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Letter: Woodfibre LNG—Prosperity or rising costs of living?

'The situation we are in today, happens when politicians ignore scientists and lay their ear with industry lobbyists.'
An artist rendering of the Woodfibre LNG plant.

A few months back, on Squamish Speaks, someone spoke in support of Woodfibre LNG, suggesting it would bring back prosperity to Squamish, like in the old days of mills, logging and Nexen.

It stuck with me, because of the suggested absence of prosperity today, which I am not sure is correct. Many new businesses have replaced the old ones. The post also ignored massive environmental impacts of decades of Woodfibre and Nexen on the waters of Átl’k a7tsem/Howe Sound, and the clearcut logging on the region. 

Was the post simply longing for the past that seems rosier with years gone by, or will Woodfibre LNG bring more prosperity to Squamish? Let’s explore.

First, Squamish is growing. It’s far more economically diversified than it was 25 years ago, when two mills and the railyard maintenance unit closed within four years. Six hundred jobs and $3 million in annual tax revenue were lost. Compared, Woodfibre LNG would employ about a hundred people. A municipal tax agreement is being negotiated. 

What about the bigger picture? What happens once LNG Canada and Woodfibre LNG make their first shipments to Asia?

If prices in Asia for LNG are high, it becomes more lucrative for natural gas and LNG producers to ship overseas. A common economic scenario unfolded in Australia when the first LNG exports started around 2015. The consequence of Australian producers—before confined to a single market—entering new markets, was that Australian natural gas users were faced with price increases. Since U.S. LNG export terminal are in operation, the same is happening in the U.S. The same will happen in B.C.—less prosperity. 

And what about BC Hydro rates? 

The Site-C dam is mostly built to power LNG operations. While the price tag for the dam has exploded from $6.6 to $16 billion, the LNG industry rate deals remain about the same. LNG producers will get hydro below cost, while you and me—the taxpayers—will be forced to foot the bill for paying off Site-C, and in effect, subsidize the LNG industry hydro rates; less prosperity.

What if LNG prices in Asia are low in a few years? Because many projects like LNG Canada will come online globally, the concerns for a natural gas/LNG glut are high. It would be at the time when Woodfibre LNG enters the market. Like LNG Canada, it will be in trouble. But we will be too. Forced to pay off Site-C through even higher rates, while very little natural gas and LNG revenue will enter the government coffers. Not even enough to make up for LNG subsidies flowing the other way. 

Climate-wise, it’s lose-lose too. BC NDP and BC United have adopted the wild claims by the BC LNG industry of BC LNG lowering global emissions, and to replace coal-fired power plants in Asia. The claims are wrong and based on a narrow view of the burning process of the fuels. When the emissions from the full life cycles of B.C. LNG and coal are compared, which studies have, it shows that  LNG emits as much, if not more than coal, when used in Asia.

Clearly, B.C. taxpayers were moved into a financial and climate lose-lose situation when the BC Liberal government decided to force ahead with LNG and Site-C. The BC NDP adopted the policies set out by the BC Liberals. In 2017, the BC NDP could’ve stopped Site-C - then “only” $2 billion in, but foolishly didn’t. Both BC NDP and BC United (former BC Liberals)  remain in full support of B.C. LNG and Site-C. 

The situation we are in today, happens when politicians ignore scientists and lay their ear with industry lobbyists. Because of it, you and I, our kids will lose. While we could be in a win-win situation, focusing on renewable energy and storage. This we still can. This year, we must break the cycle of expanding fossil fuel production and export. 

Anton van Walraven

Concerned Citizens Bowen


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