Woodfibre LNG Update: Trudeau's Climate Commitments are Typical Political Bullshit

Squamish Chief and Howe Sound across from the Woodfibre LNG site

Like most other folks that have lived many decades beside beautiful Howe Sound i was appalled by the hypocrisy of the new Trudeau governments' announcement that they had decided to approve the Woodfibre LNG project, saying that the proposal is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects." This despite the fact that the science for the project was entirely provided by the proponent, and the public had no opportunity to cross-examine it.

As My Sea to Sky, a citizens' group opposed to the new development, says, "This decision by the federal department, Environment and Climate Change Canada amounted its approval to a broken election promise given the Liberal government's commitment to a low-carbon future many times including at COPE 21 in Paris. Trudeau, or Prime Minister selfie as he's widely known, seems very adept at dodging some promises and outright ignoring others that he made so 'liberally' during last year's election campaign.

Another promise related to this terrible decision is the promise to consult local residents and aboriginal leaders almost all of whom oppose this boondoggle by the sea. The facts are clear, BC's LNG dream is a nightmare of lies and political pandering to the fossil fuel industry. The real facts behind Christy Clark's rosy claims that the Woodfibre Proposal are based on are well documented  The article 'Four More Whoppers about LNG in British Columbia', by Andrew Nikiforuk, being the best of the recent ones.

Another promise PM selfie and his Environment Minister made was that upstream emissions would be included in the review process. Yet the governments were warned about LNG greenhouse gas emissions in internal briefing notes that single out methane as well as emissions from fracking process. On top of emissions from combustion and flaring of natural gas, which amounted to 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 [equal to 2/3 of all the autos in the province] is the methane escaping from multiple parts of the fracking process. The amount of lost 'fugitive emissions' by BC govt. estimates, which the federal govt. accepts, are between 0.3 and three per cent whereas other North American jurisdictions and scientific literature estimate that rate is between seven and eight per cent.

Entirely lacking in B.C.’s approach, however, are so-called top-down measurement approaches that the Environmental Defense Fund [EDF] researchers have used in the United States. These techniques measure the methane concentrations in the atmosphere around gas industry operations, using sensors mounted on towers as well as on ground and airborne vehicles. BC uses voluntary industry reporting and financial accounting to generate its fanciful figures.

According to a DeSmog report: "Methane emissions from British Columbia's natural gas industry are likely at least 7 times greater than official numbers blowing BC's Climate Action Plan out of the water. Natural gas is nearly all methane and since methane is such a powerful climate warming gas these unreported emissions mean the total CO2 equivalent emissions for the entire province are nearly 25% higher than is being reported.

This is the Trudeau government's first big decision regarding its climate commitments and it's clear he has chosen to throw the environment under the bus in favor of creating a new fossil fuel exporting industry. It will create a few short term construction jobs and a very few permanent jobs but it will make the already rich corporate owners and their shareholders a bit richer - apparently the goal of all our captured governments these days. Richer that is if they ever figure out where to sell their LNG which will cost 2-3 times the Asian market price IF everything goes perfectly for the corporate criminals and their government ass-kissers.

What emissions and financial accounting never attempt to touch are the long term externalized costs of fracking outside the realm of standard accounting. Upstream wise, we know now that fracking despoils the groundwater as well as destroying massive amounts of irreplaceable fresh water. Fracking not only generates fugitive emissions around the drill sites but creates fissures that allow methane and CO2 to escape from other, often abandoned well sites. Fracking creates earthquakes, consumes and poisons water, pollutes the air and in so doing is a huge contributor to the greenhouse gas problem. The pipelines needed to carry the gas to Squamish destroy carbon sequestering forests and water resources including the habitat of fish and millions of other forms of life. The building of the compressing and shipping facility has a huge carbon footprint. The ships carrying the LNG must be built and fuel must be burned moving the stuff.

If that's not enough, just imagine what happens to every living thing for many kilometers around if one of the ships or the facility explodes.

How can anybody like Catherine McKenna and PM selfie say with a straight face that the Woodfibre LNG proposal is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects." They can't, they know better, they have advisers, they themselves can read, the only logical answer is that their previous promises of doing things differently are bullshit.


How and Why Free Trade, Economic Populism and the Class War Has Transcended US Party Politics

Economic Populism set to transform the 2016 election

Today's Super Tuesday #3 primary vote is poised to be the most important to date. The gulf between the two major parties is galactic in size on most issues, but one - free trade - stands out as something both sides agree on. As yesterday's excellent article 'What’s The Problem With Free Trade' explains "There are those who say any increase in trade is good. But if you close a factory here and lay off the workers, open the factory “there” to make the same things the factory here used to make, bring those things into the country to sell in the same outlets, you have just 'increased trade' because now those goods cross a border. Supporters of free trade are having a harder and harder time convincing American workers this is good for them."

