BC’s LNG race is uneconomic and dangerous: Andrew Nikiforuk
"You need a public inquiry [on LNG]. You need to slow down and rethink this whole thing,” urges investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk
Groundwater contamination is also feared, with negative impacts on wildlife, salmon economies and drinking water aquifers. Nikiforuk said there are only six monitoring wells in B.C.’s north for 27,000 oil and gas wells – not a good sign, for an industry about to rapidly explode.
“There is no program to actively monitor the impact of this industry on ground water,” he said.
In Pennsylvania, where fracking has impacted rivers and streams all over the state, he said it took years of freedom of information requests to finally get the government to reveal the full extent of ground water contamination.
Likewise, one of the largest protest movements in Australia right now is from shale gas contamination on farms, where people can light their well water on fire.
Demonstration of super cooled natural gas at Vancouver's LNG Summit in May - Mychaylo Prystupa
LNG economics don’t add up
Even though the industry is pumped as a “bridge to the future” and the “next oil sands” – many experts says the profitability of the LNG industry is quickly fading. What’s described as a shale gas revolution, is quickly becoming “a retirement party” said Nikiforuk.
The much talked about higher gas price in Asia for example is dropping, as new providers – Australia, African countries, Qatar, and the U.S. -- bring on supply.
And in B.C., to power the proposed LNG terminals, the province would need to build the $8-billion Site C dam. Otherwise, the terminals would require 15 per cent of their own natural gas piped to them to power the liquefaction process.
“The energy return is not great.”
Worse, he said B.C. is selling out to LNG companies, by offering one of the lowest tax programs for natural gas development in the world. While Texas and other areas require royalties to be paid up front – B.C. does not says Nikiforuk.
Many of the workers to build the terminals will also be from China, under new labour agreements negotiated by B.C. Most of the promised jobs will also be in the construction phase only.
At the same time, major energy companies, Exxon and Apache, are now fleeing the shale gas space as too risky.
'Extreme energy' is all that's left
So why are pundits and the government still going “bonkers” about the benefits of LNG, asked Nikiforuk?
“If you want to make money in this [energy] business, you have to chase the extreme stuff now.”
Fracking, off-shore and Arctic drilling are all the world has left -- the easy, conventional oil and gas is nearly gone.
“You have to get involved in more complex forms of production, even though they come with enormous financial risks. And a lot of companies have lost a helluva lot of money pursuing LNG.”
“But that’s what you do when you have no plan to transition off of fossil fuels.”
“There’s no political will to begin that much needed transition.”
“It’s not to say renewables don’t come with challenges – they do. They are no where near as easy and convenient as greens will often present them as – but nonetheless, we can’t take baby steps anymore, but adult steps towards how we use energy.”
Nikiforuk's lecture was organized by My Sea to Sky - a citizen's group opposed to Woodfibre LNG.