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Liquefied natural gas not climate’s savior, report

By Michel Ghanem, November 27 2014 —

VICTORIA — The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and Pembina Institute published a report suggesting stronger environmental policies are needed to ensure liquefied natural gas (LNG) will positively impact the global climate. The B.C. government emphasized LNG extraction as a major part of its long-term economic strategy.

The report said if liquified natural gas is used wisely, it offers limited benefits in curbing emissions.

“If it is used in the absence of vigorous and aggressive climate policies, it will not offer significant climate benefit,” said PICS executive director Thomas Pedersen. “[The report] says that we cannot exploit our natural gas resources and produce liquefied natural gas without recognizing that there is a very serious global climate change context.”

Coal combustion accounts for 40 per cent of global electricity production. Compared to natural gas, Pedersen said coal produces twice as much carbon dioxide.

According to the report, natural gas will only be advantageous if it’s paired with strict government climate policies. Pedersen suggests the best policy possible is a taxation on carbon emissions.

“As soon as you start to tax the impact of CO2 going into the atmosphere, all of a sudden the economics change and the sources of electricity that we need will change accordingly,” he said.

The document also explores methane leakage, a serious concern for LNG use and a powerful source of greenhouse gas, which can also be closely monitored with the proper policies in place.

“World energy demand is growing, and until we get a control on energy demand and the emissions associated with that, we cannot in any reasonable way suggest that natural gas is a climatic saviour,” he said.

B.C.’s Minister of Environment Mary Polak cited PICS’s report in her closing speech for the debate on the LNG tax bill, also known as Bill 2. According to Pedersen, she referred to the report as “an impressive document.”

“The fact that it was mentioned in the closing speech in the [provincial legislature] suggests that the government is well aware of its content and that they are taking it very seriously,” Pederson said.

Pedersen refers to the future of renewable resource extraction as the next Industrial Revolution: a push away from a fossil fuel-driven global economy, possibly within the next few decades. Estimates suggest that trillions of dollars are required for the transition, an economic opportunity that Canada has been hesitant to adopt.

“We all face an interesting problem. All of us need energy. The big challenge for society is how we are going to get the energy we need,” he said. “We have lots of options in front of us, and what we need to start doing is actively and aggressively seizing those options that do not emit carbon to the atmosphere.”

PICS’s report is one of many peer-reviewed documents intended for a broad audience that are increasingly viewed by policy makers.

“It’s a very constructive report. We don’t throw bricks at people. We’re all looking for solutions. The message is a simple one: it’s not a deep scholarly analysis of an industry. It’s just reminding people of the global context,” Pedersen said.

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