CONTRIBUTORS

Propane tank in Searsport benefits one

Posted Jan. 31, 2012, at 2:07 p.m.

David Cole’s Jan. 26 BDN OpEd supporting the proposed propane tank in Searsport is wrong on a number of levels.

His assertion that Maine needs the propane is a canard. It is unfortunate that 5 percent of Mainers heat with propane, as it is the most expensive fuel in the state, but they don’t need Searsport and they won’t benefit if the terminal is built here. Only DCP Midstream, the developer, will benefit.

The company’s costs will be lowered because shipping by water is cheaper than by rail or truck. It might expect to save 50 cents a gallon. That’s $25 million a year at its volumes. It will use that competitive advantage to dominate the region and drive every competitor out of the market. Why else does it appear to be planning to bring in quantities that exceed Maine’s annual consumption of propane by 20 percent or more, using DCP’s own numbers?

And the tale of “The Winter of ’07” is getting old. There are many who believe that the propane tightness was exacerbated by market manipulation and the strike just added to the drama.

But let’s says it’s all true and that the mean, cold winter and rail strike in Canada caused the shortage in 2007 that sent propane users scrambling. Let’s suppose we build the terminal and another mean, cold winter hits. Mean, cold winters in Searsport are the norm, and often mean ice and snowstorms and power outages, as well. They can last for days, sometimes longer.

The propane terminal can’t load out without power and must burn off the gas instead. Now, all of Maine’s propane stocks are located in Searsport and this time, everyone does run out. How is energy security advanced by concentrating all the propane in one, vulnerable place?

What Mainers need is access to the cheap natural gas that runs through the state.

Mr. Cole was at the the Searsport town hall for the DCP “informational meeting.” He saw the packed, standing-room-only house. He heard the questions and angry comments from the Searsport residents who are frustrated with the way DCP has abused the permitting process. He felt, as we all did, the sentiment against the terminal in that room.

Even with DCP salting the room with supporters, those supporters numbered under 10 percent, and most of them were not from Searsport. The BDN estimated the crowd at 350, most of whom said they lived in Searsport. The crowd’s position was clear. The townspeople are opposed, and given an up or down vote there would be no terminal.

Unfortunately, we were forbidden to discuss DCP’s tank at the 2010 annual town meeting, when the increased height ordinance was approved by 12 votes.

Neither Searsport nor Maine will gain many jobs from more imports.

Why not work to bring sustainable exports to Mack Point so Searsport and all Mainers could benefit? Mr. Cole might consider exerting his influence on Sprague to get it to put in the high-speed bulk loading and unloading capacity that the Mack Point terminal needs to be competitive exporting Maine’s biomass to waiting markets in Europe.

As to DCP’s propane terminal, the people of Searsport and the people of the North Penobscot Bay region don’t want it.

David Italiaander was an agricultural commodities trader for over 33 years ands is currently a consultant on fats, oils and biofuel feedstocks. He lives in Searsport.

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