Watching videos on FortisBC’s YouTube page, you may get the concept the corporate is promoting spa services. Shots of laughing children playing sports are overlaid with aerial shots of water flowing over hydro dams and cows contemplating life while taking within the sunset from a grassy field.
You don’t must visit YouTube to view them — these soothing ads are found across every platform in B.C. The croaking “rrreeeebates” frog on the radio, pictures of individuals climbing on social media and full-page sponsored articles in local magazines.
There’s only one problem: it’s all greenwashing, in accordance with several experts.
FortisBC is a regulated utility that largely provides fossil gas to around 1.1 million customers across B.C. in 135 different communities via 50,000 kilometres of pipelines. Within the Thompson/ Okanagan and Kootenays regions it also supplies hydropower.
To separate promoting from reality, and fact from fiction, The Tyee asked those experts to list their greenwashing allegations and asked FortisBC for a rebuttal.
Not the entire greenwashing FortisBC advantages from is generated by the utility. American ad campaigns from the ‘30s were first accountable for the inspiration of the broad understanding of the product today — the actual fact it’s known as “natural gas,” for instance. (The slogan “cooking with gas” was a part of this campaign, too.)
But many FortisBC ads present the product as an environmentally friendly energy source and have laughing families cooking over gas appliances together. And FortisBC presents its product, a fossil fuel, as a key a part of the worldwide energy transition towards a lower carbon economy.
Global authorities just like the International Energy Agency and UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have said we’d like to stop constructing out fossil fuel infrastructure and radically reduce fossil fuel use to stop the planet from warming past 1.5 C from pre-industrial levels.
Greenwashing muddies that goal. But locals are pushing back. A gaggle of health-care practitioners have filed a criticism against the Canadian Gas Association with Canada’s competition bureau.
Edgar Dearden, a chemical engineer, has also filed a criticism with Canada’s Competition Bureau alleging FortisBC is misleading its customers. He filed the same criticism with the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, which regulates FortisBC as an engineering firm, but was told his concerns were “complex in nature and much beyond the mandate of Engineers and Geoscientists BC as a provincial regulatory body.” He has not yet heard back from the competition bureau.
Listed here are 11 claims made by or utilized by FortisBC that experts say qualify as greenwashing.
1. ‘Natural gas’ is as natural as natural peanut butter
“Natural gas” is an oxymoron, says Dearden.
He’s a chemical engineer with over a decade of experience working within the fossil fuel industry for Sedgman, Ltd., an Australian coal mining company. He quit in 2014 after moving to B.C., learning about climate change and doing a little napkin math to calculate he was personally related to three per cent of humanity’s carbon emissions.
He now runs a sustainable home design business in Whistler where he pushes his customers to scrap their gas-burning appliances and switch to hydropower.
But individuals are resistant.
“The word ‘natural’ hooks them,” he says. “They think, ‘I purchase natural peanut butter, natural honey and natural gas — they’re all the identical thing.’”
In Canada, “natural” foods should meet three strict criteria: they will’t have anything added; can’t have anything except water removed; and might’t have been altered from their original state.
If a health product is labelled “natural,” the corporate or importer and product should be licensed, be approved by Health Canada for safety, quality and efficacy and meet strict labelling requirements.
Because Canadian consumers trust these regulatory processes they’re duped by the “natural gas” label, which doesn’t follow the identical criteria, Dearden says.
FortisBC told The Tyee it calls its product “natural gas” since the term has been used for over a century and is utilized in Canadian laws just like the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act, Utilities Commission Act and Carbon Tax Act.
The oil and gas industry embraced the term “natural gas” within the Nineteen Thirties but calling it “fossil gas” is a more accurate description of the product, Dearden says.
