wanting to ensure economic stability in their communities as other opportunities have passed, but that the economics side of their proposal doesn’t make sense.
“I’d love to find something that the Northern and remote communities could do that would be economically beneficial and environmentally not harming anyone. But, what I don’t understand is why something like four and a half million people should be paying much higher energy bills in order for four thousand people to get a job. I’d rather give you a direct payment, and it would be far less expensive.”
Dowlatabadi also called B.C.’s proposed royalty tax scheme, which is modelled on Alberta’s, as “incredibly rape-like” and would not see a substantial increase in revenues for provincial coffers. He added that the development of an LNG export industry presents a catch-22, since renegotiating a higher royalty rate would make B.C. less competitive for prospective proponents compared to the United States.
“If they had signed a better royalty agreement, then the Province would have enough money to provide subsidies and credits for people’s homes to be better insulated. But we’re just not collecting that kind of money. Some people will get some temporary employment, but all the rest of us will be subjected to ongoing additional climate mitigation costs. It really is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”