As i see it the free trade scam is the lid on the pot that's creating the steam we're seeing explode in America. Both the Sanders and Trump arguments in this area are nearly identical yet the pressure created isn't creating the working class unity that it should because the elites have the levers of power [media, debt, monetary policy, police state control and religion etc]] and use those levers to pander to fear as well as mis-inform the citizens. Meanwhile the pressure builds and the victims - all of us non-elites - swirl and bubble...it's a classic case of divide and conquer and it's working. The people wanting to lash out at the Trump rallies [and everywhere else] are all victims lashing out at other victims who are in reality just like them [with perhaps slightly different pigmentation, biology or religious belief etc].

Bernie Sanders continues to gain momentum with his economic populism arguments. Last week just before Sanders' Michigan upset Dan Cantor, national director of the Working Families Party, said when announcing they endorsed Sanders: “The Beltway elite may never have really understood why job-killing trade deals are such a big deal. “But the people of Michigan surely do, and Bernie Sanders does too.”

Yesterday, on the eve of the all important Ohio vote, Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley said in making the announcement that the ATU officially endorsed Sanders for president and putting this year's presidential election in historic context, "This is no ordinary time in U.S. history and our nation is crying out for a leader who owes nothing to the corporate interests responsible for undermining the American middle class. Our executive board recognizes what’s at stake in this election and have made the bold decision of endorsing Bernie Sanders for President. Bernie is right for working people and right for America."

Hopefully the Sanders' message of economic populism that transcended demographics in Michigan will carry the day in Ohio, illinois and Missouri as well. Hillary Clinton has built up a 200-ish lead in elected delegates over the last two weeks but she mostly is only winning and getting her delegates from the southern states, which the Democrats won’t win in a general election. i think that is really troubling because in Nov. it's the swing states, where Sanders shines, that will decide who wins the White House.

The fact that the message - Free Trade is a globalized corporate weapon, whereas, Fair Trade is the people's and planet's defense against the elites - is the common rallying cry of both the Republican and Democratic hopefuls proves to me that it transcends politics and is part of the greater class war, a real war that transcends the artificial divisions, be they, race, gender, religious beliefs, geography etc. that are used by the elites to make people blind to that reality.


Reading List:

Free Trade - the Rich's Global Corporate Weapon, Fair Trade - the People's and Gaia's Defense

In 2016, let's hope for better trade agreements - and the death of TPP by Joseph Stiglitz

How investors use trade agreements to undermine climate action

And Just Like That, "Free Trade" Pact Trounces US Law

'US trade deals have cost America 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000'


Carbon Taxation's Effects on GHGs Negligable but Economic Downturn Works Consistantly

Baseline emissions from the EIA carbon tax/consumption model (in blue) are expected to decline by a fairly impressive 25 percent between 2015 and 2040, presumably because of some combination of less driving and more efficient vehicles (driven in part by tough new fuel economy standards). But the extra impact from adding in a carbon tax (in purple) is essentially zero.

If there’s one thing that economists agree on about carbon taxes it’s that there’s not much effect on consumption of transportation fuels. The explanation is that demand is very inelastic - driving is something that people 'have to do'. So price changes don’t have much impact on how much driving people do. For example, the NEMS model used by the Energy Information Administration predicts the impact on gasoline consumption of a carbon tax that starts at $25 per ton CO2 in 2015 and rises at 5 percent per year through 2040 should reduce consumption by something like 0.034 percent, a negligible amount.

At first glance this negligible effect seems to contradict the fact that greenhouse gas emissions [GHGs] from British Columbia had fallen 4.5% between 2007 and 2010 following imposition of its carbon tax. However, it is estimated by experts and the BC govt. that most of this decrease is, in fact, attributable to the economic recession. Rob Fleming, the B.C. NDP environment critic, said Mr. Lake’s confession was a bit odd. “The minister was candid, but basically admitting global, economic recessionary forces had more to do with B.C’s slight emissions drop than the sum total of the B.C. Liberal climate policy.”

Considering that transportation accounts for about 1/4 of national greenhouse gas emissions and about 1/8 of global greenhouse gas emissions. The global climate challenge is mostly about coal and electricity generation, not about petroleum or transportation fuels. Yet BC's carbon tax [CT] is regressive in both sectors because a carbon tax applied to industrial producers is simply added to the cost side of the ledger and passed on in the price, so the tax ends up being paid by the end of the line consumer in all cases. And though it may be paid equally [relative to consumption] the pain isn't equal, the rich wouldn't even notice, but the poor would have to adjust their other spending to accommodate the increase.

