Monday, April 16, 2007

LNG & California Energy

The not-in-my-back-yard approach to energy policy is a sideways approach to an issue our state’s public leaders need to confront straight on, as this editorial aptly advocates.

It is the same approach necessary for water policy—whether we have too much causing flooding or not enough causing drought and unhealthy fish environments—we need to be looking at the viability of new dams.

In our region that would be the Auburn Dam, which would also produce energy from hydroelectric power.

Editorial: LNG can't R.I.P.
State must confront energy realities
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 16, 2007

The defeat this week of a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant off the Southern California coast is not a victory for saner energy policy. Saying No to a single potential source for the cleanest-burning fossil fuel doesn't cool the planet. It doesn't lower demand. But it does one useful thing: It brings to the forefront the state's tough choices. If California wants to keep saying No to LNG, the state must say Yes to something else and embrace all its consequences.

Natural gas is the fuel of choice for electricity production in California. Coal means too much pollution. Nuclear power? It appears off the table until a permanent site for radioactive waste is available. Hydropower has its limits. Renewable sources are increasing, but the goal at the moment is they will meet just 20 percent of the total demand by 2010. That leaves natural gas as the "bridge" fuel between now and that day when fossil fuel is no longer necessary to keep the lights on.

It's true, the "bridge" is shaky. Domestic production of natural gas is flat despite drilling all over the place. And demand is up. Dramatic price increases are a real possibility, particularly if supplies from the Gulf of Mexico get knocked out by hurricanes.

To tap into natural gas supplies that originate overseas, a liquefied natural gas plant somewhere along the coast would be necessary. The gas is chilled overseas, pumped aboard a ship and then gasified once at a terminal here. The questions are how many terminals (if any), and where. One of the best proposals, a terminal off the coast of Ventura County, came before the State Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission last week. Both commissions said No. Air pollution was a stated concern. Hmm.