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Gas has its dangers

In his Sept. 13 piece, Fuels rush in, Jim Collinson states that electrical generation from burning of natural gas produces less greenhouse gas per unit of energy than coal. When fugitive emissions of natural gas from the entire supply chain are included, this advantage disappears.

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Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Natural gas leaks occur during extraction, transportation, distribution and flaring. Flaring and venting pollute the air. Leaks during extraction carry the risk of contamination of groundwater.

This is particularly dangerous when the gas contains deadly hydrogen sulphide, as occurs in the Bakken in North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and in much of the gas from Alberta and B.C. The only economically viable method of disposing of recovered hydrogen sulphide, aside from flaring, which is severely restricted in most jurisdictions except Manitoba, is injection into the subsurface.

Huge amounts of hydrogen sulphide are being injected in B.C., Alberta and increasingly in Saskatchewan. Much of this occurs in oilfields that contain numerous abandoned wells that will act as conduits for leakage when well seals eventually fail. A massive acid-gas time bomb is being created.

Much of the natural gas is now produced from fracking, which uses large amounts of fresh water. The cost of this freshwater depletion is not accounted for and endangers our precious freshwater supplies. Fracking, of course, has numerous other environmental risks.

Collinson mentions that CO2 can be captured from fossil-fuel electrical generation plants and stored. However, the cost for this is prohibitive. Injection for storage is so slow it must continue for up to hundreds of years, and storage entails the risk of eventual leakage of CO2 into the groundwater and air. When disposed of in oilfields, the CO2 can carry toxic and volatile organics.

A heavily subsidized carbon capture is now being constructed near Estevan, Sask. The CO2 recovered from this plant will be used for enhanced oil recovery. This oil will be subsidized by taxpayers and will generate more CO2 when burned. CO2 capture and storage is essentially no more than an expensive excuse for continued greenhouse-gas emission and, at worst, a scam to produce subsidized CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.




Jim Collinson outlines alternative future sources of electrical energy. But Manitoba Hydro keeps implying that it has a strong market potential waiting in the north-central U.S.

Some Americans are not waiting. Xcel Energy is investing $1.8 billion to upgrade its two Minnesota power plants, according to a report in the June 17 Minneapolis Star Tribune. The project includes new 330-ton steam generators and installation of newly designed separator tubes.

The company expects the upgrade to extend the life of the plants for another 20 years and boost electrical power output by 13 per cent. Xcel also has proposals to build three gas-burning generators in Minnesota and North Dakota in the next decade.

It's interesting that Manitoba's electrical power was not mentioned.



Unfettered markets work

Letter-writer John Wishnowski (A right-wing fantasy, Sept. 12) should look up the history of the St. Boniface Hospital. He would find it was founded by the Sisters of Charity, the Grey Nuns, so I doubt that Brian Sinclair would be turned away today had the government never meddled in the medical-care field in the first place.

As for the problem of housing, landlords could only charge what the market could bear in a world free of government intervention. Why was there no shortage of housing available to the poor and downtrodden before the government got involved competing in the rental markets? Because there was money to be made in renting properties to all income levels.



Decreasing profits

Re: Regulated pesticides safe, effective (Sept. 5). Of course the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers and other agriculture and lawn-care companies oppose a cosmetic-pesticide ban. It will decrease their profits, plain and simple.

They are not concerned with the many studies that provide scientific evidence that demonstrates exposure to pesticides is harmful to our health. The Ontario College of Family Physicians released two comprehensive reports reviewing literature that shows a strong connection. The science is there, supported by a reduction in pesticide exposure.

Are we able to test these chemicals directly on people and monitor them for extended periods of time. No? The mice and other species the pesticide companies use for tests have completely different immune systems than us, and therefore different capacities to excrete and metabolize the chemicals. This is beside the chemicals' interactions with other chemicals once released into the environment.

What the pesticide industry fails to point out is that Health Canada acknowledges the risk to vulnerable populations (pregnant women and children) and recommends that they be not exposed to pesticides. What the industry says in its letter is extremely misleading and false.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 16, 2013 A10

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