Thursday, April 21, 2005

Continuing the LNG debate

This quote from Philadelphia Weekly Online sums up the [only valid] opposition to LNG
"Before 9/11, these terminals were very safe," says Anne Korin, director of policy and strategic planning for the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. "Then terrorism was introduced as a factor. The risk shifted from the remote possibility of an accident to malevolence."
And that is why the hyperbole and hysteria don't sound quite so hyperbolic and hysterical. In our post-9/11 world, attaching the appellation of "potential terrorist target" to anything will doom it. It is difficult to argue that the chances are remote, after all: We saw what happened with our own eyes. Thus, despite my strong belief that the leaders of the oppositon to LNG do so for political reasons and are using the spectre of terrorism because it is convenient (though, unfortunately, appropriate), I think what needs to be focused on is how technology can give us a safe and cost-effective method of increasing the storage and off-load capacity for LNG in both Rhode Island and New England in general.

But then these points are raised:
No offshore LNG terminals exist today. Not in the United States, not anywhere in the world. The technology might be safe but nobody has ever tried it before.

Onshore LNG is a different matter. Virtually all of Japan's natural gas needs are met by LNG. There are 25 LNG receiving terminals in Japan that receive some 600 LNG ships per year, and an LNG ship enters Tokyo Harbor more than once a day. There are some 40 LNG plants around the world, including four in the United States. With 40 years to test and advance the technology, scientists and engineers have fine-tuned the construction of onshore terminals with numerous, duplicative safety features.

Should we dismiss safety concerns? Absolutely not. Safety considerations should be the highest priority. The environmental review process involves every conceivable agency from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Long Beach Fire Department. An onshore terminal must be earthquake safe. It must be terrorist safe. It must be as safe as we can make it. We also need a dose of common sense and we need to be realistic about the safety issues.

While some present "offshore" as the "safe alternative," it is increasingly clear that opponents of a facility in the middle of an industrial port area are really saying "no" to LNG anywhere. Why is that? We don't have any test case examples of offshore LNG terminals. If LNG at a secure, controlled and "hardened" onshore industrial site is unsafe, how would you propose that we protect an offshore LNG terminal?
I think I'll have to do some research and get back to you on this.

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