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LNG proposals could release more emissions than Alberta's oil sands: Pembina

B.C.'s liquefied natural gas industry will be the economic equivalent of Alberta's oil sands, Premier Christy Clark has claimed. The two industry's carbon footprints, according to the Pembina Institute, could someday also be comparable.

In fact, if five liquefied gas terminals go forward on B.C.'s coast, they might result in more carbon emissions than those now being released by the entire oil sands industry.

"I think this should be setting off alarm bells," Pembina Institute climate change program director Matt Horne told The Tyee. "There hasn't been anywhere near an adequate conversation about the full impacts of LNG."

Five gas terminals operating at full capacity could cause nearly 63 million tons of carbon emissions to be released each year into the atmosphere, Horne's group predicts.

In 2010, Alberta's oil sands industry, whose climate footprint has been criticized across the planet, released 48 million tons of carbon, according to Environment Canada.

"We've seen argument after argument that the oil sands are the single biggest reason Canada is not on track to meet its emissions targets," Horne said. "If we're adding a similar sized chunk of emissions [in B.C.] that clearly doesn't help."

The Pembina Institute's prediction comes with some important caveats.

There are currently 12 liquefied natural gas terminals being proposed for B.C. by some of the planet's biggest oil and gas companies.

Yet Premier Clark's revenue projections for the industry -- up to $260 billion over the next 30 years -- assume that only five will actually get built.

Some credible industry sources, including Ernst & Young and Macquarie Private Wealth, argue three is more likely.

Even if only two terminals go into operation, Horne has argued, they could still result in 17 million tons of emissions each year, more than one-third of the oil sands' 2010 carbon footprint.

Both front-running political parties in B.C.'s upcoming election, the Liberals and NDP (as well as the Conservatives) are vocal supporters of liquefied natural gas.

Last week, NDP candidate Shane Simpson told an all candidates debate he's "not 100 per cent sure" his party could develop an LNG industry and meet the province's greenhouse gas targets.

The Greens are the only party this election completely opposed to liquefied gas development.

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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