Editorial: A pipeline lesson for Virginia, courtesy of Massachusetts

March 26, 2018

“To build the new $27 billion gas export plant on the Arctic Ocean that now keeps the lights on in Massachusetts, Russian firms bored wells into fragile permafrost; blasted a new international airport into a pristine landscape of reindeer, polar bears, and walrus; dredged the spawning grounds of the endangered Siberian sturgeon in the Gulf of Ob to accommodate large ships; and commissioned a fleet of 1,000-foot icebreaking tankers likely to kill seals and disrupt whale habitat as they shuttle cargoes of super-cooled gas bound for Asia, Europe, and Everett.”

That searing indictment comes from The Boston Globe, a newspaper no one ever would mistake for a conservative institution, even in dim light. The February jeremiad continued in a similar vein for nearly another 2,000 words, but its point was simple and clear: The narrow and parochial focus of environmentalists opposed to building natural-gas pipelines in New England led directly to the importation of liquefied natural gas from Russian interests that are ripping up pristine wilderness to get at it.

Three years ago Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker proposed a three-pronged energy policy: 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy, 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind, and an expansion of natural gas capacity. Environmentalists liked the first two but fought the third prong tooth and nail. They won, in both Massachusetts and New York, and several pipeline proposals have since been shelved.

The argument against pipelines holds that states should rely on green-energy supplies instead. That sounds swell, except that solar and wind power cannot provide baseload generation — i.e., the energy needed when the sun sets and the wind dies down.

Something needs to back those sources up — especially on bitterly cold New England nights, which is when prices for natural gas spiked and Russian tankers began pulling into port here in the U.S. The LNG they brought comes from a natural gas plant on the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle. One of the companies behind the plant is Novatek, upon whose board sits Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko. According to Reuters, he is a member of Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle.” Right-wing populist Donald Trump might or might not have colluded with the Russians. But liberal Massachusetts effectively has.

Adding to the irony: LNG is more carbon-intensive than natural gas shipped through pipelines...

Read entire article at Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia).


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