Clark still promising natural gas dream will produce ‘billions’ to slay B.C.’s debt – by Brian Hutchinson (National Post – August 14, 2014)

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Time and other factors are shredding British Columbia’s $1-trillion liquefied natural gas (LNG) expansion dreams, served up by Premier Christy Clark and leading to her successful — and disingenuous — provincial election campaign last year.

Despite more and more skepticism, she’s still running with it. An expanded LNG industry in B.C. will eliminate the province’s mounting debt, or so the premier claims. As well, “billions-of-dollars in new [LNG] revenue will be dedicated” to a “Prosperity Fund,” a sort of rainy-day account “for the benefit of current and future generations.”

How many “billions-of-dollars” does Ms. Clark have in mind? “More than $100-billion.” That’s a loose figure, based on estimates from reports commissioned by the B.C. government and assuming at least five new LNG plants will soon enter production in the province.

B.C. has a lot of natural gas; in theory, much of it can be piped from the hinterland to seaports, then chilled, liquefied and shipped to markets in Asia.

Easier said than done. Ms. Clark’s “billions-of-dollars” promise relies on a whole lot of what-ifs; nonetheless, the premier and her B.C. Liberal Party ran with it, declaring themselves wealth generators, job creators, debt busters. Their opponents, the B.C. New Democratic Party, offered no compelling response in the election, and lost.

More than a year has passed. There’s nothing new on B.C.’s LNG production front. But Ms. Clark and Rich Coleman, the deputy premier and natural gas development minister, still insist those “billions-of-dollars” are coming to slay B.C.’s growing debt, which is about to hit $63-billion.

In fact, prospective players are having second thoughts about LNG, and they aren’t committing to anything in B.C. Some are even pulling out.

This summer, Texas-based Apache Corp. announced it will sell its 50% share in Kitimat LNG, a proposed $15-billion operation that was supposed to be running by 2017. That deadline won’t be met and now the project’s entire future is in doubt. The remaining stakeholder, Chevron Corp., will have to find a moneyed new partner if the plant is ever to get built.

Remember, 2017 is when British Columbians return to the polls to elect their government. None of the 16 LNG plants currently proposed will have entered production by then. Few, if any, LNG plants will be under construction by then. Most, if not all, the 60,000 workers the province claims “will be needed during peak [LNG] construction in 2016 and 2017″ will be working elsewhere, because there will be no “peak construction” in 2016 and 2017. This was all political pixie dust.

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