Tuesday, July 18, 2006

NDP: I want to believe

I have, from time to time, begged and pleaded for the NDP to once - just once - embrace a good energy policy. And I keep being disappointed. Whether it's last year's calls for gasoline price regulation, this year's reruns in a smaller theater, or the most recent dumbassery, the NDP just seems to get it wrong. Dammit.

The most recent example is this: Russian LNG deal bad for Canada. Some parts of it sound fishy, but I can't say for certain that they're wrong - the concern over NAFTA seems odd. But whatever. The real problem is this passage:
-Canadians working in the natural gas exploration and development industries will face loss of employment as Russian imports replace the need for new wells;
-Canada’s energy security will be undermined as we come to rely on imported sources of energy, when we could be self-sufficient;
-The federal government will see a loss of potential revenue as every cubic metre of Russian LNG means lost royalty revenues from an equal amount of Canadian natural gas; and
-The liquefaction, transportation and regasification of LNG are energy intensive processes which would result in as much as 40 per cent more Greenhouse Gas Emissions than would result from burning domestic natural gas supplied by a pipeline.
What's missing from all of these points? One simple fact: Canada's natural gas production is in decline, and is likely to start declining precipitously. This is important, as it basically reverses every single one of these talking points. So, to address those three points in light of this "new" evidence (new only in the sense that the NDP hasn't been listening):

-No Canadians will lose jobs because of LNG imports. Rather, Russian imports will preserve a small number of jobs as the Albertan fields rapidly empty.

-Canada's energy security will not be impaired by Russian LNG, rather it's Alberta's declining production that impairs our energy security. Russian LNG is a potential remedy to this problem, not the problem itself. (Not to say I'm not skeptical about Russian promises.)

-The royalty criticism is doubly wrong. First of all, Alberta's royalty system already gives cheaper royalty payments for new NG production than for old wells. As Alberta's NG fields age, the simple progression of time therefore leads to more newer gas - with less taxes - being produced. Secondly, this question is irrelevant if Canada's NG production is already in decline - NG imports will only make up the loss, if that.

-Given that conventional NG is in decline, the question is not whether LNG is cleaner than conventional NG (the NDP is at least right on this count, it isn't) but rather if NG is cleaner than domestic alternatives - which it manifestly is not. The only domestic alternatives are coal-bed methane to replace NG directly, or repurposing NG-fired power plants for coal (a quick and dirty solution.) LNG imports, while less efficent than domestic NG, are still cleaner than either CBM or coal.

No comments: