Category Archives: Environment

Horgan’s BC NDP sells out to LNG Canada

By Gary Porter

A massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project in Canada received final approval by LNG Canada and its partners on October 2, making it the first major new project for the fuel to win approval in recent years.

TransCanada (pipeline) Corporation also announced that it will proceed with construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project after the decision to go ahead by LNG Canada. The $6.2 billion project is a 670-kilometre (420 mile) pipeline that would transport natural gas from the Montney gas-producing region near Dawson Creek, B.C. to the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat on BC’s Pacific coast. First gas from the project is expected by 2024. The complex course through rocky islands out to sea was a factor in the cancellation of a planned oil pipeline to Kitimat, with delivery to awaiting huge oil tankers.

The total project is estimated to cost $40 billion. Stakeholders in the project are Shell, Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), PetroChina Co Ltd, Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp.

The BC Premier, John Horgan of the labour-based New Democratic Party (NDP) government, enthused about this new massive commitment to a hydrocarbon future. “We welcome the unprecedented commitment shown by the LNG Canada partners to work within our province’s ambitious climate goals,” he said in the same statement. “The critical importance of this project is what it represents — the intersecting of economic development, jobs for local workers, partnerships with Indigenous communities and forward-looking climate leadership.”

Provincial Green party Leader Andrew Weaver called the announcement a “profound disappointment.” Countering Horgan’s list of “advantages” to Canadians on a point by point basis, Weaver said, “Adding such a massive new source of GHGs (greenhouse gases) means that the rest of our economy will have to make even more sacrifices to meet our climate targets. A significant portion of the LNG Canada investment will be spent on a plant manufactured overseas, with steel sourced from other countries.”

“B.C. taxpayers will subsidize its power by paying rates twice as high and taking on the enormous public debt required to build Site C. (The massive power dam on the Peace River approved by Horgan last December, will serve the LNG development, which is a big user of electrical power.) There may be as little as 100 permanent jobs at LNG Canada.”

“I believe we can create far more jobs in other industries that won’t drastically increase our emissions.”, added Weaver.

Still, Weaver’s Green Party does not challenge capitalism. Weaver wants to manage capitalism better, not get rid of the system that puts profits before survival. He does not advocate nationalizing and rapidly phasing out hydrocarbons, as the NDP Socialist Caucus does. Nor does he advocate a publicly owned massive green energy system which could create tens of thousands of jobs and dramatically cut GHGs in short order.

Horgan’s enthusiasm for the massive LNG project, matches NDP Premier Rachel Notley’s shrill advocacy of tar sands and pipelines in Alberta. Both demonstrate that the NDP leadership is deeply committed to the profits of the oil barons more than to the environment on which we depend for life.

There is no word yet from Jagmeet Singh, Federal NDP leader currently running in Burnaby South for a seat in parliament. The electoral district is a centre of Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion opposition. Singh may find himself in a very uncomfortable position. His inept leadership over his first year in office does not portend a nimble response from him

In its own statement, Mitsubishi said the total estimated development cost of the planned Kitimat LNG plant is about US $14 billion. The cost of the liquefaction plant and a 670-kilometre pipeline to connect gas to the plant will exceed 2 trillion yen (US $17.6 billion), a company official said. The project will create of a lot of jobs in Japan, apparently.

The construction decision also comes amid a Sino-U.S. trade spat that has led to tariffs being imposed by China on LNG shipments from the United States, threatening U.S. President Donald Trump’s energy dominance plan. This project could bypass the Chinese tariffs.

Premier John Horgan says his government is mulling ways to implement all of the tax giveaways and relief for the LNG Canada project without a vote in the legislature, a scenario that would avoid a showdown with the NDP’s power-sharing partner, the B.C. Green Party.

In March, Horgan’s government promised LNG Canada about $5.3 billion in tax breaks. This leaves BC workers and the poor to carry the tax load while global capitalist corporations pay little or no tax.

As expected, Wilkinson’s right wing Liberals issued a statement saying they have supported LNG from the outset and are looking forward to backing any legislation concerning the Kitimat project.

Unnamed government officials said B.C.’s proposed climate plan will be designed to meet legislated targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent (or 13 mega tonnes) by 2050.

