Fracking and consumerism

Asking the tough questions of LNG

The use of fractured gas is one of the common grounds for opposing Woodfibre LNG’s plan to build a liquefied natural gas export plant near Squamish.

Byng Giraud, Woodfibre LNG’s vice-president of corporate affairs, acknowledges this will be the case. “We will be buying gas in the market – we don’t own any gas fields … most likely it will be from the Montney basin, so B.C. gas,” Giraud said.

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“Is fracking going on up there? Absolutely… we believe, as the current government does and many people who are in this business do, that we do this very safely and very effectively in British Columbia, that it is highly regulated and constantly improving,” said Giraud.

Environmentalists may have issues with fractured gas, Giraud said, but those are broader issues of how B.C. regulates itself and earns its money and fits into global energy markets: those aren’t issues this relatively small project in Squamish could fix. “We are not significant enough to alter the market,” he said.

Rich Wildman, an environmental chemist from Quest University who is also on the district’s Woodfibre LNG Community 
Committee, agrees the facility would be a relatively minor player and would do its best to be a good neighbour to Squamish, but he said the issue is more complicated.

“This is the tricky question,” he said. “What does it say about the community of Squamish that we’ve got this great industrial plant; ‘Wow, Squamish is home to  really good stuff – this really neat gondola, this really great university… and this really top-notch plant.’ Or, what does it say about Squamish that it has linked itself via this pipeline to fracking and it has linked itself, via ships going to Asia, to greenhouse gas emissions?”

Wildman hopes the discussion over liquefied natural gas will begin to tackle the trickier questions.

Giraud also questioned the not-in-my-backyard opposition to industry. There is an almost colonial mentality to people objecting to a diverse economy that includes industry, such as an LNG facility, in their community, he said.

“You want to have a nice tourist economy. Where does everything come from? Where does your iPad come from, where does your boat come from, where do your skis come from?” said Giraud.

“It all comes from somewhere and I believe there is a certain greater value in knowing where things come from and you having to sort of bear the responsibility of those things being in your back yard, at some level.”

Wildman said that Giraud‘s argument goes both ways. “It is also true that no lights are going to be on in British Columbia based on the natural gas that is exported by Woodfibre LNG. So we can watch over this part of the natural gas infrastructure well, and goodness knows plenty of people in Squamish are, but at the same time, why should we have to?” he asked.

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