Reading In Depth and Passing On Gas
Feb. 1st 2005
By David Helvarg
Blue Frontier Campaign has finished the final copy-edit on the Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide 2005-2006 which will be out with Island Press this June. Their press copy pretty well states what we believe:
A new environmental movement is emerging to help combat threats to America’s oceans and coasts, with hundreds of local and regional groups as well as dozens of national and international organizations being formed. The Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide represents a comprehensive guide to this new “Blue Movement.” For more information on the book and how to order it go to the Island Press website.
In the next few months Blue Frontier Campaign will also be updating its online movement map/directory that will allow you to link to many more blue organizations organized by state. We apologize for any present listings that are out-of-date.
In other publishing news the revised and updated (about 1/3 new) Blue Frontier – Saving America’s Living Seas will be published by Sierra Club books in the fall of 2005.
And if you missed my story in the LA Times. “SpongeBob and Friends: Splendor in the Kelp” we’ve now posted this tribute to marine reproductive strategies on ourwww.bluefront.org website.
HoldLNG the Line
Ten years ago I believed Natural Gas could function as the transition between high carbon fuels like coal and oil and the non-carbon energy systems needed to prevent catastrophic climate change (from the burning of fossil-fuels). The advantage of natural gas is it burns cleaner with fewer pollutants including CO2 (a primary greenhouse gas) and most of the infrastructure for its production and distribution (drilling rigs and transport ships) are already in place. The down side is it’s still a carbon fuel. Now the best available science indicates it may be too late for transitional strategies and we have to move directly to new 21st century energy technologies like wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, ocean-thermal, tidal and hydrogen. Norway is presently 23 percent powered by wind turbines and plans to be over 50 percent non-carbon by 2020. Most of the European Union is working to match that goal.
Unfortunately the U.S. is still dominated by 19th century coal, oil and gas interests both inside and outside the government (the President, his dad, VP, and new Secretary of State all come from the oil industry). This could explain why there is now legislation being proposed by Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn) to increase the search for natural gas in offshore areas presently excluded from drilling. He claims there’s a natural gas price “crisis” in America (to match our “social-security” and perhaps our “evolution in the schools” crisis).
Along with efforts to reopen offshore waters to drilling, there are proposals for 49 new LNG terminals (in addition to 4 existing ones). I’ve watched LNG tankers coming into Boston harbor where they’re escorted by armed coast guard patrol-boats and helicopters, police units guard the shores and all other vessel traffic is banned from the water. The risk of accidental or terrorist-caused explosions of Liquid Natural Gas ships in urban ports has resulted in many of the new proposals calling for offshore terminals, including in the waters of Long Island Sound, the Gulf of Mexico, southern California and Baja. Privatization and industrialization of our public seas, particularly by LNG facilities that would use hundreds of millions of gallons of water a day to warm the frozen LNG back into a gaseous form, chilling and killing every living thing in and around the pumps, sounds like industry’s last great idea of the 1980s to counter opposition to toxic waste incinerators in communities by launching a fleet of ocean-going incinerator ships. NOAA Fisheries is among those who have raised the alarm about what offshore LNG facilities could do to Red Drum and other commercial (and non-commercial) fish species in the Gulf of Mexico. There are closed-loop systems that won’t freeze local waters but, being more expensive, industry only wants to use these onshore.
The only tepid thing we’ve seen to date is the White House response to the US Commission on Ocean Policy, which makes me think the next few years will be more about stopping bad things from happening than moving forward with a strong solution-oriented agenda.
Still there’s the hope for what California ocean activist Richard Charter calls, “Political JuJitsu.” In the 1980s massive public protest against incinerator ships, offshore mining and offshore oil drilling proposals by the Reagan administration led to the establishment of major new marine sanctuaries for California, Massachusetts and Florida. If we’re going to have to again fight against the industrialization of our offshore waters we should do so with an alternative vision of what we want to see in its place, perhaps the kind of eco-zoning that Australia has begun to use in its oceans. One good example might be the anti-industrial Clean Ocean Zone being proposed by a coalition of groups for the New York Bight.
If the federal government isn’t going to begin implementing the recommendations of two historic ocean commissions or the practical solutions that people are already offering in and on their local waters, than we’ll have to do it from the bottom up.
Major and hopeful initiatives are now underway in California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island (all under Republican Governors) because people from citizen groups like Save The Bay in Rhode Island have shown strong leadership that their political leaders have decided to follow. That’s what we call the seaweed rebellion in action.
Best Wishes and Smooth Sailing.