As The Mud Report detailed a few days ago, the regressive nature of a carbon tax can be reversed depending on how the revenues from it are recycled back into the economy. BC brags that revenues from it's CT are 'neutral' but as the image above shows most of  $5 billion in extra carbon tax revenues go to reducing corporate taxes and doesn't fund public transit at all, nor does it provide financial incentives to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, make your home more energy efficient or fund other environmental projects. BC's CT, though loudly praised, simply takes money from the poor people who cause the least carbon pollution due to the lowest consumption and transfers it to the corporations and shareholders who not only need it the least but also create the largest per capita portion of the GHG problem.

To add insult to injury, Christy Clark's Liberals have declared natural gas to be clean energy source [despite the fugitive methane it refuses to acknowledge, let alone measure] and if Clark’s ambitions of five LNG export terminals come on stream in that province, the oil and gas sector will rise to 52 per cent of Canada’s emissions by 2030 meaning the rest of the Canada's economy will have to reduce emissions by 54 per cent.

To summarize, carbon taxes create negligible GHG savings, they are paid mostly by the poor, the revenue from the tax goes mostly to the rich and, as the graph above shows they are meaningless. But as all the graphs, economists and even the BC govt agrees an economic downturn does have a positive effect on GHG emissions.

Though our leaders and media constantly drum GROWTH, GROWTH, GROWTH, the fact is that when human consumption slows, planet Earth can heal. Only when our obsession with consumption wanes, only when our economy - based on endless growth - is seen as the destroyer of life and real wealth that it is, will our planet be able to heal. Two interesting points in the graph below: 1.) The reduction in 2015's emissions may be partly due to better efficiency, renewable energy, and the like. But, mainly, it is the result of the global economic slowdown. 2.) Every time global emissions drop it's a result of an economic slowdown.

To conclude, CTs are designed to make politicians look good not cut GHG emissions by any meaningful amount. CTs can be progressive, but can also be regressive, as is BC's version. But there is an effective mechanism for reducing GHG emissions - degrowth.


Bernie's Class War, Environmental Importance and Bloated Defense Budget Messages Still Not Enough

Let's hope the youth show up tomorrow in Michigan

Bernie had a big weekend with convincing victories in Kansas and Nebraska [lets's hear it for the prairie populists] and Maine. Yet at the end of it he had fallen further behind in elected delegates. Then last night Bernie again stole the show at the debate in Flint Michigan where both his unwavering class consciousness arguments and environmental stances, especially on fracking, drew huge cheers from the audience. Both these issues should put Bernie in a great position in tomorrow's Michigan vote, but apparently unless there's a miracle Hilary will win there by a wide margin. i just can't understand why.

No state has lost more well paid jobs to free trade and no state has been plundered worse than Michigan by America's corporate vampire friendly free trade policies of the last few decades. Policies that Hillary supported [until flip-flopping recently] and Bernie always denounced. No state has more first hand experience with the causes and effects of the 99% vs. 1% than Michigan, it's hard to believe that Sanders pledge to reverse a status-quo of wealth distribution from the bottom to the top, responsible for entrenching gross inequality and social and economic injustice hasn't propelled him to the top.

"Sanders is educating the American people on the importance of class rather than race, religion, gender or sexual orientation when it comes to understanding the state of the nation. The only divide that matters in society, he has spares no opportunity in pronouncing, is the one that exists between the super-rich and everybody else." - RT

According to the pundits and the polls Bernie is losing the African-American vote very badly, and again, i can't understand why. It seems to me that Bernie's decades long equality message and his record as a civil rights campaigner both in and out of government should be a beacon to African-American voters, but it isn't.

Just over a week ago US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who was the DNC Vice-Chair resigned and threw her support behind Bernie saying: "There is a clear contrast between our two candidates with regard to my strong belief that we must end the interventionist, regime change policies that have cost us so much," she wrote. "This is not just another 'issue.' This is THE issue, and it’s deeply personal to me. This is why I’ve decided to resign as Vice Chair of the DNC so that I can support Bernie Sanders in his efforts to earn the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race."

i'd have thought that an announcement like this and the Vermont senator's past support for drastic military cuts plus the fact that in 1995 Bernie introduced a bill to terminate America’s nuclear weapons program and as late as 2002, he supported a 50 percent cut for the Pentagon saying "corrupt defense contractors are to blame for massive fraud and a “bloated military budget", would sway Bernie's progressive foreign policy critics...but no, they haven't [read why here, here, here and here].

