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.