Transcript: Rory Cox, RACE (LNG), May 04 2006
Thom interviewed Rory Cox, coordinator for Ratepayers for Affordable Clean Energy about Liquefied Natural Gas.
Thom Hartmann interview with Rory Cox 04 May 2006 on KPOJ
[Thom Hartmann] And Rory Cox is with us. He's the lead coordinator for Ratepayers for Affordable Clean Energy, R.A.C.E., also known as RACE. Hey Rory, welcome to the program.
[Rory Cox] Good morning.
[Thom Hartmann] You are going to be speaking tonight at PSU at 6:30 at the Smith Memorial Union, that's in room 296 and tomorrow at 11am there's going to be a rally outside the Portland World Trade Center, SW First and Salmon, also Gordon Smith's office. Gee, what a surprise. Because there's a pro-Liquefied Natural Gas law conference going on there. Understand that they're making it a little difficult for activists to buy a ticket and show up.
[Rory Cox] Well, it's not so difficult if you have $700 to spare.
[Thom Hartmann] Yep. There you go.
[Rory Cox] Yeah. So, it's generally not for activists. It's for the industry and the lawyers that represent the industry.
[Thom Hartmann] So what is the, let's start out with the industry's position. Tomorrow there's this conference, you know, this very expensive price of admission conference, pro Liquefied Natural Gas. Why are they getting together?
[Rory Cox] Well, because there's a lot of money to be made off of Liquefied Natural Gas. These are some, a lot of the big players in LNG are some very familiar names to us all, llike Shell oil, Chevron Texaco, Exxon Mobil and others. And they look at LNG as a way to sell natural gas from one continent to another continent, generally. And, you know, clearly they've got the rights to drill those hydrocarbons from places like Russia, Indonesia and Peru and they want to, you know, make money off those hydrocarbons.
[Thom Hartmann] To what extent is this conference a conference that has to do with Portland or Pacific North West issues versus just another national or international conference that just happened to pick Portland as their city and could just as easily have been held in New York?
[Rory Cox] Well, there are 5 proposed LNG terminals for the coast of Oregon and the Columbia River, so Oregon is very important right now. It's not any coincidence that they chose Portland.
[Thom Hartmann] Are those 5 proposed terminals for Portland the exception, I mean, or are there 50 others proposed for other port cities in the United States?
[Rory Cox] Well, what's interesting is that there are 5 for Portland and none for Northern California and then the next one going down south will be near Oxnard down by Santa Barbara. What's gone on, and why Portland is so important, is that in the last couple of years citizens groups in Northern California, and in particular in Vallejo and Eureka chased LNG terminals out of town basically by just packing city council meetings and making a big ruckus. And so therefore LNG is not an issue here in Northern California; it is in Oregon. And it's not a, you know, our gas grid is, covers the entire western states. So if it comes in in Oregon it can easily go to California and that's what I believe is really driving this whole process. It's basically, you get the facilities, we get the gas down here in California.
[Thom Hartmann] So, you there in California. And where in California are you right now?
[Rory Cox] I'm in, oh, at the Oakland airport actually.
[Thom Hartmann] I see.
[Thom Hartmann] Right.
[Rory Cox] PG&E is a big player up there and what they're doing is, they're an investor in the LNG terminal proposed for Coos Bay.
[Thom Hartmann] Right.
[Rory Cox] And they're also building their pipeline that'll basically take it straight to the California border and in to, down to our gas markets. Your gas market is very small compared to California's.
[Thom Hartmann] So, the only reason, or the main reason, that they're building these, that they're proposing to build these terminals in Portland and at Coos Bay is so that they can supply gas to California without dealing with the NIMBY issues that have already been fought and won by the folks in California of, you know, we don't want a gas terminal here.
[Rory Cox] Well, first of all there are no proposed terminals in Portland. It's all near Astoria and Coos Bay.
[Thom Hartmann] OK, it's all on the coast.
[Rory Cox] Yeah, it's all on the coast. And it is, from what I can tell, I mean, when I look at how much gas you actually use in Oregon, as well as Washington and all the other Western states combined, it's really, you know, not enough to justify the investment into LNG.
[Thom Hartmann] Well this is...
