Vladimir Putin uses the term useful idiots in reference to enemies who, while standing on their self-perceived high moral ground, make idiotic decisions that actually benefit Russia and unwittingly undermine themselves.
Canada has far surpassed the entry-level requirements for that club with its latest climate emergency policy that helps fund both sides of the war in Ukraine, works against reducing ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions, promotes air pollution, and undercuts Canada’s prosperity. [bold, links added]
We are useful idiots on a global scale.
I am referring to Justin Trudeau’s response to Germany’s request for Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to replace Russian natural gas. Trudeau said he could not see the business case for sending LNG to Germany. Instead, he’s willing to send them green hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is produced with electricity that is generated without ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions. Canada does not currently produce green hydrogen.
Furthermore, natural gas is fuel because it is pre-existing and releases energy when burned, but hydrogen is not a fuel. Hydrogen is an energy carrier (like a battery) that is manufactured using another source of energy, which can store and transport that energy and release it when needed.
Trudeau proposes to produce hydrogen on a wind farm that does not yet exist, have it liquified at a facility that does not yet exist, and transport it to Germany, where neither the facilities nor the demand for significant hydrogen importation exists. This fantasy shipment of green hydrogen will supposedly be realized by 2025 in undetermined quantities at an undetermined capital cost and for an undetermined price.
Even if Trudeau’s plan were possible, liquefied hydrogen is not a good choice to replace LNG for three reasons:
1) Bulk marine transport of hydrogen is in its infancy. The world’s first and only liquified hydrogen bulk transport ship, the Suiso Frontier, conducted its first voyage from Australia to Japan in 2022. In contrast, LNG transport is a mature off-the-shelf technology.
2) While it’s true that hydrogen can be converted back to energy in a fuel cell, fuel cells waste 50 percent of the energy. That’s why Elon Musk has called them “mind-bogglingly stupid.” Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells ‘Mind-Boggling Stupid?‘ – Climate Change Dispatch
3) Hydrogen can also be converted back to energy by combustion but burning hydrogen produces more nitrous oxides (NOx) than does burning LNG. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), NOx can form powerful ‘greenhouse gases’, be harmful to human health, deplete the ozone layer in the stratosphere, and cause acid rain and smog
Note to Reader: Hydrogen promoters are quick to point out that when hydrogen is burned in the presence of oxygen the result is heat and water. This is true, but they fail to point out that when hydrogen is burned in the presence of oxygen and nitrogen (which is 78 percent of our atmosphere) the results include nitrous oxides. Lots of them.
The U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reports (in research paper #22) that burning hydrogen gives off “… up to six times higher point NOx emissions compared to methane.” The U.S. DOE Program Plan confirmed in 2020 that the technology to reduce NOx emissions from burning high concentrations of hydrogen is not developed.
This is the same pollutant that Trudeau wants to curtail by reducing nitrogen-based agricultural fertilizers.
Trudeau should seek the advice of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who witnessed a similar issue with the conversion from gasoline to diesel in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Khan stated, “The problem is that governments often fail to grasp that focusing on one issue at a time, such as CO2 output, inevitably leads them to ignore others, such as toxic emissions. The science now tells us that diesel vehicles cause more than four times the pollution than petrol cars.”
One of those toxic emissions Mayor Khan was referring to was NOx, which also contributes to asthma, a medical condition that Khan now has.
Note to Canadians: Canada is the useful idiot and not Trudeau. Just as German voters enabled their energy security to be transferred to Russia as a resolution to the dubious climate emergency, Canadian voters have elected Trudeau three times.
USEFUL TO RUSSIA
As long as there are insufficient natural gas supply options, Europe will be dependent upon high-priced gas from Russia. That Canada is capable of but disinterested in, competing for that market is useful for Putin to both pay for the war in Ukraine and encourage European passiveness by threatening their energy security.
That Canada won’t help by exporting LNG but instead virtue signals by offering to introduce another expensive and undeveloped green energy technology just prolongs Putin’s advantage.
