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Uzelman: Trudeau is deaf to Japan’s request for LNG

A column by Bruce Uzelman
Liquid natural gas bubbles. (Pixabay)

~BW Uzelman

Natural gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels, and B.C.’s natural gas is lower carbon than most. The LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) Canada plant in Kitimat will produce 35% lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the world’s best performing facilities. So, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent aversion to LNG is disconcerting. Japan, as a responsible ally of Canada, the U.S. and the Ukraine, wants to replace its Russian supplied natural gas. Japan also wants to diversify from middle east sources of oil and gas.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently visited Canada seeking Canadian LNG. Trudeau began positively, “being a reliable supplier of energy is important ….” But then he added some unsolicited ecological advice, “the world is moving aggressively, meaningfully toward decarbonization, towards diversifying, towards more renewables.” Trudeau offered no LNG supply and no comment on the Cedar LNG project, which waits for federal approval. Kishida summed it up, “We didn’t get any commitment.”

Similarly, when Germany’s Chancellor, last year, requested Canadian LNG to help it navigate the energy crisis created by Russia’s war on Ukraine, Trudeau refused to support new LNG projects. There was “no business case” for Atlantic LNG, remarked Trudeau. He is suggesting that – though we have abundant natural gas, we have customers seeking LNG and we can produce it extremely efficiently – somehow it doesn’t make economic sense. He may not see a political case; there absolutely is a business case.

It is widely recognized that natural gas is a valuable transition fuel on our path to a Net 0 carbon future. The Business Council of B.C. wrote a historical report on energy transitions. Denise Mullen and David Williams contend, “Throughout history, societies have transitioned to energy sources with higher power density, portability and flexibility.” They say the current transition involves the addition of small- and medium-sized renewable energy sources operating in conjunction with existing energy infrastructure.

Renewable energy (wind and solar) is not consistently available. Natural gas and LNG are important elements in the energy mix, note Mullen and Williams, replacing carbon-intensive fossil fuels, yet balancing the variability of renewables. They add, “The future is not ‘either/or’ between fossil fuels and renewables – rather it is an ‘and’.” As coal is phased out, warns the report, “natural gas/LNG is the only rapidly deployable substitute” for higher emitting fuels, especially in electrical generation. Coal-fired generation is not common in Canada, but is still extensively used elsewhere, notably in China, India and developing countries. Coal usage must be sharply diminished globally to appreciably cut GHG emissions.

Mullen and Williams observe that B.C. was a leader in climate action with the institution of the carbon tax. “Continuing to lead requires taking a planetary – not local or isolationist – perspective to lowering or slowing the rise of total global GHG emissions.” The stakes are high. We can’t afford to be parochial.

LNG exports will provide a market for more BC natural gas. BC’s oil and gas industry, which consists largely of natural gas, enjoyed productivity rates at an amazing 26 times the average rate of the business sector (in 2018). The growth of a highly productive industry will support wage growth. One study found the natural gas developed will boost BC’s GDP by $8 billion per year and increase jobs by 3% annually.

Ipsos published a poll in September that showed 76% of Canadians support developing more renewable energy and 71% more hydroelectricity. Support for more natural gas was strong as well at 66%. 52% of Canadians say Canada has a moral obligation to help Europe reduce dependance on Russian oil and gas. 41% said Canada must increase gas exports to support Europe even if we miss our climate targets, while 33% said Canada should meet climate targets even if we can’t help Europe, and 26% didn’t know.

There is strong international demand for LNG. The world cannot rapidly and totally displace high-carbon fuel sources with renewable energy sources. That shift will take decades and massive investments. If Canada is to help reduce the global carbon output meaningfully in the short term, a transition fuel is necessary. Natural gas is the only alternative, because it is clean, “rapidly deployable” and scalable.

Justin Trudeau’s opposition to LNG is very difficult to understand. Mr. Trudeau apparently feels no moral obligation to supply Canadian energy to our allies and to help reduce total global GHG emissions. He must know the economic advantages the development of LNG confers on BC and Canada. He must know the importance of a global focus on reducing GHG and the necessity of transitional fuels. He must know Canadians largely support developing natural gas and exporting it to Europe (and likely Japan).

So why oppose LNG? Perhaps, the Prime Minister is hobbled by an insular environmental ideology, or hopes to fashion climate change policies into a wedge issue. Either is disconcerting, and disappointing.


Bruce W Uzelman

I grew up in Paradise Hill, a village in Northwestern Saskatchewan. I come from a large family. My parents instilled good values, but yet afforded us, my seven siblings and I, much freedom to do the things we wished to do. I spent my early years exploring the hills and forests and fields surrounding the village, a great way to come of age. My parents owned a successful general store. My siblings and I were required to help out in the business, no choices allowed there!

I attended the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. I considered studying journalism at one point, but did not ultimately pursue that. However, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts, Advanced with majors in Economics and Political Science in 1982.

My career has consisted exclusively of small business, primarily restaurant and retail. I was originally based in Alberta, and then BC, first in Summerland, then Victoria and finally Kelowna (for over 20 years). I was married in Alberta, and we have two daughters, who have returned to Alberta as adults for career reasons, as did my now ex-wife. My daughters are successful, and now have families of their own.

I have maintained a healthy interest in politics throughout my adult years, and wish to put that and my research skills to work as a political columnist.


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