[Rory Cox] And I'm not saying that Oregon won't get some.
[Thom Hartmann] Right.
[Rory Cox] But what's driving this is the California market.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, well, and this raises the second question, which I think is probably one that a lot of consumers are, you know, scratching their heads and thinking about. There's a lot of people in this state, in particular a lot of people in this city, who heat their homes with natural gas, and they do so thinking that they've chosen the least environmentally destructive way of heating their homes, at least of the hydrocarbons, of the fossil fuels that are available. And thinking 'hey', you know, 'pretty good decision'. But where's that stuff coming from? We don't have wells, to the best of my knowledge, here in Oregon, for natural gas.
[Rory Cox] Right.
[Thom Hartmann] So it has to be brought in. And if it has to be brought in, it seems like common sense, that maybe we should have another terminal.
[Rory Cox] Well, you're not importing any natural gas from overseas right now. Where your gas comes from, as well as our gas, is the Rocky Mountains and Canada and, you know, possibly some from the south west. But it's all coming from North America through the North American gas grid.
[Thom Hartmann] Via pipeline.
[Rory Cox] Via pipeline. Right. LNG sorts of ups the environmental cost quite a bit as well as the financial cost to consumers because it costs a lot more. What it is, is bringing it in by huge tankers into these coastal terminals and, you know, it gets shipped thousands of miles over seas.
[Thom Hartmann] Right.
[Rory Cox] That entire process of liquefying natural gas and moving it overseas, that adds 18 to 40% of the greenhouse gases that you see from your domestic natural gas.
[Thom Hartmann] So just the very process of taking a gas, converting it to a liquid, holding it at, what, hundreds of degrees below zero Fahrenheit, I presume?
[Rory Cox] Yes. Exactly.
[Thom Hartmann] And then putting on a boat and propelling it all the way across the Pacific Ocean is burning up an amount of BTUs.
[Rory Cox] Yeah.
[Thom Hartmann] Or throwing an amount of carbon into the atmosphere that's equal to a significant percentage of the gas itself that's being transported.
[Rory Cox] Exactly. Yes. 18 to 40% additional penalty on that.
[Thom Hartmann] Then why do it?
[Rory Cox] Well, because, I think, again it's a real power grab by the multinational oil and gas industries to, you know, make money off of our energy needs here in North America. It's a general world-wide trend that, you know, the companies have figured out they could, you know, sell a lot of this LNG on the world market. It doesn't matter whether it's needed or not. It's just something that they can sell.
[Thom Hartmann] But if it's not needed here, then won't that drive the price of it down? And if it is needed here, then shouldn't we be bringing it in?
[Rory Cox] Well, the Department of Energy and many other sources say that we have at least a 50 to 60 year supply of natural gas here in North America, and that's without going up to Alaska and the North Slope.
[Thom Hartmann] Right. Now, but is that able to get to California, Oregon, Washington, is that able to get to Pacific North West?
[Rory Cox] Oh, sure. It's happening every day. That's going on.
[Thom Hartmann] And short of a major earthquake, it'll continue to.
[Rory Cox] Sure, I mean, you know, there are several receipt points, there are several pipelines which serve our region. I mean it's something that's been around for so long we barely think about it, I think.
[Thom Hartmann] OK, so the first argument against these LNG terminals, you're suggesting, is the environmental one. It's unnecessary. I assume that the corollary of that is that we should be putting our money into developing alternatives and moving away from natural gas if we're going to make a big investment, let's invest in a solar panel plant in Astoria instead of an LNG terminal. That kind of thing.
[Rory Cox] Absolutely, and you know, wind is already cheaper than natural gas production per kilowatt hour.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, you want some wind, go to Astoria.
[Rory Cox] Right.
[Thom Hartmann] So, and in fact, wave power there too. That's fairly new but there are, you know, companies that are out there trying to develop technologies that can exploit both thermal gradients in the ocean and the just simple power of tides and waves.
[Rory Cox] Right, and those technologies are not going to take off unless there's a real public push to do so and a push from, you know, our state's leaders as well as our national leaders and our regional governors claim that they want to get us to renewable energies very quickly, and turning down LNG is certainly a first step to kicking our fossil fuel addiction.