When hydraulic fracturing pumps gas out from under the Earth’s crust, it incorporates methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentanes, mercury, hydrogen sulphide and nitrous oxide, he says. That cocktail is very toxic — if it was pumped into your home you’d die, he adds. To provide the product that’s fed into people’s homes the gas is processed in a petroleum distillation column which separates the gasses so the toxins may be removed. Finally, the smell of rotten eggs is added to the otherwise odourless product.
If the oil and gas industry was regulated the identical way as peanut butter it wouldn’t be allowed to be called “natural,” since it has toxins and gasses removed, smells added and was heavily processed from its original state, Dearden says.
That’s why he’s advocating to scrap the word “natural gas” and switch to “fossil gas.”
Deardren says he’s had a neater time convincing customers to change out their fossil gas burning appliances for electrical ones since changing his wording.
2. Sticking with ‘natural gas’ is healthier than switching to hydroelectric power
FortisBC is a near monopoly — it supplies 95 per cent of the fossil gas utilized in B.C., Dearden says. So why does it must advertise?
“They’re competing against electrification — that’s their only competition,” Dearden says.
FortisBC is an element of the North American Consortium to Combat Electrification which brings together 15 utilities with the mission to “create effective, customizable marketing materials to fight the electrification/anti-natural gas movement.”
An example of this could possibly be the warmth pump powered by fossil gas that FortisBC dropped at market this summer. On the product about page, Fortis tells customers “you don’t should make the switch to electric heating,” and that “moving to an all-electric system may be costly due to potential infrastructure upgrades.”
We’ll speak about this product in the following section of the article.
Dearden says he’s seen FortisBC ads in print, on the radio, through targeted social media ads and as advertorials that are designed to appear to be regular news articles within the Globe and Mail, Dwell Magazine and Business in Vancouver.
Their YouTube channel also hosts videos which were viewed nearly 150,000 times but only reacted to 5 times, suggesting they run as targeted ads across online platforms.
“Their [advertising] tactics are to confuse the problem and protect their market share,” says Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner with the environmental organization the Wilderness Committee. “FortisBC’s worst nightmare is to stop getting recent customers. They’re throwing every little thing on the wall to stop that from happening.”
And their tactics are working. In an email, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said it issued 3,169 rebates for people swapping out fossil fuel-burning appliances for electric heat pumps in 2021. That’s likely a conservative estimate of the full number of parents switching from fossil gas to hydroelectricity, however the number continues to be dwarfed by the ten,700 recent customers FortisBC says it attached to its fossil gas infrastructure last yr in its year-end report.
Their marketing campaign is “fantastically successful,” says Seth Klein, director of the Climate Emergency Unit and writer. “The B.C. government should ban all fossil fuel promoting and demand the utility enclose a monthly flyer to speak in regards to the glories of electrical heat pumps.” By allowing FortisBC to advertise harmful products the province is letting the utility “make a mockery of presidency,” he adds.
FortisBC told The Tyee nearly all of its promoting focuses on public safety and energy conservation and that “each gas and electric systems provide opportunities to scale back greenhouse gas emissions,” and that maintaining the role of gas will keep the provincial energy system “resilient, reliable and more cost-effective.”
Its promoting adheres to marketing and promoting laws just like the Competition Act and Canadian Code of Promoting Standards, it added.
3. Gas absorption heat pumps use renewable energy
This June FortisBC launched a recent product: a gas absorption heat pump that slashes energy use by 35 per cent and might cut a customer’s greenhouse gas emissions in half. It uses renewable energy, in accordance with an infographic on FortisBC’s FAQ page, and gets the green stamp from CleanBC, the province’s climate change strategy.
Except this heat pump doesn’t “absorb” fossil gas — it burns it.
Most individuals are already acquainted with heat pumps because that’s how your fridge stays cool: by pulling heat out of the air contained in the fridge and expelling it through coils that run along the back of the fridge. The “renewable energy” the gas-powered heat pump uses is referring to the temperature of the skin air that the warmth pump pulls inside, not the fossil fuel source that powers the appliance. Also, the appliance only shrinks the emissions of economic or industrial buildings that were using fossil gas boilers or furnaces before the switch.
