• Climate goals can't be met if N.B. expands gas production

     TJ.news   Jim Emberger | Commentary | June 28, 2022

    A recent Brunswick News editorial admitted Canadian fossil fuel companies might not profit on the misfortunes of the war in Ukraine ("Think long-term on resource projects," June 17). That should have been a foregone conclusion.

    Europe’s search for natural gas to replace Russian supplies logically pointed it toward nations that could fill its needs immediately. Many European nations also stressed that their climate crisis plans to reduce gas usage as quickly as possible were still in effect. 

    Canada would take years to become a European supplier, by which time there may no longer be a demand. Large fossil fuel projects are also generally planned for 30-year lifespans to recoup the massive financial investment involved. So, investors in Canada would risk their investments becoming stranded (essentially, lost) if the Europeans stick to their climate pledges. 

    The editorial board professed a belief in the climate crisis. Yet they simultaneously argued the transition to renewable energy will take a long time, and so, meanwhile, we should profit on new fossil fuels projects.

    This directly contradicts the recommendations of the many climate scientists whose work has been published by the UN International Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency and peer-reviewed journals such as Nature. They concluded there can be no new fossil fuel projects, and some existing projects must be abandoned early.

    Of course, there will be a transition when fossil fuels will still be used, but only where necessary, for as short a time as possible and in diminishing quantities. Transition plans created years ago called for an orderly reduction of fossil fuels by just a small percentage each year, allowing us to slowly break our fossil fuel habit.  

    Unfortunately, we ignored those plans for decades, and now we require greater and swifter reductions in fossil fuels. The climate emergency is here, and obviously severe. It is no longer just a worry about our grandchildren.

    Historic, record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events are killing thousands, increasing hunger, raising food prices and costing our economies billions right now.

    The editorial board nevertheless suggests more Canadian gas, through fracking and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, can help because it is "lower carbon intensity" and "ethical." This is irresponsible and contestable.

    Methane from natural gas is 86 times as potent as CO2 (over 20 years) as a greenhouse gas, and can leak for the entire gas life cycle. Scientific studies state that leakage has in previous years led to as much global warming as coal.

    Shale wells and LNG plants are major methane leakers, and require the burning of fossil fuels to power their processes. LNG requires huge amounts of energy to chill gas to a temperature of minus 161.5 C. Fracking burns through oil and gas to mine enormous amounts of specialized sand, to transport it and millions of litres of water and wastewater, and to fuel many powerful compressors to shatter shale rock. 

    Fracked gas and LNG should be considered extreme climate threats. The “Compendium," a compilation assembled from peer-reviewed studies, journalism and advocacy groups published by an organization of health professionals and scientists opposed to fracking, concluded: “Our examination uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health directly or without imperilling climate stability upon which human health depends.”

    Based on the experience of other jurisdictions, if New Brunswick developed either project, it would likely mean it could not hit its greenhouse gas commitments. Is any of this ethical, or an argument for social license?

    Ethical, long-term and sane solutions are at hand, and will make us healthier, prepare us for the future and provide jobs. Only fossil fuel influences and poor political choices prevent their deployment.  

    We must electrify the economy as much as possible and run it on renewable energy as much as possible, as electricity from solar and wind is the cheapest form of electricity in the world. The fuel cost of sun and wind will never rise, unlike the current budget busting spikes in gas and oil.

    Batteries and other storage methods have likewise advanced technologically, and dropped immensely in price. We can also use less energy by using it wisely, insulating buildings, using heat pumps, localizing our economy and conserving where we can.

    That we are not adequately investing in these obvious solutions, and in an improved electric grid to tie them all together with potential hydro from our neighbours, is inexplicable.

    U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres noted recently that "the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness."

    He's right. There is no bargain that one can make with the physics of climate change to allow fossil fuel interests to make money on their way out.

    That’s not long-term thinking. That’s self-destructive fantasy.

    Jim Emberger is spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.
  • New energy projects on the horizon

    From what I'm hearing most folks don't know what's been happening regarding a second nuclear reactor for New Brunswick and a large proposed underwater power line under the Bay of Fundy from Saint John to Boston.  Although there's lots of talk about good clean green energy it seems likely the plan is to carry electricity from tidal turbines strung across the head of the Bay of Fundy and possibly a second nuclear reactor in New Brunswick.  There seems to be a lot going on here under the bed covers unknown to most of the public and most in the environmental community.  People need to know what's happening and now.  Could you post the attached items up where they will attract people's attention and people will view them.

