by Jim Emberger | Commentary Telegraph Journal, 28 June 2022

A recent Brunswick News editorial admitted Canadian fossil fuel companies might not profit on the misfortunes of the war in Ukraine (“Think long-term on resource projects,” June 17). That should have been a foregone conclusion.

Europe’s search for natural gas to replace Russian supplies logically pointed it toward nations that could fill its needs immediately. Many European nations also stressed that their climate crisis plans to reduce gas usage as quickly as possible were still in effect.

Canada would take years to become a European supplier, by which time there may no longer be a demand. Large fossil fuel projects are also generally planned for 30-year lifespans to recoup the massive financial investment involved. So, investors in Canada would risk their investments becoming stranded (essentially, lost) if the Europeans stick to their climate pledges.

The editorial board professed a belief in the climate crisis. Yet they simultaneously argued the transition to renewable energy will take a long time, and so, meanwhile, we should profit on new fossil fuels projects.

This directly contradicts the recommendations of the many climate scientists whose work has been published by the UN International Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency and peer-reviewed journals such as Nature. They concluded there can be no new fossil fuel projects, and some existing projects must be abandoned early.

Of course, there will be a transition when fossil fuels will still be used, but only where necessary, for as short a time as possible and in diminishing quantities. Transition plans created years ago called for an orderly reduction of fossil fuels by just a small percentage each year, allowing us to slowly break our fossil fuel habit.

Unfortunately, we ignored those plans for decades, and now we require greater and swifter reductions in fossil fuels. The climate emergency is here, and obviously severe. It is no longer just a worry about our grandchildren.

Historic, record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events are killing thousands, increasing hunger, raising food prices and costing our economies billions right now.

The editorial board nevertheless suggests more Canadian gas, through fracking and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, can help because it is “lower carbon intensity” and “ethical.” This is irresponsible and contestable.

Methane from natural gas is 86 times as potent as CO2 (over 20 years) as a greenhouse gas, and can leak for the entire gas life cycle. Scientific studies state that leakage has in previous years led to as much global warming as coal.

Shale wells and LNG plants are major methane leakers, and require the burning of fossil fuels to power their processes. LNG requires huge amounts of energy to chill gas to a temperature of minus 161.5 C. Fracking burns through oil and gas to mine enormous amounts of specialized sand, to transport it and millions of litres of water and wastewater, and to fuel many powerful compressors to shatter shale rock.

Fracked gas and LNG should be considered extreme climate threats. The “Compendium,” a compilation assembled from peer-reviewed studies, journalism and advocacy groups published by an organization of health professionals and scientists opposed to fracking, concluded:

Our examination uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health directly or without imperiling climate stability upon which human health depends.”

Based on the experience of other jurisdictions, if New Brunswick developed either project, it would likely mean it could not hit its greenhouse gas commitments. Is any of this ethical, or an argument for social license?

Ethical, long-term and sane solutions are at hand, and will make us healthier, prepare us for the future and provide jobs. Only fossil fuel influences and poor political choices prevent their deployment.

We must electrify the economy as much as possible and run it on renewable energy as much as possible, as electricity from solar and wind is the cheapest form of electricity in the world. The fuel cost of sun and wind will never rise, unlike the current budget busting spikes in gas and oil.

Batteries and other storage methods have likewise advanced technologically, and dropped immensely in price. We can also use less energy by using it wisely, insulating buildings, using heat pumps, localizing our economy and conserving where we can.

That we are not adequately investing in these obvious solutions, and in an improved electric grid to tie them all together with potential hydro from our neighbours, is inexplicable.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres noted recently that “the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

He’s right. There is no bargain that one can make with the physics of climate change to allow fossil fuel interests to make money on their way out.

That’s not long-term thinking. That’s self-destructive fantasy.

Jim Emberger is spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.