Things That Go Boom

Communities with a history of not controlling their destiny often wait for the next big industrial project to offset the inevitable demise of the last big industrial project.

So it appears to be with Kitimat and a proposal to build a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facility

What is LNG you ask? Well, it’s a symptom of the fact that we here in Canada are mismanaging our natural gas reserves by pumping them as fast as possible to the USA with no plan for meeting Canadian needs over the long term. For that we have Mr. Mulroney to thank for codifying Canada’s energy sellout under NAFTA, and Mr. Campbell to thank for aligning BC’s energy resources to the needs of the Bush White House.

Until now, natural gas has been a continental resource moved by pipes, but with North America’s gas now running out, there are moves afoot to have the world’s remaining gas take to the seas in tankers. In order to do this economically, gas must be super-cooled and put under intense pressure in LNG tankers.

Problem being that these are floating bombs. No lesser authority than former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke outlined how prior to 9/11 Al Qaeda operatives had infiltrated LNG operations around Boston with a view to a possible strike. Should it have occurred, it would have wiped out downtown Boston.

Now, peaceful little Kitimat is less likely to attract the wrath of militant extremists, but the fact remains that LNG is highly explosive, and even without human malice, the simple fact of the matter is that things break or go wrong over time. As with any industry, LNG facilities have a history of mishaps – some of them fatal. But unlike most industries, an LNG mishap comes with added and highly explosive risks.

For these reasons American communities have organized against LNG terminals, but so far the citizens of Kitimat seem less worried.

This issue, however, has huge implications beyond Kitimat. As stated above, the arrival of LNG terminals in Canada is a signal of mismanagement of our natural resources. BC’s energy policy is a head-in-the-sand document that sees nothing wrong with selling out our energy resources as fast as possible to the Americans while doing as little as possible to diversify into cleaner, localized energy sources.

On a national scale, this LNG plant is designed to feed gas to the tar sands, which is probably Canada’s biggest environmental disaster, responsible for the largest single increase to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and the reason we are unlikely to meet our Kyoto commitments. Do British Columbians want to facilitate that?

Finally, the more we begin to rely on imported LNG, the more we join Americans in their increasing dependence on foreign energy. Wonder why US national finances are in such a pickle? Just look at the billions that flow out of the USA just to keep the lights on. Why we’d want to fall into the same trap is beyond common sense.

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