Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Well, now... that was impressive

On a spectacularly ugly night to be out and about (rain driven by frantic gusts of wind), attendance vastly exceeded any expectations at a movie preview/anti-LNG meeting at The Loft in Astoria.

For anyone in the dark about this, LNG is liquified natural gas.  Basically the same thing extracted from Canada and the US Rockies, except that LNG is extracted in other parts of the world, supercooled to a liquid state, poured into massive ships and then offloaded, re-gassified and then distributed via pipelines around the US.

So, what's the problem?  It's just another energy source, isn't it?  Isn't gas cleaner than coal?

Oh... where to start?

While this wasn't really touched on at the gathering tonight, I'll start at the mouth of the river, since that's where it first begins to touch our lives.  The mouth of the Columbia River is one of, if not THE most dangerous ship passage in the world.  And we're talking about making regular transits of it with some of the most potentially dangerous cargo in the world.

Should an accident occur and even one of the holding tanks be breached and its contents ignited, the "blast zone" or area of fire hazard would extend for a mile and a half on either side of the vessel.  My house is much less than a mile from the center of the navigation channel.  Most of downtown Astoria is far closer than that.

"OK, but accidents like that are unlikely."  I'd say that that's true enough, but an accident like the Exxon Valdez or the New Carissa was unlikely, too, but they did happen, and those were just relatively recent events on the west coast of North America.  And both of those happened when "terrorism" was something that happened elsewhere.  These days, an LNG tanker is a floating, slow-moving bomb that any inept "pilot" with a couple of days of training could fly a light plane into.

But, what if we ignore the fire or terrorism threat?  Why all the NIMBY attitude?

How about:  "We don't need it."  Can we be more plain?  The state of California has denied any siting of LNG terminals, but they still use gas, a lot of gas.  The state of Oregon's natural gas needs even at current levels and possibly higher can be met handily for at least the next thirty years by domestic production.  California's demands are far higher.  In fact, California's demand is far more than double that of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada's usage combined.  But they won't host a terminal.

Which brings up the other major problem with LNG:  moving it to its market.  Which would be California.  There's an existing pipeline that runs from British Columbia to California, passing through eastern Oregon.  The current plan is to tie the Columbia River terminals to the existing pipeline via the Palomar project, joining the lines near Maupin, OR.  

If you're unfamiliar with Oregon's geography, all I can say in short order is that Maupin is two mountain ranges and thousands of creeks, rivers, farms and forests from here, and that's mostly because the most direct route would be through the City of Portland, and you know damn good and well that will never fly.  So the developers took the assumed "path of least resistance" through farmlands and forests.  If you are familiar with Oregon's geography, the damage is enough to make you weep.

And I'm not meaning to gloss over any of the other salient points:  creating another dependence on a foreign-based fossil fuel; the carbon cost of liquification/transport/regassification (makes it only second to coal for power production as a global warming contributor); the environmental impact (especially at Bradwood for our already threatened salmon runs), and the long-term lack of contribution to the local economy while simultaneously threatening the flow of shipping for an entire region.

But there IS resistance.  Rural Oregon is fighting back.  Farmers, fisherpeople, First Peoples and everyday citizens are staring big business (none of the developers are from Oregon... who would've guessed that?) and the Federal Government in the eye and saying "You have to go through me."

And several hundred of them braved the winds and the rain to show up in support of keeping the projects from moving forward.

More info: (an issue-specific site of Columbia Riverkeeper)
or contact Dan Serres at (503) 890-2441


Andrea said...

Thank you for the information. It's all much clearer in my mind now...and it makes me angry. Will link to your blog elsewhere.

Andrea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seraffyn said...

Scott, coming back to read this a second time, I am so impressed with how well thought out and articulated your arguments are. You've encapsulated the issue well for just about any reader. I am going to share this on Facebook, to try and get more attention on this.