From the «Solitude» of Quebec

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From the «Solitude» of Quebec

In the media of English-speaking Canada, one sees the arguments, pro and con, for building pipelines to export the fossil fuels of Alberta, Saskatchewan and even northern B.C. You may read that the Wet’suwet’en, First Nation «Coast Defenders», and environmentalists are opposed to the TransMountain pipeline and to Coastal GasLink. But did you know that another major natural gas projet is being promoted in Québec right now? Just as in Hugh MacLennan’s novel «Two Solitudes», only a tiny minority are aware of the battles and the problems in the «other solitude» .

In a nutshell, this 9, possibly 14 billion dollar « projet Gazoduq » and « GNL Québec » means that natural gas, extracted from fracked wells in northern B.C. and Alberta would be piped through existing pipelines all the way to eastern Ontario. From there, a 750 km pipeline would be built to the shores of the Saguenay river, where a liquefaction plant would cool the natural gas to -162 degrees C, then ship it in LNG tankers to Europe and Asia. [1]

Currently,, the BAPE (Quebec’s environmental agency) is holding hearings on the liquefaction plant only. [2] Because of conflicting jurisdictions, the inter-provincial pipeline part of the project plus the shipping on seaways are under federal jurisdiction. This means that hearings have already been held under the scrutiny of its federal counterpart, the CEAA/ACEE. [3]Last November, our local committee expressed its opinion on the pipeline part of the project. [4] Despite the fact that the promoter is trying to play one government against the other, this is ONE single project; pollution, GHG (greenhouse gases) and climate change know no boundaries!

For example, the promoter wants us to believe that the liquefaction plant (the one under the scrutiny of the BAPE) would be «carbon neutral» after the construction phase; in order to achieve this, he would use millions of Kilowatts /hr of Quebec’s «clean» hydro-electric power. Many people have pointed out that our clean hydro power should be used to promote innovative carbon-free technologies, not to do some greenwashing of a fossil fuel which is as «dirty» as coal.[5] In order to be carbon neutral in Quebec, we are asked to ignore the GHG produced while fracking in Alberta, leaks in pipelines, energy required for transportation, the «clean» energy required to liquify the gas, and combustion in foreign countries.

Here, the opposition to «projet Gazoduq» is strong. In September 2019, a half million people marched through the streets of Montreal to denounce climate change, and fossil fuels, including Gazoduq. [6] To date, the BAPE has received an unprecedented three thousand (3 000) briefs or «mémoires» on this subject; the vast majority of these expressed either outright opposition or asked pointed questions about the so-called environmental benefits of the project.

On top of the environmental problems, many have questioned the economic viability of the project. The prices of petroleum and gas are at an all time low. Forty economists have expressed doubts about the project, unless it were to be heavily subsidized by governments. [7] We would object strenuously if the government of Quebec should buy an economically «lame duck» pipeline just like the federal government purchased the TransMountain pipeline. And to cap it all, investor Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) has decided to withdraw his 4 billion dollar investment in this project.[8]

Slicing this mega-project into numerous tiny «isolated slices» doesn’t make it any more «environmentally friendly». We see through this public relation «baloney». The solution to climate change must be global in scope. The message from IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) is clear; if we want our planet to remain habitable for our grand children, 80% of fossil fuels must remain in the ground.[9] No matter which side of the «Two Solitudes» you are from, the fight against fossil fuel such as «project Gazoduq» is similar to the fight against TransMountain or Coastal GasLink or Keystone XL In all cases, the purpose of these pipelines is to bring more fossil fuel to the market place, which means that all are in direct contradiction with our commitments to the Paris Accord.

We must use the reset potential of the Covid-19 pandemic to find novel ways to put our economy back on its wheels. And that means helping the workers from the oil-patch find new jobs in renewable energies. In this, all men -and women- on both sides of the «Two Solitudes» must be united for the common good!

Gérard Montpetit

La Présentation, Qc.

October 29, 2020

1] https://energiesaguenay.com/en/project/project-summary/

2] Projet de construction d’un complexe de liquéfaction de gaz

3] https://ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/proj/80264?&culture=fr-CA

4] https://www.rvhq.ca/memoire-dans-le-cadre-du-projet-gazoduc-inc/

5] https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/04/fracking-leaks-may-make-gas-dirtier-coal

6] https://www.rvhq.ca/la-naivete-a-lassaut-du-cynisme/

7] http://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/307d7866-a975-4770-a4e0-1053813bf512__7C___0.html

8] https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/03/06/berkshire-hathaway-drops-canadian-lng-project.aspx

9] https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/09/IPCC-Special-Report-1.5-SPM_fr.pdf