• 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.
  • LNG export terminal would carry great risks

    LNG export terminal would carry great risks | TJ.news

    Jim Emberger|Commentary  August 13,2022

    Editor's Note: As part of our In-Depth series, we invited a proponent and an opponent of the LNG export terminal in Saint John to make their case. Below is Jim Emberger's argument against the project.

    The economic and climate costs of developing an LNG export facility in Saint John are real and significant. Benefits, if any, will come at great risk.

    UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently stated, “Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

    He was summing up the warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, and climate scientists everywhere. Developing new fossil fuel projects will hinder any chance of meeting the climate targets necessary to save the world from dire consequences.

    Observing the current record-setting heat waves, droughts, floods and forest fires afflicting every corner of the planet gives proof to these warnings. Unfortunately, the warnings underestimated how quickly climate effects would arrive, and how severe they would be.

    The costs of climate disasters go beyond the billions in property destruction and loss of lives. Climate-influenced crop failures across the globe have threatened multitudes with starvation, created millions of food refugees, and increased food prices for us all. 

    Climate disasters in Europe have also shut down nuclear power plants and rendered the Rhine River too shallow to support its normal huge load of shipping. So why would Germany look to increase the production of the very fossil fuels responsible for climate change?

    In fact, they are not. Germany is well into a transition to a clean economy, with a large and growing renewable energy sector. In response to their current gas shortage, they plan to double down on renewables, and exit from natural gas as soon as possible. 

    Germany needs LNG only for short-range relief. Yet, it will likely take five years to even begin sending LNG from a new Atlantic terminal – probably longer in light of necessary Impact Assessments and probable legal challenges. 

    Atlantic LNG cannot be a real solution to Germany’s immediate needs.

    This timing mismatch also highlights the extreme risk associated with any potential benefit for New Brunswick. Converting the Repsol facility to exports will require between $2 billion and $4 billion (according to a 2014 Natural Resources briefing note), plus considerably more for pipeline additions, and may require billions more for expensive carbon capture technology that either doesn’t exist or works poorly (and undoubtedly requiring taxpayer subsidies).

    Add many more billions if the intent is to later convert the facility to handle hydrogen, another expensive, high-risk conversion for which there is little actual experience. Hydrogen itself currently has only a few technically and economically proven uses.

    To recoup such vast investment, these projects require guaranteed purchases by LNG buyers for at least 20 years, as made clear by Repsol’s CEO. It is doubtful that a Germany looking to rapidly leave gas behind will make that commitment.

    If by some miracle commitments are made, then the climate costs to Canada, New Brunswick and the earth increase, as fossil fuels are locked in for another generation. 

    Canada is the only advanced nation that has never met a single emissions target, and New Brunswick is a leading per capita producer of greenhouse gases (GHGs). LNG export terminals produce great amounts of GHGs. Adding a terminal here will ensure that neither Canada nor New Brunswick meet our climate targets.

    Simultaneously, we will risk having a multi-billion dollar white elephant in Saint John, as we gamble in the incredibly volatile gas market.

    For the last decade, shale gas created gas prices so low that investors lost billions. Only in the current crisis has the price risen to profit-making levels. It’s now so high that it is causing financial crises and providing more incentive to abandon gas.

    Shall we bet that the current scene will last the next 30 years? Repsol is stuck with the unused LNG import terminal that it now has, because it made a wrong bet on where gas was heading 20 years ago.

    What makes climate and economic sense for New Brunswick is to invest in and promote the cheapest electricity in the history of the world – solar and wind, whose fuel costs will never go up – accompanied by affordable energy storage, conservation and retrofits of infrastructure.

    This move to electrification of our society is inevitable, as the world is starting to seriously react to a fast-changing climate. We can, and should, be a leader in that move.

    The cost/benefit comparisons are no-brainers. Any temporary jobs created during construction of an LNG terminal could easily be surpassed in a transition to a renewable/electrified economy.

    LNG tax and royalty money for government coffers only lasts while markets are good, whereas cheap electricity rates for citizens will continue with renewable energy, and residents of Saint John will not have to cope with the huge dose of air pollution that LNG exports will also bring.

    A clean economy in New Brunswick benefits Germany, the world, and us by reducing GHG emissions, which our Supreme Court acknowledges cause the same global harm, regardless of where they are created. Let’s not add to the harm.

    Jim Emberger is spokesperson forthe New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.

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