Some building projects may be shovel-ready. Others are shovel-desperate: they are reasonable proposals that make economic sense and boast private backers but are being slowed or blocked by interest groups leaning on the government.
One that belongs in the second category is a plan to convert a natural gas import plant, an expensive facility in Cove Point, Md., that’s sitting idle, into one that can handle exports to gas-hungry Japan and India. The Energy Department approved the plan last week, but in Baltimore on Tuesday, a coalition of environmentalists and citizens groups promised to prevent the project from getting the 60 or so additional signoffs it needs. They should find a better use for their time.
According to projections distributed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the price of natural gas at Cove Point next month will be $3.22. The price in Japan will be $15.35. The economic opportunity is obvious.
High transport costs limit how much gas American companies will be able to sell abroad, so, contrary to a major argument from critics of the project, domestic gas prices will stay low. The bottom line, according to a recent study commissioned by the Energy Department, is that allowing natural gas exports would result in net benefits to the country in every scenario analysts considered.
Though environmentalists cite a range of concerns about the project, the big one is that they oppose fracking, the drilling technique used to obtain natural gas trapped in shale rock formations. But natural gas burns cleaner than coal and could aid the transition to a greener economy.
Environmentalists would be more productive if they took all the energy they’re spending in their crusade against natural gas and put it into pushing for reasonable fracking regulations and a smart greenhouse-gas policy.
The Washington Post (Sept. 18)