Greenhouse gas emissions

It seems Canada is about to end a long tradition of coordinating greenhouse gas reduction targets with the United States. With much of the densely populated east coast at risk from rising sea levels, Americans know that climate change action is necessary. The Harper government, more firmly in the grasp of the fossil fuel industry, prefers change that is merely symbolic.

The Washington Post reported recently:

The Obama administration on Tuesday outlined an ambitious plan for slashing U.S. greenhouse-gas pollution over the next decade, calling for accelerating the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Documents filed with the United Nations formally committed the United States to lowering total U.S. carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. White House officials called the plan “ambitious and achievable,” and said the pollution cuts could be made without hampering economic growth…

Stephen Harper’s government is reluctant to take action that burdens important sponsors who worry that even modest goals of reduction could result in critical injury. However, there is growing scientific skepticism about the accuracy of North America’s current greenhouse gas reporting. If emissions are proven to be substantially higher than claimed by government, citizens will demand comprehensive responses and that possibility worries powerful financial interests.

Forbes, a business magazine not given to climate change hysteria, reported on Natural Gas Leaks experienced by producers:

A new study released Tuesday suggests that the global oil and gas industries allow as much as 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — and almost certainly far more — to escape into the atmosphere annually. The leakage rate represents at least $30 billion in lost revenues, the analysis found, and it reinforces previous studies suggesting that the much-touted climate benefits of the expanding shale boom are unlikely to be realized unless these so-called fugitive emissions are brought under control.

While the chief component of natural gas, methane, breaks down in the atmosphere more quickly than carbon dioxide, it has far more planet-warming potential while it is present. The gas escapes from storage tanks and vents at oil production sites, and in even greater amounts all along the natural gas production and delivery chain — rising from wells, poorly constructed processing facilities, and leaky transmission and delivery pipelines. Over a 20-year time frame, the cumulative leakage in 2012, the new study suggested, would represent as much as 7 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions — or the equivalent of about 40 percent of total carbon dioxide from coal-fired power production…

It is certain that Canada’s system of counting GHG emissions is thoroughly flawed. It depends almost entirely on self-reporting by industry and the federal government refuses to approve resources for effective oversight. It is an open secret among oil and gas producers that fugitive emissions are largely ignored. The following are extracted from Environment Canada reports:

2013 GHG Emissions by Province2


2013 GHG Emissions BC


How complete is Environment Canada’s report of GHG emissions? It is not worth much in BC nor is it accurate for the rest of Canada. In February, Vancouver Sun reporters Larry Pynn and Chad Skelton wrote The top 10 air polluters in B.C.. Excerpts:

…Industries are required to report data on some 300 pollutants where they meet the minimum threshold, [Francis Ries, a senior air-quality project engineer for Metro Vancouver] said, but the federal government lacks the staff to ensure accurate reporting.

…While pollution measurements from an industrial stack are relatively straightforward, the data does not account for “fugitive emissions” of which there can be plenty in the natural gas industry, both in pipelines and at processing plants, Ries noted.

“There’s not a lot of verification or oversight of the numbers,” he said.

…Ries noted that in 2012 industrial point sources represented about 44 per cent of the total human-generated emissions of the four pollutants analyzed by The Sun, transportation sources 41 per cent, and the remaining 15 per cent space heating, agriculture and other minor sources.

In terms of B.C.’s total greenhouse gas emissions of 61.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012, transportation represented about 40 per cent, point sources 31 per cent and other categories 29 per cent.

“The point is that industrial point sources are not the only big sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in B.C.,” Ries concluded.

BC Ferries is one example of unreported GHG emissions. A fuel usage report uncovered by The Tyee’s Andrew Macleod indicates the ferry company uses about 130 million litres of fuel annually. That suggests about 350,000 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent, which would rank it in the top 10 of the province’s industrial GHG polluters.

I’ve written previously about fugitive emissions from natural gas production:

When regulators don’t believe in regulation

Categories: Environment, Fracking

5 replies »

  1. The way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to go to each source, world-wide, and start ramping down. Sources such as oil, bitumen, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, cement plants etc.

    My feeling is, that would cause GDP growth to stop and go into reverse. Which would collapse the financial/banking system, which seems to demand endless GDP growth.


  2. China, India and the emerging economies of Central and South America will all now require thirty years of “fossil fuel growth”, just like we did from the 60's to the 90's. Us cutting back 3 or 4 percent now will essentially mean nothing, but it is still a good idea.
    I give our species only another two to three hundred years as numero uno on this planet anyways.
    It wont take as long for a 'homo' like creature to eventually evolve for the second time, maybe only half a million years….then the race to the bottom can begin again.


  3. Norm tweeted: “And, with more GDP, massive BC Liberal debt is more affordable.”

    Exactly – this explains the BC Govt's fervour for LNG. The Govt needs endless GDP growth or the huge BC debt will be unsustainable. Same with Federal Govt. Following this strategy means committing slow suicide.


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