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Reports, industry sources put Clark's promise of LNG riches into question

Premier Christy Clark has promised vast riches for B.C. from her liquefied natural gas strategy. Yet the opinion of high-level industry sources, as well as several recent reports, seems to be that her estimates are unrealistic.

Last February, Clark told British Columbians that tax revenues from exporting liquefied gas could reach as high as $260 billion over the next 30 years -- or $130 billion, at the very least.

Today's Tyee cover story examined in close detail the two independent reports her Liberal government based those revenue estimates on.

What Clark didn't mention publicly is that one of those reports, prepared by Ernst & Young, predicted revenues as low as $79 billion over 20 years. That's a full $181 billion less than the highest Liberal projection (albeit, over a shorter time period).

Did the Liberals incorporate Ernst & Young's lower numbers into its calculations, or disregard them entirely?

An energy ministry spokesperson would only say that Clark's estimates were "based on analysis done by independent consultants."

Liberal revenue projections assume that five LNG terminals will be operational in B.C. by 2018. Yet recent reports from Ernst & Young, as well as Macquarie Private Wealth, predict that even getting four built is unlikely.

The business case for any LNG terminal ultimately relies on high Asian prices for liquefied gas. Industry sources explained at a recent LNG-themed conference in Vancouver, however, that declining gas prices across the Pacific are nearly certain.

One energy analyst, UK-based Peter Hughes, said current high profit margins for LNG exporters "could disappear."

Nevertheless, industry support for liquefied gas in B.C. remains strong. And a B.C. energy ministry spokesperson assured The Tyee that "demand for LNG is growing."

"Our government remains very confident," the spokesperson added.

[Editor's note: To read Geoff Dembicki's full report on The Tyee today, click here.]

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee on the BC 2013 election with a focus on energy issues.

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