Much of the reduction, they claim, will be achieved by B.C. moving towards electrification, primarily in the transportation and industrial sectors. The officials said the plan will offer industry rebates on carbon tax payments if they meet global clean-energy targets.

But B.C. government staff are working based on LNG Canada’s claim that the project is forecast to emit 3.45 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

By contrast, a Maclean’s magazine editorial stated that LNG Canada represents roughly 10 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year. This is one quarter of B.C.’s entire greenhouse-gas budget for 2030, or two-thirds of B.C.’s 2050 target. In other words, to meet B.C.’s emissions targets and serve LNG Canada, the rest of the province will need largely to decarbonize. So, the LNG development seems inconsistent with Canada’s commitment to climate action. How will a government that caves in to the hydro carbon giants, have the guts to force through such a massive change?

Like virtually all GHG reduction targets set under capitalism, they come a distant second to the priorities of profit and accumulation of vast wealth by the capitalist class.  Horgan in BC, the NDP government under Rachel Notley in Alberta, and Liberal Justin Trudeau in Ottawa will strive to ensure that this continues.

Along with the massive Site C power dam decision, this LNG betrayal makes clear that the struggle to defend Indigenous rights and the environment is not centred in parliament. It should be powered by united mass action in the streets.

Where Science and Socialism Intersect

A book review by Barry Weisleder

I strongly recommend the latest book by Ian Angus, “A Redder Shade of Green”.  This anthology, published by Monthly Review Press (New York, 2017, 198 pages), contains well-written articles, very accessible to non-experts, that first appeared between 2009 and 2017.  They summarize the latest scientific findings on the state of the environment and provide cogent arguments against climate change deniers and environmental reformists.  Between the covers is a compelling case made for involvement in existing social movements that are doing what can be done right now to reduce carbon emissions. Opposition to the construction of oil pipelines, to fracking for gas, and to military operations (all of which consume inordinate levels of carbon-based energy) are the leading examples.

This book is a fitting companion piece to Angus’ prodigious work “Facing the Anthropocene” (2016) which adduces a sweeping political economy of carbon capitalism, from its origins to today.

The author roots eco-socialism, the programme for system change to avoid catastrophic climate change, in the seminal work of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and their Red Chemist colleague Carl Schorlemmer.  Angus not only explains the “metabolic rift” between capitalist production and nature, but documents how the “Great Acceleration” of fossil fuel usage post-WW2 defines a new fraught epoch, the Anthropocene.  The insatiable drive of global capitalism to grow and profit, at any cost, threatens to disrupt the “Earth System” irreparably, portending the end of human civilization.

“A Redder Shade of Green” correctly targets the system of irrational growth and waste, and it identifies the tiny class that rules over it.  Redder rejects the claims of liberal Greens and pro-capitalist conservationists that all or most of humanity is fundamentally to blame for excessively eating, clothing, sheltering itself, and reproducing.

The sub-title of the book, “Intersections of Science and Socialism”, signifies its strength, and affirms its commitment to build mass movements in the streets to challenge the powers that be.  Effectiveness can be achieved by collaborating with everyone willing to fight for a better future, regardless of differences on social class and ultimate political goals.  At the same time, Angus insists, eco-socialists should relentlessly advance a scientific critique of the fundamental enemy.

Unfortunately, the intersection of Socialism, as a philosophy or programme, with the revolutionary vanguard of the working class, is entirely missing.  The paramount need to create a political party, one that is capable of leading the struggle against the toxic mode of production to a socialist and democratic conclusion, is conspicuous by its absence.

Angus seems to try to justify postponement, or abandonment of the project of building a revolutionary workers’ party with the comment “we have to accept that the socialist movement is not going to triumph in the immediate future.” (page 163)

Just as it is foolhardy to try to predict when the Earth System, an incredibly complex and unpredictable matrix, will go beyond ‘the tipping point’, it has been repeatedly proven wrong to exclude the outbreak of socialist revolution.  After all, as Redder demonstrates, the world is dominated by a global socio-economic system riddled with deep and explosive contradictions.  Indeed, no workers’ revolution that did take place actually happened as predicted.  And those upheavals that were first predicted did not occur when or where they were anticipated.