[Thom Hartmann] Right, so Rory Cox, the lead coordinator for Ratepayers for...
[Rory Cox] If I could just correct one thing.
[Thom Hartmann] Sure.
[Rory Cox] My organization's actually Pacific Environment.
[Thom Hartmann] Oh, OK.
[Rory Cox] And our coalition is called Ratepayers for Affordable Clean Energy. Pacific Environment's based in San Francisco.
[Thom Hartmann] OK.
[Rory Cox] Our coalition represents citizens groups from Oregon to Baja California.
[Thom Hartmann] Is there a website for it?
[Rory Cox] It is pacificenvironment.org.
[Thom Hartmann] That's easy to remember, pacificenvironment.org. Just to reset this, remind our listeners, you'll be speaking tonight at Portland State University at 6:30 at the Smith Memorial Union room 296 and there will be a rally tomorrow at 11 o'clock Friday morning outside the pro-LNG law conference at the Portland World Trade Center, which is of course at SW First and Salmon.
So, the first argument against the LNG terminals is that if we're going to be investing in an energy infrastructure we should be investing in a renewable energy infrastructure, not in liquid natural gas. That this is largely a profit and power grab by the big multinational petrochemical companies, hydrocarbon companies, rather than something that's going to benefit us.
The second argument against it is that this is, really the reason that they want to site these things in Oregon is because they've already fought the battles in California and lost. California said, 'no, you can't have any more of these terminals here, we have a concern about them'. And that battle has not yet been fought in Oregon, so they're hoping they can kind of slip in under the radar.
And third, I'm assuming one component of that, what could be glibly called, and I referred to it once earlier, in fact, as a NIMBY argument, you kow, Not In My Back Yard, is that the reason that people don't want things in their back yards is they're, they have the explosive potential of a small thermonuclear device. Or am I exaggerating, I mean, I've heard that phrase used. Is it hyperbolic, or is it true?
[Rory Cox] Well, it's, in terms of the energy released, yes, there is some truth to that. There's no radiation involved, but it does involve a...
[Thom Hartmann] If one of these things went up, it would create a massive explosion and a huge mushroom cloud.
[Rory Cox] Sure. Yeah, and it can incinerate everything within 2 miles and, you know, cause significant damage several miles away from that. An incident just happened at an LNG export facility in Algeria a couple of years ago [Skikda, January 19, 2004] which killed 27 workers that were on the site and shattered windows up to 7 miles away.
[Thom Hartmann] Wow, wow.
[Rory Cox] So that sort of gives you an idea of what sort of force these things can release.
[Thom Hartmann] Now, it also seems kind of crazy, and again, I don't mean that in a dismissive way. It just seems crazy in a day and age when the Bush administration is running around yelling at us that we need to be afraid, be very afraid, there's terrorists trying to get us, that we would put on our coasts, where presumably there's a little less security than in interior areas, where you can, you know, at least more closely patrol the perimeter, put right on our coasts things that are basically bombs waiting for somebody to come up in a boat with a missile, or something.
[Rory Cox] Well, that's absolutely right and the best seller by Richard Clarke, "Against All Enemies", actually he talks about that in the book. That's LNG facilities and tankers are known terrorist targets.
[Thom Hartmann] So, are these issues going to be discussed at this conference, by the pro-LNG conference, or are they just going to be figuring out, you know, political strategy? What's the deal here?
[Rory Cox] Well, I can only, you know, second guess what they're going to talk about in there. I haven't really looked at the agenda. But you know, the way they discuss it is not how to avoid it, it's how to avoid the NIMBY problem, as you call it, which is just more a matter of, you know, not wanting to be incinerated.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, OK. Rory Cox the lead coordinator with, well, also working with RACE, Ratepayers for Affordable Clean Energy, and your website is, once again?
[Rory Cox] It's pacificenvironment.org
[Thom Hartmann] pacificenvironment.org and you'll be speaking tonight 6:30 at Smith Memorial Union room 296 at PSU, rally tomorrow Friday at 11 o'clock outside the pro-LNG law conference at the Portland World Trade Center, SW First and Salmon. Rory Cox, thanks for being with us today.
[Rory Cox] Thanks a lot, Thom.
[Thom Hartmann] Much appreciated.