When asked if the name could possibly be used to confuse customers, FortisBC told The Tyee that “gas absorption heat pump is the technical name for one of these gas-powered technology.”
“You don’t need a PhD in constructing emissions reductions to know that promoting gas-powered heat pumps as using renewable energy is fake promoting,” McCartney says. “I don’t know the way they do it with a straight face.”
If customers really wanted to scale back their carbon emissions they need to switch to electric heat pumps that are powered by renewable hydropower and emit zero emissions, he says. B.C. could ban fossil gas-burning appliances for an “easy, fast way for B.C. to get back on course to fulfill its climate targets,” he says.
When asked why it doesn’t ban fossil gas appliances the Ministry of Environment said FortisBC may have to scale back its emissions by near 50 per cent from 2007 levels by 2030. By 2030 all recent buildings may have to emit zero carbon and all recent space and water heaters bought and installed in B.C. may have to be 100 per cent efficient. It will encourage consumers to make use of baseboard and electric water heaters and warmth pumps, the ministry added.
It’ll also allow Fortis to maintain selling and installing fossil fuel burning appliances.
FortisBC says its fossil gas burning heat pump is 100 per cent efficient since it burns 100 units of gas, loses 10 units of energy and gains 30 to 70 units of energy from the encompassing air. Due to this fact you find yourself with 120 to 160 units of energy for each 100 units of gas burned. “Since the energy output is bigger than the energy input the units can achieve efficiencies greater than 100 per cent,” reads the FortisBC press release in regards to the product.
Customers who install fossil gas burning appliances will likely should rip them out and replace them in the approaching years as Canada ramps up its efforts to have net-zero emissions by 2050, McCartney says.
Klein echoes this concern. “In some unspecified time in the future we’re moving to carbon zero and every recent constructing tying into gas infrastructure might be facing a $10,000 to $30,000 retrofit in the long run,” he says.
4. In the long run, ‘renewable natural gas’ will mostly come from food scraps
“FortisBC tends to make use of ‘renewable’ and ‘low-carbon gas’ interchangeably with biomethane after they’re not the identical thing,” McCartney says.
In an April 2022 presentation (around one hour and 57 minutes into this video) to Nanaimo City Council FortisBC spokesperson Jason Wolfe says “greater than 100 per cent of the gas utilized in B.C. could possibly be renewable natural gas made in B.C.,” when asked about biomethane and references a FortisBC study to back up his claim. However the study says biomethane captured from sources like compost, wood waste, landfills and wastewater treatment plants could only provide 2.2 per cent of the province’s energy needs — the opposite 97.8 per cent would come from blue hydrogen, which is created by burning fossil gas and by burning wood, McCartney adds. Confusing these words allows the corporate to say its future gas products might be sourced from food scraps so it will possibly proceed to construct out recent infrastructure and hook up recent customers, he adds.
FortisBC isn’t the one company that claims it will possibly source energy from wood scraps. The wood pellet industry also says it uses wood scraps, but research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows whole tracts of forest are being cut down for fuel, which is as damaging for the environment as burning coal, in accordance with resource policy analyst Ben Parfitt with the CCPA’s B.C. office.
FortisBC told The Tyee when it uses the phrase “renewable natural gas” it’s referring to biogas captured from decomposing organic waste from landfills, agricultural waste and sewage facilities. “Renewable” and “low-carbon gas” are each used to speak about fuels FortisBC can get under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction regulation, which include hydrogen (“green hydrogen” is made using renewable energy, “blue hydrogen” comes from burning fossil gas, and “turquoise hydrogen” also uses fossil fuel), synthesis gas (from wood) and lignin, produced while pulping wood.
