Recently, as reported right here in The Squamish Reporter, an idea was floated for a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant for the former Woodfibre site just south of our community. The reaction, while predictable, highlighted one very important question: What do we, as a community, really know about LNG and the Canadian Oil and Gas industry?
Growing up in southern Alberta, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand not only the physical impacts of oil and gas exploitation, but also the social and community impacts associated with this industry.
As I came of age, I fully expected to join my family and friends in this industry – an industry that provides jobs for thousands of citizens, and either directly or indirectly provides for our way of life right across this country.
I continued down this path, and trained in seismic processing; the act of interpreting sound energy to identify subsurface geology, and ultimately, find viable hydrocarbon plays. In the end, I couldn’t reconcile my personal feelings about the industry with the opportunities that presented themselves as I finished school, and we made the move west.
Since that move, Canadians have started to have deeper discussions on our role as a petro-economy, and particularly, the infrastructure needed to move these commodities to market.
The recent upswell in BC against the expansion of the petroleum industry is rooted in a good place; love of the planet, and the need to move away from hydrocarbon use. These are values that many of us share.
The pragmatist in me also needs to look at how much money is injected into the Canadian economy from this industry. Went looking for stats, and what I found is astounding, to say the least. In 2011, the total value of Canadian hydrocarbons sold was $121,934,265,000 against expenditures of $68,130,800,000 including direct royalty payments to the Crown totaling $10,607,200,000. Whoa.
Now, the prospect of this industry putting down some roots in this community is an interesting one. In front of us is an opportunity to share in the windfall a $122 billion dollar industry, to recoup some of the lost industrial taxes of the last decade, and to provide the sought after family supporting jobs we all crave.
Bluntly, it is a way to pay for the over-extension of our municipal services and our appetite for champagne amenities.
The flip side of this opportunity are the upstream effects of Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) and the environmental concerns around the industry in general. Add to this the enormous amount of energy required to freeze methane, and you get an industry sector that is far from environmentally sustainable.
For me personally, I’m torn… I want to live in a community that supports itself through local industry, not local pockets. I also want to live in a world that is moving away from hydrocarbons and towards renewables for energy.
At the end of the day, when this decision needs to be made, I hope we can genuinely assess both sides of this proposal. We need to recognize the positive and negative consequences of the decision we make, without forgetting that this industry, warts and all, is the hand that feeds the nation.
Feedback? I can be found on Twitter: @natedolha