Furthermore, when revolutionary conditions arise, it is usually too late to start building a party; it is then too late to get it sufficiently rooted to be able to lead insurgent masses to a decisive victory.  Given the dire fate of the environment today, humanity can ill afford to squander any opportunity to make radical change.

Finally, doesn’t it beg the question:  Where are the eco-socialists going to find the most like-minded comrades?  Where will they find the very best builders of broad, mass movements now needed, if not in a revolutionary workers’ party or pre-party formation?  That recognition is actually the Reddest Shade of Green.

The Discreet Charm of Big Oil

by Gary Porter

“Oil lobby targeted 13 Ontario swing ridings in ‘unprecedented’ pipeline campaign” read the headline in the Toronto Star on July 5, 2018.  From their investigation into the political influence of the oil business, the Star reported that the Canadian Petroleum Producers Association (“CAPP”), and three organizations controlled by CAPP, executed an intense and expensive campaign clearly aimed at electing Doug Ford, the newly minted Tory leader as Premier of Canada’s largest and most influential province.

Although CAPP claims the campaign was not intended to influence the Ontario election, it ran from April 8 to May 29. The Ontario election was held on June 7. Voters were targeted in 13 Ontario swing ridings with rallies, high visibility billboards, and 400,000 pieces of pro-pipeline literature.  24,000 letters were sent to influential people across Canada urging support for the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion to move bitumen to Canada’s west coast for export. If built, the pipeline will triple tanker traffic through busy shipping lanes, and will be loaded with the dirtiest oil in the world.  If this stuff leaks, or pours into the ocean, it will not float. It will sink and leech toxins into the marine biosphere for decades.

Canada does not normally allow such wild west campaign spending. In Ontario, anyone spending over $500 in the 6 months leading up to a fixed date campaign must register and adhere to campaign finance restrictions. CAPP did not register.  Its claims that the campaign was national, not provincial, seem disingenuous at best. How much did it cost? Millions for sure. The actual amount remains hidden because CAPP did not register — presumably, to avoid public reporting.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government, elected on July 7, immediately terminated Ontario’s Cap and Trade ‘pay to pollute’ oil use plan, and is joining Alberta in suing the federal government over Ottawa’s insistence that provinces implement their own petroleum reduction scheme, or face federal imposition.  Ford is also pulling out of a joint programme with the province of Quebec and the state of California to cooperate on petroleum reduction.

It is important to note that this powerful lobby of polluters does not merely buy off politicians.  It wages its own direct campaigns to stampede ordinary workers and other voters to support the political stooges loyal to Big Oil. This very expensive CAPP campaign stressed jobs and “prosperity”. One TV ad showed a young black woman holding a sign: “Is Canada closed for business?” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently paid $4.5 billion to Kinder Morgan to buy its pipeline assets in Canada, appears to be always open for the oil business. The purchase price gave Kinder Morgan shareholders a scandalous profit of 637% on the current market value of the assets.

If you are wondering why gas prices seem high these days, in part it is because your hard earned wages are subsidizing this kind of slick, expensive propaganda at the pump. Consumers are paying for the oil lobby to undermine our limited democracy. Who can afford to answer such high priced campaigns with the facts? Seriously folks, this should be illegal. And to those who cry ‘free speech’, we say free speech is a reality only when everybody is on an equal footing – not perched on a field treacherously tilted in favour of rich and powerful polluters.

The Golden Parachute

Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company in the world, with its headquarters in Toronto, is infamous for political skulduggery, anti-labour practices, and for environmentally hazardous mining projects in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Zambia.

To stay help stay the course, the multi-billion dollar firm just hired two arch-conservative, big business politicians to serve on its international advisory board at over a million dollars apiece, annually.

Joining the board at Barrick Gold are Canada’s former foreign affairs minister John Baird, and former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. Behold: the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.

The facts on Climate Change Demand A Radical Solution

by Evan Engering

The latest book of Naomi Klein, the influential Toronto-based journalist, author and activist, may live up to its ambitious title “This Changes Everything”. In it, Klein turns her thorough, eye-opening brand of investigative journalism to the topic of climate change. The book is a surprising achievement for a mainstream author. Her call for a new grassroots movement to rise up and defeat neo-liberalism and halt climate change has been publicized on television and in book stores across Canada and around the world.

Continue reading The facts on Climate Change Demand A Radical Solution