After a council tour of the Woodfibre LNG (WLNG) site months ago, I began to think about visiting Asia. It was also a great excuse to visit one of my daughters who was travelling in this part of Asia. I checked with my wife, checked my bank account, then packed and flew out.
First was Hong Kong, where the parent company to WLNG has an office. Hong Kong is a high-rise city of just over seven million people with mediocre air quality.
Singapore was next. Plant manager Ian Curr-Parkes and his core group of experts gave me a detailed presentation on the Woodfibre liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant proposed for Howe Sound near Squamish. I gained a better understanding of the project and most of my questions were answered.
Lunch with Imelda Tanoto, the daughter of company owner Sukanto Tanoto, followed. She shared the corporate belief that projects have to be good for the community, good for the country and good for the environment to be considered a success. Singapore is a city predominantly powered by natural gas with air quality that was much better than many other Asian cities.
Shanghai was next. It too is a high-rise city, and its population is 14.3 million. The air quality was significantly worse than in Hong Kong. I watched a steady line of freighters chug up and down the Yangtze River. Pacific Oil & Gas owns a 35 per cent share in an LNG receiving operation with the Chinese government near Shanghai. I toured the high-security plant, where safety was reinforced throughout. We were fortunate enough to see a 500-metre ship being unloaded.
The tour leader told us the Chinese people are demanding cleaner air. As I understand it, the Chinese government’s aim is to ultimately shut down coal plants to better the air quality and health of its citizens.
A small place called Kerinci, Indonesia was next. One of the world’s biggest pulp mills is located there, and work had just begun to expand the plant. I spent a few days touring a tree farm, looking at all the environmental research being done there and learning about their conservation efforts. I was impressed by the managers of the operation who were trained mostly in Europe and North America.
The company has sponsored and financed hundreds of small landowners and taught them basic farming skills. Additionally, the company has given scholarships to thousands of students.
I met with some of the co-op’s council members and learned about their economic development programs.
I recognized on this trip how lucky I am when the Rudong tour leader learned I have four daughters. He told me he was jealous because I have four beautiful flowers and blue sky.
What I learned
Asia has hundreds of millions of people living in high rises. The poor air quality in these areas of Asia is staggering and is having impacts on health, quality of life and politics throughout the region. People are demanding that governments fix the problem, so there is a huge task ahead of them. The magnitude of this challenge scares me. This issue is a global problem. Their air is our air; we share the world’s atmosphere. Much of Asia has a difficult time reigning in its pollution, and some countries will need the help of the developed world to address these issues. I was impressed with the hardworking community-mindedness of the people I met. We need to lead by example, and we have to work together on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions globally and locally.
Beyond this aspect of my trip, I had a great time with my daughter.
Next stop: Dawson Creek, where the mayor and council have invited Squamish Council to see how fracking is done in this part of the world.
Editor’s note: Councillor Ted Prior confirmed that no part of his trip was paid by Woodfibre LNG or the District of Squamish.