    Reference: Second Nuclear Reactor Could Happen, Telegraph Journal, January 27, 2017

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  • Reliance on fossil fuels is dangerously short-sighted

    Commentary by Jim Emberger, Telegraph Journal, Dec. 16, 2020

    “Distant hypothetical targets are being set, and big speeches are being given. Yet, when it comes to the immediate action we need, we are still in a state of complete denial.”

    These are the recent words of young climate activist, Greta Thunberg, concerning progress toward dealing with the climate emergency. Unfortunately, she could be talking about NB Power’s recent release of its 25-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). While claiming to pay attention to the climate crisis, the utility’s plans belie those claims.

    First, NB Power plans to extend the life of the coal burning Belledune electricity generator, one of the province’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide, to 2041: more than 10 years past its federally mandated closure.

    To put this plan in context, progress reports submitted in preparation for next year’s climate summit show the gap between our actual greenhouse gas emissions and our stated targets continues to grow.

    Simultaneously, a number of new climate models show that we potentially could pass the 1.5 C “minimally safe” increase in global temperature later this decade, and pass the more dangerous 2 C increase in the early 2030s. This prediction is bolstered by the announcement that, according to NASA, last month was the hottest November on record. What’s more, 2020 is likely to be the hottest year on record, a fitting conclusion to what will likely also be the hottest decade.

    This should lead us to conclude that our future climate efforts must be even more rigorous. As the United Nations notes, the “world’s wealthy will need to reduce their carbon footprints,” which “will require swift and substantial lifestyle changes.”

    By extending the Belledune plant, we will continue to pump large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere well after we’ve passed the likely point of no return on climate chaos. NB Power alleges that it can cut emissions elsewhere, but its claims are based on questionable assumptions, and it is hard to imagine where it can cut at the scale necessary.

    For instance, emphasis is put on maintaining or increasing natural gas usage as a low carbon emission alternative, ignoring the now-accepted science that leaking methane emissions along the entire gas supply chain makes gas no better for the climate than coal.

    The IRP also mentions that another low-carbon plan is to develop small modular nuclear reactors, a technology that currently exists only on paper. It faces hurdles of technology, safety, cost and procuring investment. But the salient point is that it will not likely be available until 2030, and later before it can be widely dispersed.

    To sum up, as we face an already serious climate crisis that is due to significantly worsen in the next decade, NB Power’s plans are to continue to use a high-polluting, out-of-date technology for 20 years, and invest in a new technology that won’t become useful until after much climate damage has already occurred.

    The IRP notes that proven, cheaper alternatives exist: namely renewable energy from sun and wind. Why aren’t they being pursued as the main pillars of our energy future?

    The excuse that they are too intermittent becomes less viable with every passing day, as advances in energy storage are being made at a dizzying pace.

    What’s more, our province has a unique opportunity to take part in the “Atlantic Loop,” a project that would bring stable and low or even no-carbon energy from hydro dams in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. In concert with renewables, our energy supply could be ample, stable and potentially exportable to New England.

    Though questionable, NB Power’s plans are not as off-base as the advice offered in a recent op-ed (“Oil and gas are a missed opportunity for Atlantic Canada,” Dec. 7) penned by researchers with the Canadian Energy Centre, an Alberta government corporation which was created to promote the interests and reputation of the provincial oil and gas sector.

    Its authors claim that now is the time for New Brunswick to start a natural gas and oil industry. This is strange advice coming from Alberta, a province where the oil and gas industry has plummeted – even before the pandemic – with huge losses of investment, industry bankruptcies, decimated tax and royalty payments, the loss of many thousands of jobs and a multi-billion dollar tab for oil and gas industry cleanup.

    They assume that we will continue to use fossil fuels, despite the climate crisis. Therefore, they argue, it makes more economic sense to produce our own rather than buy from elsewhere. This argument that we ought to knowingly contribute to the looming climate crisis is bizarre, particularly given that so many scientists argue that any new fossil fuel project is an act of economic and environmental self-harm.

    As people finally pay attention to scientists about COVID-19, one can only hope that this enlightened attitude will spill over to the much larger, and more dangerous, climate crisis.

    The time for rhetoric about long-range goals and inadequate plans to achieve them is long past. As Greta Thunberg’s clear-headed logic indicates, we need reality-based action, and we need it now.

    –Jim Emberger is the Spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.

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