Imagine 40 freighters a year steaming through Howe Sound, each hauling a cargo of liquid natural gas (LNG) with the explosive power of dozens of nuclear bombs.
That prospect was raised at a discussion panel, “LNG, Pipelines & Tankers,” which drew a packed house at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church January 14.
Much of the discussion focused the LNG plant proposed for the Squamish area.
“Each of these tankers containing about 60,000 tonnes of LNG has the thermal equivalent of 72 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs,” said panelist Dr. Eoin Finn, a fact that he said, “didn’t make me feel very comfortable.”
Finn, who holds a PhD in Chemistry and an MBA, owns a home on Bowyer Island in Howe Sound, but that wasn’t his only reason for opposing the proposed seaside LNG plant at Woodfibre, about five kilometres south of Squamish.
He said the economics of the project are “weird,” and that the safety risks and climatic effect “all speak against it.”
The plant, which would be converted from an idle pulp and paper mill, is owned by Singapore-based Pacific Oil and Gas Ltd., which has said it could start liquefying natural gas and shipping it to Asia by 2017. But the company has yet to decide whether or not to proceed.
None of the four panelists was wholly in favour of the Woodfibre project, although engineer Lois Boxill, who works in resource extraction, came closest to defending the industry in principle.
Boxill said that any thought of suddenly stopping fossil fuel use and switching to alternate energy sources, “is just not going to happen.”
She said many people who worked in her industry are often demonized, but that many of them are environmentally conscious, concerned about the effects of their products, and, “they actually are more like us than we think.”
Also featured on the panel were activist Jef Keighley and retired Lutheran pastor Richard Hergesheimer.
Keighley noted that recent reports indicate global warming is happening much faster than was previously thought, which means that a stroll at Davis Bay during winter high tides in the future could be a very different experience.
“In 50 years walking along the seawall, you’ll be walking chest-high in water,” he said. “Our children will see that.”
Keighley called on governments to start subsidizing green technologies instead of oil and gas companies before it’s too late.
Hergesheimer focused on the ethical issues of energy extraction, saying it was a conflict between the belief that humans “own the earth,” rather than belonging to it.
“When Father Greed and Mother Nature meet, Mother Nature always gets violated,” he said.
One of the panel organizers, Kathy Archibald, said they had lined up engineer Ben Smale, a more enthusiastic supporter of LNG projects, but he cancelled due to a death in the family.
Archibald said there are people on the Coast who are authorities on the subject and are in favour of the Woodfibre development, but when asked to participate they turned her down.
“People on the Coast do not want their bare faces hanging out if they’re pro in this context of this,” she said. Rik Jespersen