In its 2021 year-end review FortisBC points to federal and provincial supports to expand renewable energy and its infrastructure, which it says could support expanding renewable gas and liquid fossil gas and compressed fossil gas (more commonly often called liquid natural gas, or LNG and CNG). It doesn’t specify if the renewable gas might be sourced from blue hydrogen or captured biomethane. The report also notes the BC Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act will allow it to sell carbon credits generated from customers buying renewable gas.
In that same report FortisBC says in 2021 it delivered 228 petajoules of fossil gas to 1.1 million customers in 2021 — up from 219 petajoules for 10,700 fewer customers the yr before. The bulk (180 petajoules) of that fossil gas comes from northeastern B.C., with the remaining (48 petajoules) coming from Alberta. Only a sliver of pie (0.72 petajoules, or 0.3 per cent of the full annual output) comes from “low carbon gas, namely biomethane,” in accordance with the report.
A single petajoule could power roughly 19,000 homes for a whole yr.
By 2030 Fortis says it’ll source 11 per cent of its energy from biomethane, says Dr. Larry Barzelai, with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “But there’s not that much renewable gas around — not if it’s coming from wood scraps and animal feces. And besides, the opposite 89 per cent would still be coming from hydraulic fracturing which is causing health issues for people living within the Peace Region of northeastern B.C.”
“While you take a look at their latest ads all of them feature compost and cows [for their methane farts]. That literally represents lower than one-half of a per cent of all that they do but that’s 100 per cent of their marketing budget,” Dearden says. “They hide that 99 per cent of their fossil gas comes from hydraulic fracturing in northeastern B.C. and Alberta and provides 100 per cent of airtime to renewable biomethane.”
FortisBC can also be asking the BC Utilities Commission to broaden the definition of “renewable natural gas” which might allow it to proceed to construct out its infrastructure and hook up recent customers while technically meeting B.C.’s climate goals, McCartney says.
By lumping renewable gas, biomethane and low-carbon gas together as “renewable natural gas,” FortisBC is confusing the general public with “false solutions” while heavily lobbying government (150 times in 2021) and delaying the eventual day after they won’t be allowed to attach recent customers to their fossil gas infrastructure, McCartney says.
Biomethane can also be a limited resource since it comes from the waste we create, and as a society we’d like to work towards reducing that waste as a substitute of ramping it up as a recent fuel source, Klein says. And what biomethane may be harvested should go towards hard-to-decarbonize industries, like aviation, as a substitute of easy-to-decarbonize industries like heat and hot water in our homes.
5. Customers who pay for ‘renewable natural gas’ are burning ‘renewable natural gas’ of their homes
FortisBC customers can upgrade their fossil gas feeds with “sustainable” “renewable natural gas” in the event that they want to scale back their environmental footprint and earn carbon tax credits, in accordance with the utility.
For a median $3 more a month, a household can inject five per cent “renewable natural gas” into their feed, or join for 10, 25, 50 or 100 per cent blends. Buying the 100 per cent renewable natural gas option costs around $600 more per yr, in accordance with one Whistler resident.
The web site shows vivid pastel-coloured pictures of a farm, a trash pile, a sewer, a wood pile and a trash can, though it doesn’t make clear if the “RNG” might be from captured biomethane, renewable gas or low-carbon gas.
But customers who buy into this program don’t actually get to burn renewable gas of their homes, McCartney says.
FortisBC buys captured biomethane from jurisdictions across North America after which markets their product as renewable when the gas captured in Nebraska won’t actually be physically shipped to a stove in Powell River, he says.
Biomethane is supplied to FortisBC customers through “notional supply,” where the biomethane is added to the overall gas supply after which all customers receive around one per cent biomethane and 99 per cent fossil gas, Dearden says.
Notional supply is utilized in all utility models, FortisBC told The Tyee, noting how electricity from a hydroelectric dam would even be “indistinguishable” from “power outside the province from non-hydro and potentially fossil fuel powered sources.”
