Say yes to clean energy jobs, no to the LNG project

By Stuart Warren

Medford Mail Tribune Guest Opinion: Jan 4, 2014 

Here are two important facts to add to the information in the recent Mail Tribune series on the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline.

First, there is a far better way than the LNG project to provide a much larger number of sustainable local jobs in the energy sector – without the devastating impacts on Rogue Valley residents that the series described.

And second, the LNG project would quickly become the largest emitter of carbon pollution in Oregon — contributing to even faster climate change that is already threatening our local businesses, jobs, health, and rural way of life.  

I was born and raised in the Rogue Valley, and my family’s roots here go back many generations. I’ve been a manufacturing worker. I also have been a hunter and fisherman ever since I was old enough to take part, and I supplement my income as a professional fishing guide. 

We all agree that our communities need more good-paying jobs. That’s why many people like me have been working to speed up our local transition to renewable energy like solar and to greater energy efficiency in our buildings and businesses.

In our state, each dollar invested in solar will create 17 times more jobs than further spending on natural gas, according to a detailed study by the U.S. Department of Energy. More than 5,000 clean energy jobs have already been created in Oregon, and many times that are possible if we just make the commitment.

Those jobs meet the key criteria that should be applied to every energy proposal:

The jobs will be local and sustainable.

They will pay a living wage.

They will benefit the public interest, not just the CEOs and big stockholders of a few outside corporations.

They will make our valley more livable and will help combat climate change.

Over time, they will lower our energy costs. And both the jobs and the technology are safe for our families and communities.

All these benefits of job creation in renewable energy and energy efficiency stand in sharp contrast to the proposed LNG project.

Nearly all of the LNG jobs would be temporary and go to people from outside the region. Meanwhile, by fueling factories overseas, LNG exports could cost an estimated 1.2 million U.S. manufacturing jobs according to a U.S. Department of Energy report.

Outside corporate interests would make billions of dollars, while all of us would bear the risks and costs.

Exporting more gas would help drive up prices here at home.

The public safety risk of LNG development was underlined just recently as local residents in Washington County, Pennsylvania, were evacuated from their homes on Christmas Eve because of a fire involving a gas pipeline owned by the same company that wants the LNG pipeline here. That was at least the fourth explosion or fire that company was responsible for in 2014 alone.

Finally, the LNG project — unlike clean energy and energy efficiency jobs – would take us backward, not forward, when it comes to combating climate change.

The LNG terminal’s carbon emissions from purifying and liquefying the gas for export would be greater than any polluter in the state except for one coal-fired power plant that is slated to be closed.

Those emissions don’t count the carbon that would be released in the process of drilling for the gas in Rocky Mountain communities through a process called “fracking,” or shipping and then burning the gas in Asia.

Exporting more fossil fuel to Asian countries will reduce their incentive to transition to solar, wind, and other cleaner technologies. And higher gas prices at home will result in more use of carbon-emitting coal by U.S. utilities. 

None of these climate impacts were considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in its environmental impact statement on the LNG project. That makes particularly timely a new study issued in November,"Natural Gas Exports: Washington's Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat." It documents how LNG exports that hurt the public interest are being promoted by industry money spent on officials who move between energy companies and the agencies that are supposed to regulate them.

I’ve worked in the past in the renewable energy sector, installing solar panels and wind turbines. It’s good work that a person can be proud of because it builds a better life for us all.

It’s time to say no to special-interest, backward steps like the LNG project, and say yes to real job creation in clean energy and energy efficiency.

Stuart Warren, a lifelong Rogue Valley resident who lives in Phoenix, is board president of Rogue Climate, a youth-led organization dedicated to a faster transition to cleaner energy and energy efficiency.

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