Monday, November 06, 2006

Is Broadwater's LNG Proposal a Good Idea for Long Island Sound? The Hartford Courant Says, "It's Not"

The Hartford Courant’s editorial page came out against the Broadwater LNG proposal yesterday. I was a bit surprised because newspaper publishers love economic development and are rarely willing to oppose it. But the Courant found a lot of good reasons for doing so:

Broadwater's proposal would increase the region's dependence on foreign sources of fuel….

Expanding that dependence on natural gas for heating and generating electricity will increase the region's exposure to volatile energy prices and threaten its long-term economic stability….

Broadwater's bid to maintain the energy status quo would have the added effect of undermining efforts at conservation….

If approved, it will serve as a symbol of the federal government's willingness to trample states' rights for short-sighted energy policies….

It would also set an ugly precedent for the further industrialization of a national treasure. Long Island Sound, the country's second-largest estuary, has been the focus of years of efforts (and billions of dollars) at environmental cleanup and reclamation….

…it seems that every day, the body of scientific evidence linking fossil-fuel consumption and deforestation to global warming grows….

The Coast Guard concludes the Broadwater project can be done in a way that minimizes its hazards to public safety and navigation. But such conclusions don't address the broader question of whether this should be done; whether, as a matter of national energy policy, Broadwater is in the region's best long-term economic and environmental interests.

It's not.


Blogger Sam said...

I hadn't thought through the Global Warming impacts of LNG facilities but they do seem real. LNG is basically about 95% methane. The ships that haul it are connstantly gassing off methane as the load warms above -260 degrees. Some of this off-gas is sent to the main ship engines but when in the port area they all convert to diesel.

Methane has 21 times the Global Warming Potiential as carbon dioxide. So even without considering burning the natural gas, we must include the impacts of these LNG ships and terminals that leak like seives. You can't plug up these leaks or the tanks and equipment would explode.

* * *

By the way, I do appreciate being elevated from being a contributor to "correspondent," even if unpaid. Thanks! /Sam

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Brown said...

Your point on the contribution of methane to global warming is well made. Once could also add as another GHG contribution the energy that is used to create and transport LNG (the equivalent of about 18% of the energy content of the NG).

Now let me play devil's advocate and put on the table the issue of flared gas and stranded gas fields. Would it not be better to capture these sources, even if it means using LNG to do so?



Finally, my two cents on the Hartford Courant editorial, which is not addressed to Sam, but to everyone.

Had the editorial board started and stopped with their penultimate argument (industrialization of LIS), they would have had a winner. But by venturing into other areas in an uncritical way, they only served to weaken their argument.

For me, the problem always comes down to context, or the lack of it. The editorial starts with the supposition that Broadwater will increase our reliance on foreign sources of fossil fuel. Okay, as opposed to what? Tar sands from Alberta, an apparently diminishing gas field near Sable Island in Canada? Domestically produced coal? Yes, I know the green response is "conservation" and
"reduce demand". Then let the editorial writers add some context and say that we can conserve and reduce demand so that not only do we NOT have to rely on additional foreign sources, we don't have to drill ANY additional domestic sources, either, such as ANWAR or
the coast of Florida or oil shale in Wyoming.

They go on to say that the Northeast is already too reliant on natural gas. That's a great position to take in a state that still uses coal-fired power plants (as does NYS, but not on LI). According to data available from RGGI, the generators in CT that would fall under the RGGI accounted for almost 10 million tons of CO2 in 2004, almost half of which came from three coal-fired plants. Residual oil (that's the heavy stuff) accounted for another 15% of CO2, Altogether, coal and residual oil accounted for almost two-thirds of CO2 production from power plants. So let me go out on a limb here and say that the Hartford Courant would rather keep these beasts belching CO2 than see them repowered to burn foreign-produced natural gas. Or they'd rather that we exploit
what's left of our domestic resources in order to repower them? If so, then say so. If not,
what is their answer? Again, put it in the proper context.

As far as "trampling states' rights", let the Hartford Courant be the first newspaper to refuse to buy power or natural gas from any interstate pipeline or transmission line that was installed by fiat of the federal government against the wishes of any state or local government. At least acknowledge that the power they use to produce their newspaper is transported through neighborhoods, certainly some residents of which didn't want a powerline or pipeline so close by.

The editorial closes with "[t]he threat to our globe is real. The question before us - now -
is whether to continue blindly following the status quo to disaster or to push for change." The status quo is relying on coal-fired power plants that produced 3.5 million tons of CO2 in 2002, 4.6 million tons of CO2 in 2003 and 4.8 million tons of CO2 in 2004. The editorial
doesn't bother to answer its own question. Let me hear what changes the Hartford Courant is pushing for that doesn't involve a continued reliance on coal and residual oil.

As I said at the beginning, Broadwater is an unacceptable industrial use of LIS. Period. But
if you want to raise other energy issues to make your argument, you better be able to provide and deal with the answers because they're not pretty.

2:08 PM  

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