Notional supply isn’t mentioned anywhere on the FortisBC website, nonetheless, and so they have “a military of lawyers” before the BC Utilities Commission fighting to be certain that they never should tell customers that renewable gas won’t be physically delivered to their house, Dearden says.
Dearden is acting as an intervenor in three BC Utilities Commission hearings regarding FortisBC’s notional supply of renewable gas. At one hearing he asked FortisBC if it told its customers they were burning fossil gas after they paid for biomethane of their homes. The utility responded having “one-to-one connection to the source of the energy” isn’t normal and it “doesn’t provide information” about notional supply to its customers.
This misleads customers in two big ways, Dearden says. First, customers think they’re buying renewable gas and that their energy supply is zero-carbon (that is one other greenwashing claim we’ll address later).
Additionally they think they’re burning cleaner gas of their homes.
“For those who could get 100 per cent biomethane fed to your home it’d be less toxic than all that other stuff found under the Earth’s crust, all of the fossil gas,” he says. “Biomethane doesn’t have carcinogenic chemicals in it.”
But, he adds, even customers who buy a 100 per cent supply of “renewable natural gas” are still being fed nearly 100 per cent fossil gas of their homes.
6. Biomethane is carbon neutral
FortisBC likes to check with its renewable natural gas, which currently is generally made up of biomethane, as carbon neutral. The utility’s renewable natural gas website says “RNG is certified as a low-carbon energy,” but this March 2022 press release says “renewable natural gas is a sustainable, certified carbon neutral energy.”
The logic behind that claim, in accordance with the press release, is that plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. After they’re later composted and create methane, the emissions created from burning that methane are offset by the CO2 previously absorbed by the plants.
This was logic followed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change until they modified their minds and in 2018 said “it’s inaccurate to robotically consider or assume biomass used for energy is ‘carbon neutral,’ even in cases where the biomass is regarded as produced sustainably.”
There aren’t any other reliable sources that say biomethane is carbon neutral, Dearden says.
Using biomethane as a fuel source could even have the unintended consequences of expanding landfills or industrial farming within the name of biomethane production, warns a Stand.earth report that challenges environmental claims FortisBC makes about renewable gas.
It also points to studies that implies 15 per cent of biomethane escapes during production as fugitive emissions, and one other that claims biomethane and fossil gas produce the same amount of fugitive emissions. That is bad for the environment because methane is a greenhouse gas with 87 times the worldwide warming potential of CO2, the report adds.
7. The 100-year Global Warming Potential is method to measure greenhouse gas effects
The B.C. government and FortisBC measure the greenhouse effects of gasses using the Global Warming Potential, a regular international measurement that calculates how much heat a gas could trap within the atmosphere over 100 years.
But this measurement hides methane’s global warming impact because methane has a lifetime of 20 years, in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After 20 years methane degrades into carbon dioxide with much lower global warming potential. Because it contributes most to warming in its first 20 years, the impacts are hidden with the 100-year timeline.
On a 100-year timeline, methane has a GWP of 27 to 30 times stronger than that of CO2. On a 20-year scale it has a GWP of 81 to 83 times than that of CO2, according the Environmental Protection Agency. Other sources say it’s 87 times that of CO2.
When asked why the B.C. government doesn’t count methane emissions on a 20-year timeline, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy pointed towards its explainer on the way it counts emissions, which reads, a “single standardized approach to reporting internationally on greenhouse gas emissions is required to avoid some emissions being double-counted and/or some remaining uncounted.”
FortisBC says it counts emissions on a 100-year timeline to match how the province and federal government report their emissions.
8. Rebates on fossil gas burning appliances are method to help customers reduce emissions
B.C. can also be waving the provincial sales tax on all heat pumps, including fossil gas-powered ones. “Despite using fossil fuels, gas powered heat pumps are still an energy efficient technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” the Ministry of Environment wrote in an email.
