In a complex world we need to be able to make distinctions, think critically, ask questions and be led by scientifically informed data-based decision making processes. Sadly – and dangerously – our recent political discourse has discouraged rational decision-making in favor of emotional and biased-based conclusions, the more illogical, ill considered, and inflexible the better it seems.
In southwest Washington we are seeing this play out in many different ways to the detriment of our community. As someone who has committed much of my life and work to protecting our land, air, and water for future generations, I also believe that we have to find the balance between perfect and progress. Right now our community is at a critical juncture where we can set an example by making a distinction between projects that understand that climate change is real and those that do not. Some folks are trying to lump the proposed methanol plant in Kalama into the same basket as other fossil fuel projects like the Tesoro oil plant in Vancouver or the Millennium coal project in Longview.
First, we must acknowledge a shared commitment to the need to create family-wage jobs in our area. We must also not let the perfect be the enemy of progress. Although we can’t hit the “flip switch” on fossil fuels today, that doesn’t mean we can’t – and shouldn’t – be striving to do better. The scientific evidence is clear: our dependence on fossil fuels is costing our planet, deteriorating our air quality and contributing significantly to the catastrophic effects of climate change.
At this moment in time our area has the opportunity to model what it means to get out of the “all or nothing” mentality of jobs and protecting the environment. Unlike Millennium’s proposed coal export terminal and the Tesoro oil terminal in Vancouver, which ignore the fact that we can and must move away from traditional fossil fuels that are not economically viable over the long-term, the proposed methanol plant in Kalama seeks to reduce coal consumption in China and is making significant environmental protection investments for our community.
As we have recently experienced record-breaking high temperatures and smoke coming from fires in B.C., it is clear that the issues of air quality and climate change are not just local issues. Taking a provincial view of our world cannot solve them.
Rather than championing unrealistic goals or focusing too narrowly on waiting for the perfect industry that meets all of our standards to create jobs, we need to take action that leads to a transition from traditional coal and oil. There is broad agreement among world leaders, as evidenced by the Paris accord, that a positive step toward addressing climate change is moving away from coal towards natural gas; using new technologies designed to drastically reduce emission profiles; and taking a worldwide view of the challenges.
When I look at the methanol plant in Kalama, I see an actionable, measurable attempt to support something that acknowledges one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, while at the same time addressing the need for family-wage jobs in our community.
Our community is faced with finding the balance of the complex problem of creating jobs while protecting the planet for the long-term. For those who demand serious and complex solutions to serious and complex problems, the methanol plant is offering answers to problems that no other fossil fuel project even shows a willingness to acknowledge exists. Let’s focus on setting a standard that will promote the creation of jobs in our community and supports innovation, while meeting standards and investing in environmental protection rather than becoming a dumping ground for outdated, economically risky, and damaging traditional fossil fuel projects
Let’s work together to create a community that will attract the jobs that we seek for the long-term. Our community has all of the assets we need to head boldly into the 21st century; we just need leaders who are willing to look toward the future and not the past.