BC Hydro’s new finding that many British Columbians believe natural gas is a clean fuel is a welcome switch from the B.C.’s government’s narrative that the fossil fuel industry should be supported, Sierra Club BC says.
As colder weather approaches, BC Hydro Oct. 12 released a report offering British Columbians suggestions on how to stay warm while avoiding excess household greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
However, it came with the added message that B.C. residents have some misconceptions about natural gas and its climate change effects.
“With natural gas home heating on the rise in recent years, its popularity may be bolstered by the perception that it is clean,” said a new report. “Electricity, on the other hand, is a much cleaner option in B.C. where 98% of the electricity BC Hydro generates comes from clean or renewable resources that are mostly powered by water.”
The report found gas is not the greenest option for home fuel, with the popularity of natural gas being bolstered by the perception that it is clean.
“Over one-third of British Columbians list natural gas as the most environmentally friendly way to heat a home. This number is even higher in northern B.C., where almost half said natural gas is good for the environment. While burning natural gas for energy results in fewer emissions than burning coal or petroleum products to produce an equal amount of energy, natural gas production still produces GHG emissions.”
B.C.’s government under former premier Christy Clark redefined natural gas as a clean energy source — but only if that gas was used to generate power for liquefied natural gas production in B.C.’s north.
That, said Sierra Club BC’s senior forests and climate campaigner, contributed to people’s misconceptions about natural gas.
Jens Wieting said the current NDP government has not helped dispel that misconception with its supports of natural gas infrastructure projects such as the LNG Canada and TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The pipeline is being built to supply gas from northeastern B.C.’s gas fields 670 kilometres to the Kitimat LNG Canada plant, which has passed 50% in construction work.
Wieting called BC Hydro’s report notable “because we don’t hear such messages from the provincial government. We really need strong leadership and less wishful thinking about fossil fuels,” he said.
“We must not build new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Wieting said. “It’s irresponsible to subsidize LNG and fund fossil fuel infrastructure.”
The report said about 11% of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions — or about 6.9 million tonnes — are from buildings and homes. It said fossil fuel-based home heating and appliances such as gas stoves can silently contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
The report said most homes still run on multiple fuels with electricity used to power the lights, appliances and electronics and natural gas is used to heat more than half of B.C. homes.
“Over the past few years, natural gas heating in B.C. homes has gone up 4%, while electric heating as a primary source has gone down by 3% during the same time period,” the report said.
A BC Hydro survey found one-third of British Columbians mistakenly think natural gas is the most environmentally friendly way to heat a home.
At the same time, many British Columbians believe driving their fossil-fuelled car is a much larger contributor of greenhouse emissions than home heating.
But, the report said, heating a typical single-family home entirely with natural gas each year could emit about two tonnes of carbon dioxide, about the same carbon footprint as driving a fossil-fuelled car for 8,000 kilometres.
Further, the report said, while many British Columbians heat their homes with electricity, more than 50% are using natural gas —and this number jumps even higher when looking at detached homes — two-thirds use natural gas.
The Canadian Gas Association did not respond to a request for comment.