FortisBC told The Tyee its customers “can select at any time to maneuver to put in electric appliances, but this selection will not be feasible for everybody as a consequence of challenges with the installation or cost. Providing incentives to maneuver to higher efficiency equipment gives people an alternative choice on how they will reduce their energy use and their greenhouse gas emissions.”
Climate Emergency Unit’s Klein notes how 11 months ago the province’s CleanBC roadmap said it might ban rebates on fossil gas appliances, but the federal government still links to FortisBC rebates on its Higher Homes BC website.
“Here we’re a yr later and so they’re shilling for them, they’re not only not banned,” he says. “It’s unfathomable.”
The Ministry of Environment told The Tyee it plans to phase out incentives for gas appliances this winter.
9. Fossil gas appliances save customers money
FortisBC talks so much about how burning fossil gas is cheaper than electrifying. Its webpage for fossil gas heat pumps notes the appliance can “help your organization lower your expenses,” “put less pressure in your bottom line” and the way “moving to an all-electric system may be costly” and would require more “constructing upgrades” than in case you persist with fossil gas.
FortisBC isn’t the one gas utility that brands itself because the inexpensive option. This cringe video from the ‘80s has people rapping about how gas is cheaper, cooler, more precise and cleaner than electric stoves.
These arguments ignore how the carbon tax goes to extend to $170 per tonne by 2030 — possibly more for many years to come back — and the way B.C. has a few of the most cost effective electricity rates in all of North America, says Wilderness Committee’s McCartney.
The expensive a part of an electrical heat pump is the fee of the unit itself — after that it’s pretty smooth sailing, he says.
Offering rebates for fossil gas-powered heat pumps, against this, “hides the upfront expense of gas heat pumps and providing these units at an enormous loss for them with the intention to keep people stuck on gas,” McCartney says.
FortisBC says it openly communicates gas prices with its customers and informs customers when the carbon tax increases through their monthly energy bill. It also notes it only offers rebates on high efficiency appliances which could help customers reduce their monthly energy bills in the event that they swap out standard efficiency appliances.
As Canada works towards having net-zero emissions by 2050 it’ll also likely pass recent regulations prohibiting the usage of fossil gas burning appliances, Klein says. “So each recent constructing tying into gas might be facing a $10,000 to $30,000 retrofit in the long run after we realize we gotta stop using gas.”
The value will even increase if B.C. phases out incentives on gas powered appliances this winter.
10. Gas stoves are higher than electric stoves
The American Gas Association coined the phrase “now you’re cooking with gas” within the Nineteen Thirties when it rebranded gas stoves as an emblem of sophistication.
The association’s marketing continues today with a US$300,000 ad campaign that pays social media influencers to create sponsored posts with phrases like gas “provides higher cooking results” and gas “helps cook food faster,” tastes higher and offers cooks more control.
FortisBC also advertises its cooking appliances as protected, energy efficient and reliable during an influence outage.
But being exposed to fossil gas isn’t protected, says Dr. Larry Barzelai. A lot of the recorded opposed health impacts occur when pregnant people live near hydraulic fracturing sites, where babies usually tend to be born prematurely and underweight. Pregnant people living near fracking sites even have higher rates of chemicals of their urine that are linked to childhood cancer. A U.S. study found kids living near fracking sites even have an increased risk for childhood leukaemia.
This impacts poor and Indigenous folks essentially the most in B.C., Barzelai says.
Burning fossil gas inside your own home also has health risks, he says. One 2013 meta-analysis of 41 studies found kids have a 42 per cent higher risk of experiencing asthma over their lifetime and a 24 per cent higher likelihood of being diagnosed with asthma in the event that they live in a house with a gas stove. The previous U.S. director of the Centre for Disease Control’s National Centre for Environmental Health has called for fossil gas appliances to be banned from the market. In November 2020 the California Air Resources board really useful all kitchens improve ventilation and electrify their appliances “with the intention to protect public health.”
