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With Liberal win, questions around proposed energy export projects loom

The BC Liberals' surprise election victory Tuesday seems likely to improve the odds that at least some of the many energy export terminals being proposed for this province's coast will be built.

Timely, then, that Seattle Sightline Institute chose the day after the B.C. election to release a report putting those potential exports of fossil oil, natural gas and coal into the context of competing proposals envisaging export terminals in Washington and Oregon.

If all the proposed terminals are built, Sightline's study determined that the resulting flow of fossil fuels will, when burnt at their destination, release an extra 761 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. That's the equivalent of 12 times British Columbia's total annual carbon emissions, or seven times the carbon that would be released annually by oil flowing through the hotly contested Keystone XL pipeline. It's also three times the annual emissions from Alberta's oil sands and the rest of that province's gas and oil economy.

If every project proposed between the Klamath River and Prince Rupert were built, the northwest coast would acquire seven new or expanded coal terminals, three new or expanded oil pipelines and at least half a dozen new or expanded gas pipelines.

Eleven of the 16 projects the Institute reviewed (three oil terminals and four each to ship coal and gas) are slated for British Columbia. If all were built, they would deliver to foreign markets the equivalent of some 519 million metric tons of atmospheric carbon emissions a year, or slightly more than eight times the province's current annual emissions.

Tyee contributing editor Chris Wood is a widely published journalist. Find his previous articles published on The Tyee here.

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