Note to Putin: All it took to initiate the failure of green renewable energy in Europe—thus transferring their energy security to Russia—was a 10 percent drop in wind speed. I bet your engineers told you “Vlad, be patient. Windmill power will fail as a base-load generator. The power they generate is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, so when the wind speed drops to ½, the power generation drops to 1/8 (½ X ½ X ½).” What most people don’t realize is that you orchestrated this with natural gas that you buy cheap and sell dear; a lot of the natural gas transiting Ukraine in Russian pipelines comes from Turkmenistan or other former Soviet Union states, which are landlocked.
USEFUL TO AMERICA
Natural gas, which is mostly methane, is fungible; gas is gas. Every methane molecule has the same properties, so the owner is unconcerned if they put a particular molecule into a pipeline and pull a different one out. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the latest data for May 2022 shows that Canada put five billion cubic feet per day into the American natural gas system at a price of $5.46 USD per thousand cubic feet.
(This was the net amount of gas exported after subtracting the amount imported from the U.S.) The U.S. liquified 6.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day and sent it to Europe. The EIA does not show sales prices, but according to Reuters the price of LNG delivered to the Netherlands in October 2022 is equivalent to $54.70 USD per thousand cubic feet.
The fungibility of methane is undercutting Canada’s prosperity. Or it may be more accurate to say that Canada is undercutting Canada’s prosperity. Of the 6.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas the U.S. liquified and sold per day in Europe, fungibility allows those five billion cubic feet originated in Canada.
The U.S. derives a tenfold markup ($7.6 billion per month) of the sales price while incurring none of the gas production environmental liabilities. The Biden administration benefits as the U.S. taxes and economic spin-off of selling Canadian natural gas to Europe help to pay for U.S. arms to Ukraine, without having to allow increased natural gas drilling in the U.S.
Note to Biden: Thank you for supporting Ukraine with arms and LNG to our European allies. What most people don’t realize is that you orchestrated this with natural gas that you buy cheap and sell dear from Canada. I bet your engineers told you “Joe, this is a gift. The Canadians will take the environmental criticism for drilling gas wells, fracking, pipelines, and fugitive methane emissions and we get the profit. Our cousins to the north have landlocked themselves!”
HARMFUL TO CANADA
Let’s make the fungible methane molecule a theoretical one. The path of our theoretical molecule of methane would begin in British Columbia or Alberta, cross North America by pipeline diagonally southeast to the Gulf of Mexico and then be shipped by LNG tanker diagonally northeast across the North Atlantic.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Nova Scotia has the resource potential of 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has the resource potential of 200 trillion cubic feet of gas.
That’s enough gas to supply Europe with five billion cubic feet of gas per day for 175 years.
From Atlantic Canada, our theoretical methane molecule would have to travel one-third the distance from the production source to Europe, and the LNG facility would be cheaper to run because of the cooler ambient temperature in Canada.
Resource potential is not the same as proven reserves, but the natural gas potential in Atlantic Canada is immense. The market in Europe is huge and desperate, and Canada is essentially filling most of the U.S. LNG sales to Europe but receiving one-tenth the revenue. Operating an LNG facility in Atlantic Canada and paying the shipping costs to Europe would be cheaper.
Note to Trudeau: We are selling five billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to the U.S. for $10 billion USD at an annualized rate. They are liquifying it and selling it in Europe for $100 billion USD per year. It is unlikely Canada could ever deliver the equivalent energy in green hydrogen, and if we could, either half of it would be wasted in fuel cells or it would create far worse toxic NOx pollution and greenhouse gases than does LNG.
Do you see the LNG business case now? Justin, you should listen to your engineers.
About the author: Ron Barmby (ronaldbarmby.ca/) is a Professional Engineer with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, whose 40+ year career in the energy sector has taken him to over 40 countries on five continents. His book, Sunlight on Climate Change: A Heretic’s Guide to Global Climate Hysteria (Amazon, Barnes & Noble), explains in layman’s terms the science of how natural and human-caused global warming work.