Bernie's right on so many issues and poll after poll concludes that Bernie beats Trump or Cruz whereas Hillary fares much worse.

It's all a mystery to me, but the fact remains that for Bernie to have any chance of turning his heartfelt words into reality he'd need to have very long 'coattails' to change the numbers in congress considering that the House is now dominated by the neanderthal Republicans and the Senate, though perhaps able to achieve a Democratic majority in Nov., is presently Republican controlled too.. Consequently, without a Democratic landslide neither Hillary's modest changes or Bernie's revolutionary ones can go anywhere.

Unfortunately, despite huge turnouts for his rallies, especially by young voters, those huge landslide type numbers just aren't showing up at the polls. The primary numbers show that overwhelmingly the Republican carnival is drawing the huge numbers not Bernie's class war arguments. i guess John Steinbeck put it best when he said, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

We'll see, as another great philosopher - Yogi Berra - said, "it ain't over 'til it's over" so i'll cling to my hopes for that miracle to appear. But if it doesn't, i'm more and more thinking, especially as the deluded evangelical Ted Cruz is Trump's only real opposition, that i'd rather see the loose cannon, the buffoon, that is the Donald as president than Hillary because he just might be the bowling ball the Empire needs whereas Hillary is just more of the same.


Trudeau's Regressive Carbon Tax Designed to Make Politicians Look Good While Pandering to the Rich

The Trudeau government here in Canada is doing it's best to call what is a regressive Carbon Tax 'carbon pricing' and is clearly convinced that it is the only politically acceptable solution to meeting Canada's carbon budget promises. The fact is that carbon pollution, like all forms of pollution, is a byproduct of industrial production. These ugly byproducts remain unaccounted for in capitalist accounting of the costs of production. Instead, they are externalized onto future generations who'll be on the hook for the inevitable cleanup costs and onto the entire biosphere.

Next fact, the poor live with the various regressive taxation schemes [sales or VAT taxes, MSP fees here in BC and carbon taxes] because they don't have the extra funds it takes to adequately bribe enough politicians to get progressive taxes mandated. The rich are well educated in the cost-benefit analysis of paying off the every political party in every 'democracy' to keep their position secure.The poor spend their time in prayer and at the lottery ticket window.

Trudeau and his government are far from unique. Like all politicians they understand that no one ever won an election by telling voters that: 'due to the laws of physics, they'll have to consume less'. As i'm told all the time: "less doesn't sell". So the flimflam of carbon taxes have become the answer de jour. Carbon taxes make the politicians look good, by taking from the poor and giving to the rich. How?

For instance, when we Canadian drivers fill up our gas tanks, 35% of the price we now pay is tax. If the average tank holds 64 litres, every time we gas up at $1 a litre, we’re handing over $22 not to the producers and distributors of this product, but to the government. Since poor people have less money overall, taking $22 from them at the pump is a big deal. Via gasoline taxes, the poor are forced to pay a higher share of their income just to do ordinary things such as get to work, drop their kids at daycare, fetch groceries, and visit ailing relatives. This is called regressive taxation. When the $22 in tax we pay every time we gas up becomes $25 or $30, more affluent families will absorb the increase. They won’t be happy, but it won’t diminish their horizons. - Donna Laframboise

It’s poor people, the ones already pinching their pennies, whose lives will be made more miserable. Since driving to work isn’t negotiable, there will be less money in these households for food, clothes, eyeglasses, dentists, and skating lessons for the kids. There will be fewer family vacations, and narrower prospects. As the end of the month approaches and the bills loom large, stress and conflict will be amplified. The promise of a tax credit does nothing to alleviate a poor family's immediate and necessary needs. Try heating your house with a tax credit. Try telling your kids they can't go on a school trip next week but next year the family will get a tax credit.

Carbon taxes cause real misery here and now and they don't work to boot. Politicians see carbon taxes as a way to look good without biting the rich hands that feed them. Due to the global nature of our economies and the fact that much of Canada's non-necessity consumption is imported without a global agreement on an effective and equal carbon tax [as in James Hanson's plan, see video below] all the misery that the poor would suffer is meaningless and unless the revenues generated by a large enough carbon tax to make a real difference is redistributed progressively [exactly the opposite of what BC does] the results would be even worse for the poor because much of the revenue generated by carbon taxes goes to cutting taxes that are progressive - like income and corporate taxes.

In addition corporate taxes are costs that get passed onto the consumers eventually so the poor pay again. The point of carbon  taxation is to cut greenhouse gas consumption, exactly what BC's carbon tax has failed miserably at. The BC government brags that the carbon tax has resulted in lower consumption since it's introduction in 2008, but consumption of everything plummeted in 2008 just after the crooked banking collapse that year and as the rich are far less inconvenienced by downturns it would have been the poor who bought less heating and transportation fuel as well as everything else that contributed to the improved numbers. So the rich consume the most GHG causing stuff and get the most benefit from the carbon taxes.

