Monday, November 07, 2005

Over the Weekend...The Day Tackles Broadwater; Modern Houses in the Desert

LNG ... The New London Day started a three-part series yesterday (you need to register to read it) on the LNG issue in general and Broadwater's proposal in particular. The first story doesn't so much give a balanced account of the debate but as a general overview of the LNG industry.

Reporter Judy Benson says that the various proposals for LNG terminals in the northeast and elsewhere are basically in a sprint to finish first. She cites Peggy Laramie of the American Gas Association:

Laramie and other energy industry experts concede that all the currently proposed LNG terminals would be more than enough to meet projected demand. But various companies are all vying to be among the first to get through the permit process, build their terminals and secure contracts with utility companies to buy their fuel.

“Once the first one or two are approved, others will drop out,” said Tom Kiley, president and chief executive officer of the Northeast Gas Association. “There is a bit of a horserace going on between companies.”

Among other interesting points:

“We have received over 1,000 letters, and all but one are opposed to the project,” said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Alan Blume of the agency's Sector Long Island Sound office in New Haven. “That's definitely a significant amount of input. This is clearly a proposal that resonates with the public as a whole.”

I got an e-mail, meanwhile, from Martha Smith, at Yale. She had gone to a public meeting in New Haven to hear about the Broadwater proposal because she was interested in the question of whether an increase in LNG use would lead to cleaner air and less pollution in poorer urban neighborhoods, which see rightly saw as a potential mitigating factor in the anti-Broadwater fight.

What she learned, she says, is that there is no way to know whether the LNG converted at and transferred from the Broadwater terminal would even be used in Connecticut:

My comment to the group was that Broadwater was a very easy issue to oppose, since it was very specific and had a visible symbol. Reforming energy policy, improving air quality in the cities, and changing our energy sources are propositions difficult to isolate from many other complicating issues.

Broadwater touches on these issues, but the people representing the facility were honest in saying that if Broadwater were approved, there isn't a guarantee that local power plants would switch from coal or oil to natural gas, and that air quality would improve. Our energy system doesn't work that way; there isn't a direct link between suppliers and generators. There is only the possibility that if cheaper natural gas were available locally, power plants might make find switching generating to gas (more efficient) would make economic sense, and depending on where the power plant is located urban populations might enjoy cleaner air. But these all these suppositions are built on each other.

Modernism in the Desert ... Regular readers will remember that we’re fans and aficionados of Modern architecture, particularly houses (we live in an early example, which I wrote about here and here). There are a number of places around the country that for one reason or another became centers of Modern domestic architecture. New Canaan was one; Palm Springs, California, was another. In today’s Times there’s an obituary of E. Stewart Williams, one of Palm Springs’ prominent architects.

The story goes that in 1947 a young Frank Sinatra, wearing a sailor’s cap, walked into Williams’s Palm Springs office and told him he wanted a house. Sinatra said he liked Georgian architecture. Williams, following the admirable tradition of professionals telling the clients what they really want, designed a Modern house instead.

Influenced by the Scandinavian architects Gunnar Asplund and Alvar Alto, Mr. Williams created a sleek, warm home of glass, wood and stone that harmonized with the desert landscape and offered panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Featuring a piano-shaped swimming pool, it also hit a note of glamorous sophistication.

Except for the paino-shaped swimming pool, that’s pretty much the essence of Modern architecture – natural materials, enough glass to minimize the boundary between outside and in, a feeling of warmth that belies the apparent coolness of the design, and a design that uses and fits in with the landscape. One wonders why builders don’t build them anymore and why anyone would want to live in a McMansion.


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