Alaska's Mas­sive LNG Project a Bad Idea?

Trillions - - In This Issue -

The State of Alaska is push­ing a mas­sive project to drill more fracked gas wells, build a 807 mile pipe­line and con­struct what would be Amer­ica's largest gas liquifi­ca­tion plant and marine ter­mi­nal so that it can ex­port an ad­di­tional 20 mil­lion tons of the con­densed fuel abroad ev­ery year.

On the sur­face, some may think that this is not such a bad idea. Af­ter all, nat­u­ral gas is cleaner than coal, right?

The re­al­ity is that there is cur­rently a sur­plus of nat­u­ral gas and the prices are very low. Most na­tions are rapidly mov­ing away from fos­sil fu­els, so by the time that the project is com­pleted there may be lit­tle or no mar­ket for the gas.

Ma­jor oil & gas com­pa­nies have al­ready pulled out of the project due to its high fi­nan­cial risk.

The other prob­lem is that it would cause mas­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age from frack­ing and the pipe­line con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion. Nat­u­ral gas from fracked wells re­lease so much meth­ane into the at­mos­phere that the con­tri­bu­tion to climate change is on par with burn­ing coal.

The State of Alaska is ask­ing the Fed­eral En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (FERC) to fast-track the project and ex­empt it from al­ready weak en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments. So, the en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age would be even greater than nor­mal.

A more sane en­ergy al­ter­na­tive would be for Alaska to mine the mas­sive meth­ane clathrates in the Arc­tic be­fore they all melt. Meth­ane is up to 100 times more po­tent a green­house gas than CO2 in the near-term and 25 times more po­tent in the longer term. It would be much bet­ter to burn the meth­ane as a fuel than to let it be re­leased into the at­mos­phere. Keep­ing Arc­tic meth­ane out of the at­mos­phere is ur­gently needed and would be en­vi­ron­men­tally ben­e­fi­cial.

The Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Diver­sity has in­ter­vened in the Fed­eral En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion pro­ceed­ings for the project but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is likely to ap­prove it re­gard­less of the risks.

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