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B.C. shouldn’t delay its liquefied natural gas plans

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Opinion: B.C. shouldn’t delay its liquefied natural gas plans

Written by: Robert Deane for The Province, March 15th 2015LONDON, ONT. — Recent market developments in Premier Christy Clark’s trillion-dollar liquefied-natural-gas vision have given some an opportunity to question the wisdom of proceeding.

Frankly, I am surprised that there is any hesitation to proceed today with the projects — no matter that they won’t yield benefits for years.

This short-sighted focus on current prices and demand matters little in terms of the future market for petrochemical products.

In the volatile world of energy pricing, who among us can predict what worldwide demand and pricing will look like in the year 2020?

For the long term, I would guess demand will grow as rapidly as worldwide population and economic development grow. This is why we should continue to develop this industry and, in particular, the apparent forerunner, the Woodfibre LNG project in Squamish.

The work done so far at WLNG is a model of collaborative planning among all stakeholders, including the Squamish First Nation under the leadership of Ian Campbell.

The project has demonstrated that industrial development and environmental protection are no longer mutually exclusive objectives.

Yes, folks, we live in an age when the science allows for burgeoning industrial development alongside healthy ecosystems. The humpback whale, herring and the white sided dolphin can indeed flourish next to a well-conceived and managed LNG plant.

We must also be aware that most of the eventual feed stocks for these liquefaction facilities will come from hydraulic fracturing activities, highly concentrated in the northeastern section of the province.

These activities, together with the pipelines that will carry gas to the plants on the coast, will form an energy infrastructure that will benefit British Columbians for decades, if not generations, to come.

At this early stage we all have an opportunity to get it right. Let’s make sure that all stakeholders are involved in material decision-making.

Part of the task will be to ensure that environmental legislation is sufficient to protect delicate ecosystems by compelling businesses to purify waste water, reduce the emission of hazardous by-products and participate in substantial research into improved methods of extraction, transportation and liquefaction.

Responsible businesses realize that serious environmental policies are good for business in the long term and are not just a short-term public-relations gambit.

As a professor of business and an undergraduate zoologist, I wish every business student was required to take courses in environmental studies. One of the positive marketing tactics in a future world might be to sell energy produced by a low-impact, “clean” process.

We’re already seeing some indication from customers, albeit few, that this factors into their decision-making. Compared to oil and natural gas, the global LNG industry is very much still in its infancy.

The future gas customer will no longer be constrained by the presence of a nearby pipeline, but will be able to shop the world for the best price. Spinoff industries in double-hulled, refrigerated super freighters will employ thousands in high-paying construction and engineering jobs.

Perhaps, Premier Clark, we could start building ships again in this country to support the LNG industry. We used to do that, and many of the 410 cargo ships, tribal-class destroyers and other naval vessels Canada built helped win the Second World War and employed 84,000 Canadians.

The point is that new industrial development creates both expected and unforeseen ancillary opportunities in its wake. Perhaps young Canadians seeking good jobs and a healthy environment will be arriving throughout B.C. as well as in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Perhaps a growing and well-managed natural-gas industry in B.C. will eventually eliminate the need for a sales tax.

And perhaps a collaborative partnership with native communities will result in a new age of inclusion and economic opportunity for those First Nations who have an ancient, spiritual and unique connection with this land.

Perhaps giant ships with names like Princess of Courtenay or City of Prince Rupert will be welcomed in foreign ports, carrying a B.C. product.

Highly speculative? Maybe. But is it not the role of business to play the long game and not the short one?

So, let’s get started by turning this vision into reality. With its existing port, pipeline and grid infrastructure and its manageable scale, let’s start with Woodfibre LNG.

Robert Deane teaches business at King’s University College, Western University, in London, Ont.

Read the original article here.

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