Editorial: Goodbye greeenhouse gas goals

Tom Fletcher writes BC Views for Black Press newspapers

In February this column asked the question: “Are B.C.’s greenhouse gas reduction targets history?”

The answer is contained in a new draft plan from BC Hydro on how to meet future power demand. And while it’s not explicitly stated, the answer is yes.

The draft plan was released in May for discussion purposes, but so far there hasn’t been much discussion. This is surprising given some of the recommendations, such as firing up the Burrard Thermal natural gas power plant more often and buying fossil fuel power from the North American market to keep up to demand.

The plan confirms a few things that have been evident for a while. Dreams of exporting B.C. hydroelectric power are gone for the foreseeable future. And with mining ramping up along with natural gas development and population growth, BC Hydro now projects electricity demand could rise by 50 per cent over the next 20 years.

The emergence of huge shale gas sources in B.C. and across the United States has changed the North American energy picture dramatically, as U.S. electricity producers replace coal by burning cheaper and cleaner gas to ramp up power production. B.C. is losing gas market share in the U.S., its only export customer for heating fuel and electricity use.

Former premier Gordon Campbell’s climate goals officially remain in place: 33 per cent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020 and a whopping 80 per cent by 2050. If the gas boom proceeds as planned, B.C. domestic emissions will not be down, but up considerably by 2020.

Premier Christy Clark has a new target for 2020: three liquefied natural gas production lines feeding high-pressure tankers at Kitimat, for export to Asia. Not only will B.C. need to buy gas-fired power from outside the province to keep up to industrial and residential demand, but the natural gas industry will need its own new gas-fired electricity to produce LNG for export.

Natural gas passed forestry as B.C.’s top resource revenue source many years ago. In 2005, the volatile gas price spiked up and produced $1 billion in windfall profits that allowed the B.C. government to buy a rare period of public sector labour peace through the 2010 Olympics.

Now a glut of shale gas has pushed the North American price down from its historic range of $4 to $6 per thousand cubic feet to about $2.40. Despite that low price, gas producers in B.C. are going flat out to develop the Horn River and Montney shale gas deposits in northeast B.C.

I asked David Pryce, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, why so much gas is being developed now. He said producers have made huge investments in B.C. shale gas drilling rights, and are in an international race to supply LNG to Asian countries where the price is currently four times higher than in North America.

Whatever the domestic price, B.C. gas producers have to show LNG investors such as Mitsubishi and Korea Gas that they can fill a steady procession of LNG tankers at a competitive rate.

If LNG doesn’t fly here, B.C.’s gas export market soon evaporates. Currently gas producers pay about $400 million a year in royalties, and that much again to buy up shale gas drilling rights. The industry already employs about 12,000 workers in B.C.

The B.C. government has little choice but to redefine its climate targets. Instead of cutting domestic emissions, it will try to take credit for displacing coal power in Asia.

Fortunately, B.C.’s main coal exports are for high-grade coal used in steel-making.

 

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

Just Posted

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria stood at 6.3 per cent in May 2021, nearly unchanged from April’s rate of 6.2 per cent. (Black Press Media File)
Unemployment rate in Greater Victoria stagnates at 6.3 per cent in May

Latest figures reflect conditions before lifting of public health measures

The District of Saanich has pinpointed funding requests to Oak Bay and Victoria to help offset the purchase price of the Kings Park greenspace and keep the property intact. (Courtesy District of Saanich)
Saanich requests funding help from neighbours to preserve Kings Road green space

District hopes Victoria and Oak Bay will join them in protecting urban green space

North Saanich council Monday will consider the results of a survey conducted by the North Saanich Residents Association that finds little support for increased densification. (Black Press Media File)
Survey finds little support for increased density in North Saanich

North Saanich Residents Association conducted the online survey

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read