The B.C. Liberal government released an energy awareness quiz Monday touting the benefits of B.C.'s fracked gas boom while failing to address the implications of gas development on the province's water and greenhouse gas emissions.
The LNG in B.C. Awareness Quiz is already being tagged as a promotional tool used to win public approval and downplay the negative side effects of the B.C. Liberal government's heavy push for liqueified natural gas (LNG). More than a dozen LNG export facilities are proposed for the B.C. coast to export gas to Asian markets.
Athough directly related to fracking, the quiz makes no mention of the controversial industrial process and the wide range of social and ecological concerns arising in its wake.
The quiz is comprised of the ten following questions and extended answers:
What the quiz fails to mention is the fact that although natural gas extraction has occurred in B.C. for more than 50 years, the advent of modern multi-stage slickwater hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has drastically changed the nature of the process. Advancements in drilling technologies, such as horizontal fracturing, have opened up previously inaccessible reserves.
Yet these technological advancements have also dramatically increased the amount of water required to frack a well, the amount of toxic chemicals used per well and threats to underground drinking water sources. Although natural gas is often labeled a 'cleaner' source of energy because it emits less carbon at power plants, the upstream environmental costs associated with the resource's production are significant.
Fracking requires enormous amounts of water, and B.C. officials are already struggling to keep pace with the increase in gas production. Just last month, several environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission for endangering the province's waterways and violating the Water Act. Argued by the environmental law firm Ecojustice, the suit claims the Commission granted hundreds of short-term water leases to natural gas companies, thereby allowing industry to avoid crucial environmental assessment.
Caitlyn Vernon, campaigner for the Sierra Club B.C. which participated in the suit, says the impacts of natural gas in B.C. aren't adequately taken into account. The B.C. Liberal government's attempt at increasing 'awareness' about LNG and fracking fails to meet the test, she said.
"It is insulting to British Columbians that our government is using tax dollars to spread such blatant industry propaganda, disrespecting the rights of British Columbians to consider all the facts and make informed decisions," she said. "When it comes to the environmental impacts of LNG, the full story is not, in fact, what industry would have us believe. This so-called quiz doesn't even mention fracking, which is not clean, can release as much carbon pollution as coal, and is already impacting the water of B.C.'s Northeast."
"Instead of being told what to think, B.C. families should have a say in deciding what the 'right' answer is for our communities," she added.
As DeSmog Canada previously reported, fugitive emissions from natural gas production are expected to be seven times greater than reported, increasing the province's carbon footprint by 25 per cent, or the equivalent of adding an additional three million cars to B.C.'s roads.
Marc Lee, senior energy economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, notes that, beyond the problems associated with fracking, liquefying natural gas is a carbon-intensive process. He writes for the Progressive Economics Forum that B.C.'s path to LNG riches has some serious climate obstacles:
"Clark’s predecessor, Gordon Campbell, brought in a range of climate action policies in 2007-08, including the province’s well-regarded carbon tax, and legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets. While some insider champions of LNG do not care about climate change, the province is wrestling with its own cognitive dissonance: how to stick to past commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while substantially growing production of a key fossil fuel. B.C.’s media savvy Premier now talks about 'the cleanest natural gas' or 'cleanest LNG' in the world.
The problem is the math: in order to move ahead with LNG projects while still meeting the government’s own GHG targets, every other sector of the B.C. economy would need to make radical and unprecedented reductions in its emissions. One option under examination is purchasing carbon offsets, but this could be expensive and B.C.’s offset regime has been much criticized. Another issue is accounting conventions that do not count embodied GHG emissions in exports (instead, they count in the importing country’s GHG inventory). On a lifecycle basis, total GHG emissions into the air that originated below ground in B.C. would double or even triple, depending on the number of LNG plants. It would be the emissions equivalent of putting between 24 to 64 million cars on the roads of the world.
Related to, and compounding this, is that liquifying gas for export is itself massively energy intensive. B.C.’s 2010 Energy Plan committed to 93% of electricity production in the province coming from clean or renewable sources. Were it to be met by new renewable supply, B.C. Hydro modelled an increase in demand from three LNG equivalent to one-third of its total current production. Renewables are more expensive, and existing commitments to private power producers for new supply are already creating pressure for price hikes. To get around this, the B.C. government conveniently declared that burning natural gas for LNG production would be considered to be clean energy."
Lee adds that the estimate of 75,000 new jobs being advanced by the B.C. government is also not credible. Originally, the government claimed 800 permanent jobs would result from the construction of three new LNG plants, but eventually inflated this number to more than 75,000. According to plans from major players like Shell, however, pre-fab structures may be shipped to B.C. during the construction phase to limit costs. This, in addition to B.C.'s growing reliance on temporary foreign workers, suggests the permanent job estimate of 75,000 is grossly overblown.
If the B.C. Liberals hope to meaningfully increase the LNG knowledge of average British Columbians, relying on industry-style public relations and an incomplete portrait of the industry's impacts won't do.
As Rachel Carson wrote in her groundbreaking work Silent Spring, when it comes to industrial pollutants the public is often fed "little tranquilizing pills of half truths."
She adds, "We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks…The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts."