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Mackenzie gas will compound global warming, says group

At peak production, operating the NWT’s proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline will pump 400,000 automobiles’ worth of greenhouse…

At peak production, operating the NWT’s proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline will pump 400,000 automobiles’ worth of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, says environmental group Ecology North.

That will double the NWT’s annual emissions, Doug Ritchie, spokesman for the Yellowknife-based group, told the Mackenzie Gas Project Joint Review Panel last week.

“Let’s do it right, let’s do it green or don’t do it at all,” Ritchie told the panel, citing a report Ecology North commissioned from the Calgary-based Pembina Institute, a non-profit environmental consultant group.

At its peak, the pipeline will emit between 1.96 million tonnes and 3.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, said Ritchie.

“One thing that we agree on with the proponent is that NWT (greenhouse gas) emissions will actually double.”

The NWT emits 1.76 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, according to a 2003 Environment Canada report.

As of 2004, Canada emits 758 million tonnes nationally.

Ecology North is not necessarily opposed to tapping the 52 trillion cubic feet of gas estimated locked beneath the Mackenzie Delta.

But if the Mackenzie pipeline is built and gas is pumped to market, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions must be offset, said Ritchie.

That said, “If you don’t take the gas out of the ground, you’ll have zero emissions,” he added.

“Basically the downstream and upstream emissions work out to be about 25 million tonnes in the (environmental impact statement) scenario and about 38 million tonnes in the maximum scenario,” he said.

That’s equivalent to putting between 5.5 million and 8.4 million cars on North American roads, said Ritchie.

“In our view, the proposed project and the pipeline will make climate change worse.

“What we need is essentially another equivalent project that essentially acts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere.”

Ritchie recommended the review panel require three of the projects’ proponents — Imperial Oil, Shell and ConocoPhillips — to build 7,700 windmills and retrofit 6.4 million homes with energy efficiencies, to offset the pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Alternatively, the proponents could look at purchasing carbon emission credits from other countries through the Kyoto Protocol, said Ritchie.

Kyoto allows China and India to sell emission credits “if they have projects that demonstrate real reductions in emissions,” he said.

It would cost proponents $1 million each day of operation to pay for the pipeline emissions, or 10 per cent of estimated revenue based on eight dollars per gigajoule of energy, he said.

“Making the Mackenzie Gas Project carbon-neutral is a crucial step towards making the project truly sustainable,” said Ritchie.

“If we don’t … start to change things in terms of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, how are we going to expect the United States to do that, things like that?

“How do we expect the Indians, how do we expect the Chinese to follow examples, if we set essentially a fundamentally bad example?

“Our recommendation to the panel is that the proponent be required to fully offset both upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of certified, that is recognized, carbon credits.”

But a carbon-neutral project is not in the cards, said Imperial spokeswoman Michele LaPlante.

“The Mackenzie Gas Project has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions through equipment selection and energy efficiency,” LaPlante told the review panel.

“Furthermore, the federal government has indicated its intent to regulate greenhouse gas emissions with clear, consistent and comprehensive standards.

“The project will comply with federal greenhouse gas management regulation once they have been implemented.

“Implementing Ecology North’s recommendation would impose a significant burden which goes well above and beyond any requirement for any project in Canada.”

The Mackenzie gas project will have to meet emissions targets that will be set this spring by the federal government, said Indian and Northern Affairs minister Jim Prentice.

“The plan is defining targets, and people who are burning natural gas, either from the Mackenzie Valley pipeline or any other source, will be required to comply with the targets,” said Prentice on Friday.

“So the targets will be measurable, achievable.”

The Conservative government in Ottawa proposed its Clean Air Act last week.

It aims to cut Canada’s national greenhouse gas emissions by up to 65 per cent by the year 2050, and promised to set “intensity-based” emission reduction targets for industrial groups within six months.

“They will start as emissions-intensity based and they will, eventually as technology improves, become absolute targets,” said Prentice.

Energy companies that fail to meet regulations will pay fines into a “technology fund” that will finance homegrown research and development of clean energy technologies, he said.

“The gas from Mackenzie Valley will have to ascribe to those same rules and, if they don’t, they’ll have to pay into the technology fund.”

A lateral pipeline stretching from the Mackenzie Valley project could tap the six trillion cubic feet trapped in North Yukon.

Yukon officials are intervening in the Yellowknife hearings to make sure the territory’s interests are heard.