Climate Change

Climate poison could be an asset

Methane, which the BC government has supported with billions of dollars in subsidies and tax relief, is a risk to public health.

Methane leaks typically contain toxic pollutants, carcinogens, and poisonous gases like toluene, benzene, and hydrogen sulfide. These leaks can be deadly to those in the immediate vicinity, where disadvantaged people often reside.

Research by California’s Stanford University describes CH4, the main constituent of natural gas:

Although carbon dioxide is more abundant in the atmosphere, methane’s global warming potential is about 85 times as great over a 20-year period and at least 25 times as great a century after its release. Methane also threatens air quality by increasing the concentration of tropospheric ozone, exposure to which causes an estimated 1 million premature deaths annually worldwide due to respiratory illnesses. Methane’s relative concentration has grown more than twice as fast as that of carbon dioxide since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution due in great part to human-driven emissions.

Stanford notes that captured methane could be used to manufacture fish food for the global market using methane-consuming bacteria called methanotrophs. Fish farms now provide about half of the world’s animal-sourced seafood. Using this method, electricity is the largest production expense, accounting for almost half of operating costs.

Evan David Sherwin, a postdoctoral researcher in energy resources engineering at Stanford said:

Despite decades of trying, the energy industry has had trouble finding a good use for stranded natural gas. Once we started looking at the energy and food systems together, it became clear that we could solve at least two longstanding problems at once.

Methane emissions escaping from northeast BC gas fields are a topic that industry and BC government officials hesitate to acknowledge. Captured methane could be the basis of profitable fish food manufacturing in a region where employment is now overly dependent on a fossil fuel industry that climate science says must decline.

British Columbia is well positioned to manufacture fish food using the methodology discussed. With electricity a major production cost, the province could use power generated nearby to provide economic benefits the region has never obtained from its hydroelectric generation. BC has surplus electricity which has been exported for a fraction of its retail value. CN now provides rail transport services from northeast BC to Prince Rupert, Vancouver and beyond.

Going beyond fish food production, BC could enable land-based production of various aquaculture species. That would address a third longstanding problem: open net fish farms in the BC’s ocean waters.

Imagine sustainable aquaculture facilities heated and cooled by geothermal heat pumps, using recycled water, with pumps and other equipment powered by electricity and fish waste used as fertilizer by Peace River farmers.

For millennia, Indigenous people have relied on seafood to exist. Industrialization, overfishing and rising temperatures are destroying wild fish stocks, whether in oceans or inland waters. The Sierra Club reported on:

…mercury contamination of fish, particularly preferred eating fish – top predators like bull trout – in the Peace and its tributaries, as a result of the mobilization of mercury in the flooded areas.

It would be natural justice for Indigenous groups to be at the centre of aquaculture in an area where colonizers have oppressed their rights.

Recirculating aquaculture:

  • Water reuse to minimize reliance on water resources,
  • Enhanced biosecurity—protecting fish from pathogens or predators,
  • Preventing escapees,
  • Protecting wild fish populations and surrounding environment (low to no impact),
  • Control and collection of fish waste to reduce pollution discharge and recover nutrients,
  • Optimized environment for fish growth—control of temperature, water quality, feeds, and other environmental parameters.

Categories: Climate Change, Economics

2 replies »

  1. We do not need to give the fracking industry any motivation to keep poisoning water and destroying agricultural lands with pollution, roads and constant trucking of water from every possible source, depleting every ditch, groundwater source, stream, river, lake, which are places which salmon are trying to use for spawning, and which farmers need to do their business.


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