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If only they were on the sidelines

31 Aug 2022 | News Roundup

Tristin Hopper lamented in the National Post that “It could well represent one of the biggest missed opportunities in Canadian history: An embattled Europe is clamouring for natural gas, and one of the world’s biggest producers of the stuff can’t sell it to them. The economic hit is overwhelming: At current prices, even just one Canadian port exporting liquid natural gas could be adding nine figures to the Canadian GDP each day. Politically, Canada could be helping to deal a body blow to Russian hegemony over Western European energy. Instead, on both fronts, Ottawa appears content to watch from the sidelines.” But that metaphor lets them off the hook too easily. They aren’t watching from the sidelines. They’re on the field, actively intervening to destroy every conventional energy project they can.

Hopper went on to quote Trudeau’s infamous claim that there has “never been a strong business case” for shipping liquified Canadian natural gas to Europe. But why anyone would think Trudeau knows a business case from a nut case is anyone’s guess. Of course there has. As Hopper adds, Natural Resources Canada admits to having received 18 proposals for LNG export projects, five in the east. But only one is being built and only one more is anywhere close, because politicians have worked hand-in-glove with activists to make sure the business cases couldn’t be realized.

If they wanted to, they could. Germany has moved with amazing speed to create import facilities for LNG. And when you consider what our ancestors did with more primitive technology, from the rearmament that won World War II to the mid-19th-century London sewer system to the building of Salisbury Cathedral with hand tools in 38 years from 1220 to 1258, it is hard to believe we couldn’t be shipping the stuff quickly if we really meant to. Now the people at Salisbury had Elias of Dereham and we do not. But we have computers and bulldozers and they did not. We could do it. Our leaders just don’t want to.

Interestingly, Climate Home News shares the view of some energy industry executives that Scholz was secretly in Canada shopping for natural gas and was only pretending to be here looking for hydrogen. And then CHN scolds Scholz that “There is no room for new fossil fuel infrastructure in a 1.5C world, as the International Energy Agency has made clear. Pipelines and LNG terminals take years to build – not solving the immediate energy security crisis – and decades to pay off the investment – worsening the climate crisis.”

Of course they proceed to accuse him of “misdirection”, in yet another conspiracy theory. But in one of those oily “Prime Minister concludes a successful visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz” press releases from our PMO (even when it’s someone else who did the visit, it’s Trudeau who succeeds), LNG was not mentioned. Instead:

“As Russia continues to weaponize energy, Canada is also working with its European and global partners, including Germany, to strengthen energy security and accelerate the clean energy transition. To encourage further progress in this area, the Chancellor concluded his visit to Canada on August 23 in Stephenville, where the countries signed a joint declaration of intent to establish a Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance…. In Stephenville, Prime Minister Trudeau and Chancellor Scholz also met with Premier Andrew Furey of Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick, Premier Tim Houston of Nova Scotia, and Premier Dennis King of Prince Edward Island. Together, they discussed energy exports and the development of renewable energy in Atlantic Canada, and the region’s transition toward net-zero. The Premiers also signed a statement in support of the proposed Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance.”

In fact what Scholz should be doing, as Lorrie Goldstein noted, is shopping for nuclear power and natural gas, both of which his nation like Canada has identified as desirable in reducing GHGs at least in the short run because they’re substitutes for coal. Especially since Germany already has nuclear reactors, which it’s turning off because boo radioactivity or some such deep thought. Plus Scholz says he can’t figure out where to shop for more fuel rods. To which news outlet DW (slogan “Made for minds” but in practice somewhat different) added, “Germany's three remaining nuclear plants… as of now provide only 11% of the country’s electricity.” And who needs that fiddly trickle of power, especially with a cold winter coming?

5 comments on “If only they were on the sidelines”

  1. It is a common assumption on the part of our more brainless politicians that using hydrogen as a fuel will solve all our climate problems and speedily lead to a net-zero Nirvana. Perhaps. And then perhaps not.

    The most likely source of hydrogen today is from the ‘decarbonization’ of methane, which is the principal component of natural gas. However, the carbon does not drop out in the decarbonization process as charcoal briquettes, but instead comes out as carbon dioxide (CO2). Using hydrogen as a fuel which has been produced from methane results in just as much CO2 as if the natural gas were used directly as a fuel itself. More in fact because the decarbonization process requires energy, which is typically supplied by the combustion of natural gas.

    Another source of hydrogen is the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen. All that this requires is water and electricity in which, for the quantities involved, Canada has no particular advantage over most other countries. Prime Minister Trudeau’s offer to the German Chancellor to provide hydrogen using wind energy was singularly pointless because the Germans can do this better than Canada can, with their existing huge investment in wind energy, and without the bother of having to ship it across the Atlantic. And by the way, shipping large tonnages of hydrogen by sea would be singularly difficult and expensive because hydrogen is a most awkward and impractical substance to ship in bulk.

  2. Roger, the dirty little secret of the electrolysis of water is that at its most efficient method, it takes 25% more energy than that of the produced hydrogen. Add to that the life-cycle based low return on energy of wind farms, its likely that the fossil fuel inputs alone, exceed the energy of the hydrogen produced making the methane extraction not only more efficient but no more carbon intensive. The omniscient snowboard instructor was never big on numeracy skills.

  3. Hydrogen is, at its core, merely another sort of battery; you put energy into making it, then get less energy back when you oxidise (burn) it, whether in a fuel cell, or in an internal combustion engine. And be careful of directly burning hydrogen at too high a temperature (unless you supply it with pure oxygen) lest you generate oxides of nitrogen in the process, a Green House Gas much more potent than plain old CO2...

  4. True John but if you have a bunch of solar panels and wind turbines doing nothing useful as we do in Ontario then maybe we could use the power they generate to make hydrogen instead of selling it at a big loss. There has to be a market of course and there has to be a lot of other things. So it still very likely does not make sense. Just a thought. But maybe I should be careful about giving anyone ideas that probably don't make sense.

  5. The other problem is that hydrogen is a slippery little devil and keeping it contained is extremely difficult. It can even go through steel. When it does escape, it has the pesky habit of going BOOM! very spectacularly.
    The best way to ship it is frozen but it must be at only one degree above absolute zero to freeze, -271 K, I believe. That is not easy, nor cheap.
    Even NASA can't keep it from leaking, it seems.
    NASA Artemis second launch attempt scrubbed

    * NASA Blogs Home
    Liquid Hydrogen Leak Detected Once Again

    After the third troubleshooting attempt, the liquid hydrogen leak has occurred again. Teams are discussing next steps.

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