Health Canada recommends having a carbon monoxide detector in your own home if you could have fossil gas appliances, that you just cook together with your back burners, open windows and have a variety hood exhaust fan that stands out over your burners and sucks no less than 300 cubic feet per minute of air (these cost around $300).
Health Canada was also limiting the quantity of nitrogen dioxide, a gas produced by burning fossil gas, that’s safely allowed in a house. It originally suggested 50 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of ambient air can be safest for short-term exposure, but after hearing most households with gas stoves wouldn’t have the ability to take care of that quantity because the common fume hood wasn’t strong enough, raised the Residential Indoor Air Quality Guidelines to 170 micrograms.
“You’d expect to be exposed to those chemicals in a petroleum refinery — not your own home,” Dearden says. “But remember, your own home is connected to a refinery through the fossil gas pipes.”
When asked in regards to the possible health impacts of fossil gas appliances FortisBC said it “doesn’t regulate the security of appliances. That is the responsibility of presidency agencies.”
All cooking creates airborne emissions, it added, which is why “we encourage all our customers to make use of their range hoods when cooking on their stovetops, whether or not they are gas or electric stoves.”
11. Exporting Canadian fossil fuels helps other countries reduce their fossil fuel use
As Canada ramps up its climate commitments and starts working towards capping what number of emissions may be produced domestically, FortisBC is busy constructing out its export facilities so it will possibly sell fossil gas overseas — which gets it a free pass because Canada doesn’t count emissions on exports, McCartney says.
FortisBC says its fossil gas exports will help reduce the usage of coal in Asia — especially in China where “LNG is predicted to turn into an increasingly essential fuel because the country decreases reliance on coal to fulfill its greenhouse gas reduction targets,” in accordance with FortisBC.
That’s bad accounting, McCartney says. First, the project is hiding the large impact it’ll have on global warming by measuring emissions on a 100-year timeline, not a 20-year timeline.
Second, “they will’t prove this gas goes to interchange other fossil fuels over the lifetime of the project,” he says. “It is perhaps higher to run a coal power plant for one or two extra years as a substitute of constructing a recent fossil gas plant that runs for one more 30 years.”
FortisBC told The Tyee its current expansion projects are to serve domestic needs like storage and transportation and that the Tilbury Phase 2 expansion might be used for exports “if demand within the Port of Vancouver or other markets continues to grow.” It also pointed to a study that implies swapping out coal plants for fossil gas plants could reduce emissions.
Constructing recent fossil gas infrastructure locks us into using it for many years to come back to repay the development cost, McCartney says. This implies governments might be less willing to explore zero-emissions energy sources like green hydrogen produced from renewable energy.
For example he points to BC Ferries, which launched its fourth fossil gas-powered ferry, the Salish Heron, in May 2022.
“If we construct a fleet of LNG ships now they’ll be around for a very long time,” he says. “Or we’ll should scrap them early after we’re not allowed to burn gas. Either way we must always have just waited and paid for the costlier technology [like green hydrogen] in the primary place.”
When asked if BC Ferries was concerned its recent fossil gas vessels could find yourself as stranded assets, a spokesperson didn’t answer the query and pointed The Tyee to its sustainability report.
It’s an uphill battle pushing back against FortisBC greenwashing, Dearden says.
When convincing his clients to get fossil gas out of their homes, he says, “I’m a chemical engineer from the fossil fuel industry — I should be one of the crucial equipped people in Canada to clarify this and I’m still having a tough time.”
He volunteers his time as an intervener for the BC Utilities Commission hearings. He used to counter FortisBC greenwashing claims on the Utility’s LinkedIn until it turned its comments off. He filed a criticism with the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC and with Canada’s competition bureau alleging FortisBC is misleading its customers.
But for each move he does he’s only one guy with limited time, resources and reach, he says. FortisBC has “unlimited” resources, money and staff to push greenwashed messages.
“There is no such thing as a one coming to save lots of us,” he says. “We’re totally screwed.”