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Selling our economic future to China

Selling our economic future to China

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Editor’s note: Today’s guest editorial was written by Mike Reuter, mayor of Kalama. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

China is America’s largest economic competitor; stated in China’s two long term plans — Made in China 2025 and 2050 — are strategic goals to displace the United States as the dominant global economic and national security superpower. Americans should stand up to any nation that wants to take our economic advantage or exploit our precious resources.

Northwest Innovation Works proposed refinery in Kalama will use 300 million therms of natural gas daily — or the equivalent of one-third of the entire State of Washington’s gas usage. This refinery will also use 100 megawatts of hydro power, which is like gold when it comes to GHG reductions and cap-and-trade mitigation. The refinery will also consume 4.4 million gallons of water per day from the Columbian alluvial watershed.

Another proposed refinery by the same company at Port Westward in Oregon will also be just as disastrous to that state’s resources. It is equal to Kalama’s refinery in the consumption of gas, water, and electricity and will also use the same pipeline as the one in Kalama. That will make enormous demands on the local infrastructure.

Natural gas is also used during the refining process in order to make gasoline and jet fuel. When there was a shortage in the pipeline a while ago, gas prices in Portland jumped up 11 cents a gallon, and diesel gained 5.75 cents a gallon.

I have serious concerns for the Northwest and its ability to take on two petroleum refineries that will export a staggering amount of our natural gas converted to methanol to China. There has never been a feasibility study on natural gas prices for the local economy if such a large load was put in place. The natural gas used for this refinery comes from the only pipeline that supplies most of the gas for the majority of the residents and businesses along the I-5 corridor, from the Canadian border to Camas. This pipeline is already fully contracted out and having capacity issues during the winter months.

I believe that there will be so much natural gas being sent abroad that it will hamper the ability of businesses that rely on gas to expand or be built in the Northwest. Uncertainty around energy is a major deterrent to new investment. Low natural gas prices are one of the main reasons that manufacturing jobs have returned back to the United States. When there are pipeline capacity shortages, prices for both natural gas and electricity skyrocket, and CO2 emissions go up because more carbon-intensive fuels are forced to compensate.

Additionally, tens of thousands of jobs rely on low cost energy. The only reason that we have cheap natural gas prices is because the gas we receive from Canada is stranded and has only a limited market to sell to. However, once this “spigot” is open to the world we will compete with world market prices, and thereby lose our limited market advantage.

Adding another gas pipeline will cost the rate payers billions of dollars and will have to be constructed along the most environmentally conscience population in the country including the people of Seattle, Bellevue, Bellingham, Tacoma, etc. The existing pipeline was built over 60 years ago before there was extreme opposition to fossil fuel projects or regulatory permitting processes to hamper its costs or timetable. By the time the pipeline is completed a decade or more from now, it will be redundant due to the implementation of renewable energy technology.

Washington’s clean energy legislation will not succeed without using short-term gas capacity options. Natural gas is supposed to be the bridge fuel between coal and oil to renewable energy, but because of two proposed Chinese methanol refineries the bridge most likely will not be there.


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