Because BC is the only jurisdiction that currently has a carbon tax it's being lauded as a great example. But is it? If the BC government, and the Canadian govt. eventually, used the revenues generated by carbon taxation from those who use carbon-producing products and plunked it into initiatives that promote using less (transit, alternative energy, water conservation, marshland and grassland restoration, environmental education, organic agriculture, etc.) it could have been. If it had used the revenues to mitigate the misery it causes to the poor instead of a way to replace revenue from progressive taxation, it could have been...but it does neither.

Carbon taxes could be a valuable tool in the battle against carbon and other pollution caused by industrial development IF it was globally implemented as Hansen explains. Carbon taxes can be a useful tool, IF they are part of a concrete action to phase out fossil fuels rapidly and provide alternatives while being socially just. Unfortunately, pro-business governments, including all governments in Canada, aren’t going to do that.

The fact is, there's plenty of everything for everybody to live IF resources were distributed justly and used wisely. But that's not what our economic or political paradigm creates. Instead we have a few humans with far to much and many with far to little. Though our leaders and media constantly drum GROWTH, GROWTH, GROWTH, the fact is that when human consumption slows, planet Earth can heal. Only when our obsession with materialism wanes, only when our economy - based on endless growth - is seen as the destroyer of life and real wealth that it is, will our planet be able to heal.

Here's a short reading list for those who want to learn more:

Bottom Line on Carbon Taxes - World Resources Institute

BC's Carbon Tax is Just Another Regressive Sales Tax

Liberal Think Tank Admits A Carbon Tax Is ‘Regressive’

Dr. James Hansen - A Low-Loss Electrical Grid and Carbon Tax


The Vancouver Declaration - An Admission That 'Green' and 'Growth' Make Strange Bedfellows

The amount and speed of change necessary globally to bend the curve downward enough to be meaningful means that massive, immediate change is required. Canada's PM Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister McKenna both stood up at COP 21 in Paris a few months ago and acknowledged that they understood the numbers.

To meet Canada's short-term target of lowering emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 would require shutting down the equivalent of 58% of Canada’s oil and gas sector in five years. Meeting Canada's 2030 target of 30% below 2005 levels, would require shuting down the equivalent of all of Canada’s oil and gas sector in 15 years and still come up short.

Instead, after two days of meetings, Trudeau presents 'The Vancouver Declaration', a "plan to make a plan" 8 months from now.  Trudeau had threatened to impose a small national carbon tax, but, a bit sheepishly. agreed to let each jurisdiction figure out their own approach. Quebec and Ontario are already committed Cap and Trade - basically a lisence to pollute. B.C. has a carbon tax but all proceeds go to cutting other taxes - taxes like income and profit, that are progressive. The carbon tax in Alberta is at least trying to redistribute the revenue progressively except they are exempting the worst offenders - the fossil fuel industry.

The problem is that every politician knows that 'less' doesn't sell, so Trudeau is searching for a way to meet Canada's climate commitments while saying he can grow the economy...BUT...first Trudeau says Canada needs to build more pipelines to transport  tar sands crud are necessary to fund Canada's transition to a green future...{puke]...But, as Barry Saxifrage explained recently, Canada's fossil fuel industry's current slowdown, let alone the whole future of dirty fuels, means no more mega-pipelines need to be built. Barry says: "Canada's pipeline wars may be ending sooner -- and with less national division and trauma -- than expected."

There are strategies that might actually work to reduce climate change and the wider pollution threats but they can't currently be implemented because they are politically radioactive. A good sized shrinking of the economy would almost certainly help not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also our consumption of resources, leaving more for future generations. But what politician would advocate such policies? Only one who was determined not to be re-elected.

So Canada's best and brightest elected to 'kick the can down the road' rather than even approach the subject of wanting and consuming less. Democracy and Necessity of Action are at a crossroads, as Kevin Anderson says, "In true Orwellian style, the political and economic dogma that has come to pervade all facets of society must not be questioned. For many years, green-growth oratory has quashed any voice with the audacity to suggest that the carbon budgets associated with 2 °C cannot be reconciled with the mantra of economic growth."

The unavoidable truth is our governments are captured by the corporate polluters and the citizenry is addicted to the trinkets the corporations sell. The addicted will agree with any bullshit story that feeds their habit.  'The Vancouver Declaration' is an admission that economic growth and carbon reductions make strange bedfellows