Dialogue paves way for future talks


A dialogue panel to discuss the proposed Woodfibre Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export facility just outside of Squamish convened last Wednesday Jan. 14, at St. Hilda’s Church in Sechelt to talk about the pros and cons of LNG.

Moderated by business etiquette expert Margaret Page, panelists Dr. Eoin Finn, Jef Keighley, Lois Boxill and Richard (Hergy) Hergesheimer discussed their mostly concurrent opinions.

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Finn, a retired partner of KPMG, holds degrees in chemistry, math and business and a PhD in physical chemistry and spoke out against the proposed LNG.

“B.C. has bi-legislation agreeing to reduce its [greenhouse gas] footprint by 20 per cent by 2020 — five years from now — and 80 per cent by 2050,” Finn said. “These LNG plans will burn about 10 per cent of their natural gas fuel, the carbon footprint of B.C. will not decrease by 20 per cent by 2020, but will actually increase by 33 per cent by 2020 — breaking our own laws.”

Canada already failed to live up to its Kyoto Accord agreements from 1997, which promised to reduce national greenhouse gas (GHG) levels by six per cent. In fact, between 1990 and 2008, Canada’s GHG emissions rose by 24 per cent, according to Finn.

Finn’s statistics already put Canada over the agreements established at the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 to reduce the national GHG footprint by 17 per cent.

“We will miss those by a country mile and nobody seems to care,” Finn said. “But the scientists do and our children and grandchildren certainly will.”

Boxill, a geotechnical engineer with 15 years of experience in tailings dam design and mine waste management planning, spoke in favour of LNGs in B.C. as long as they come with accountability from all levels of government.

“When looked at from the perspective of our shared destiny, it becomes unacceptable for BCers to say ‘anywhere but here,’” Boxill said. “The opportunity to demonstrate a more comprehensive understanding of the connections between the ways in which we consider the LNG project to meet supply demands and impact on our planet should not be taken lightly.”

Keighley, a retired national union representative from CAW Canada (now Unifor) with 25 years of experience representing workers in B.C.’s mining, manufacturing and service sectors, spoke out strongly against LNGs.

“We thought we could burn baby burn and we’d all get our turn. That’s no longer the case,” Keighley said. “We now recognize … that our over-consumption of fossil fuels is heating the planet, changing the planet, and the carbon debt is becoming due and it’s coming really fast.”

For emphasis, Keighley used the example of Davis Bay. Currently the highest tides in the winter already come a little over the top of the seawall. In 50 years the water will be at about chest height for a grown man, he said.

“We have to turn our back on the fossil fuel economy as quickly as is possible [and turn] towards a green economy, because that’s where the jobs are. That’s actually where the energy is and you employ 10 to 15 times more people in that endeavour than you can ever do in fossil fuel extraction,” he said. “It now takes $4 million of investment in the oil and gas industry to produce one single full-time job. For that same amount of money you can produce 40 to 50 jobs in energy retrofits. And those jobs exist in the cities where we live and work. We don’t have to send our sons and daughters off to Fort McMoney.”

Hergesheimer, a retired pastor with 40 years in the ministry, remained undecided about LNGs.

He did offer an either/or scenario, suggesting that we (as middle to upper-middle class Canadians) can either abide by Darwinian laws and let the strong survive while the weak fail, or we can continue living as we have and hope that a miraculous breakthrough in science will save us in the 11th hour.

“The hard truth hidden in this either/or conundrum,” said Hergesheimer, “is the painful realization that whatever model we follow, and whatever actions we take, that our decisions — however well intended they may be — will mean good for some and evil for others.”

Hergesheimer continued to say that although he does not see a middle ground now, the way to achieve one is through dialogues such as this one.

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