Labatt Emission Reduction Plan – Greenwashing at its Worst

PlanetNL47: Labatt Emission Reduction Plan – Greenwashing at its Worst

Our provincial government is surely our greatest renewable resource.  And that resource is stupidity.  To our dread, Ottawa can nearly match them at times.  What a pair.

Last week both levels of government tried to sport their environmental credentials by giving financial support to the local Labatt brewery to “upgrade” their process heating system from burning diesel fuel to burn propane.  The $1.0 Million capital project will receive $250,000 from each level of Government. 

50% financial support must mean that the project is achieving significant achievements toward greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, should it not?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is “not”.

Propane is a fossil fuel made from the same crude oil as diesel or it can be produced from natural gas.  The project is merely fossil fuel switching.  It is not a case of using non fossil fuel renewable energy, either fully or even partially.   

Substituting propane for diesel will yield a modest improvement in total GHG emissions of maybe 15%.  To express it the other way, 85% of the diesel GHG emissions will still be there with propane. 

Why did the two Governments agree to give a 50% subsidy to a big foreign corporation from supposedly scarce green funding?  Is that level of assistance appropriate for such minor GHG reduction?

For the public at large there is a comparable: the possible purchase of an electric vehicle for which the two levels of Government have incentives totalling $7500. With a typical eligible EV purchase being about $50,000 before rebates, the expected level of subsidy is 15%.  As the local island electricity grid is presently more than 80% renewable-powered, an EV buyer is reducing their vehicle carbon footprint by 80%.  An EV buyer’s “project” achieves 80% GHG reduction but gets only 15% subsidy.   

Labatt is being assisted on a much more generous scale than the public.  If Labatt received subsidy proportional to the GHG reduction in the EV scenario, their minor project would net them a 3% subsidy.  The excessive subsidization of Labatt is conspicuously poor decision making for both Governments.

Federal Minister Seamus O’Regan said at the press event about the investment, “today’s announcement is a very important part of our investment in Newfoundland and Labrador’s path to net zero.”

Photo Credit: VOCM

It is anything but that.  This investment shows that net-zero is an unbelievable pipedream.

When a company makes an investment decision on new industrial equipment, they usually expect a 20-30 year life from the equipment at minimum.  It is only entirely logical that Labatt will stick with the propane equipment perhaps until 2050, the supposed time at which most nations including Canada are aiming to be net-zero.  For Labatt to lock-in 85% emissions from fossil fuels to 2050 is terribly unacceptable environmental planning on their part.

If that isn’t pathetic enough, it’s morally corrupt that two levels of Government have seen fit to endorse Labatt’s strategy as it is thoroughly falling short of their stated public policy goals.  By endorsing and investing in what is only a minor process tweak with Labatt that barely moves the needle on GHG emissions, both levels of Government are sending industry a clear signal that the illusion of climate change strategy is just as good to them as having a real one.

Not a cent of public funding should have gone to Labatt for what is really a long-term commitment to maintaining high fossil fuel emissions.  Furthermore, the level of funding should never exceed the percentage of emission reduction and 15% is just not enough to have warranted any government participation.

Let’s also not forget, this is the same provincial Liberal Government that had wanted to electrify everything it could!  Take for example only a few months back how they crowed about the electrification of heating boilers at MUN.  Why wasn’t there a push to electrify at Labatt?

Could this be because the LIL is a lemon that can’t be counted on to work and rational corporations are not buying into the propaganda of Muskrat Madness?

Are the Governments themselves starting to crack and beginning to hedge their bets on the LIL themselves because here they are now clearly making a long term fossil fuel investment against electrification? 

We can only imagine the tongue-tangled response if ever O’Regan or Premier Furey are held to account to respond to this blundering contradiction of policy.

What the Governments have done by supporting Labatt’s lame project, is open the door to future funding if ever the LIL works as intended, to finally electrify their process heating system to fully abate their fossil fuel GHG emissions.  For Labatt, why take one handout when you can count on two.


It’s incomprehensible how either the Province or Ottawa think the optics of this Labatt propane switch constitutes good policy.  Everyday, the newscasts are inundated with stories of hardship related to inadequate public services in this province.  The Province’s $250,000 given to Labatt is funding that won’t go to resolve the many backlogs in health care or address the many other legitimate deficiencies that need attention. 

As the saying goes, it all seems enough to drive you to drink, but remember this – you have plenty of options besides Labatt.  Give your patronage instead to a local craft beer and enjoy something that leaves you feeling less blue.

Sources and References:

Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador invest in climate action project at Labatt Brewery –

Ottawa, Province Giving $500,000 to Labatt Brewery to Replace Diesel Boiler with Propane | VOCM



Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

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This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?