By Portland Oregonian
The profusion of natural gas extracted with a new technique known as fracking gives America a long-sought advantage in fashioning a balanced energy future.
Clean, inexpensive gas, in abundant supply here and in Canada, could offset the burning of dirty coal, helping to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, while increasingly serve as a primary fuel for American industries. It could reduce dependency on foreign-sourced oil, currently tapping out at about $100 a barrel with no end in sight.
But North America’s extraordinary “shale gale,” as it’s become known, raises an immediate economic question in Oregon: If the same gas that sells for as little as $2 per million BTUs in American markets could fetch $12 or $14 in Japan or China, why wouldn’t we turn around and ship it out for a profit? Doing so, we’d create much-needed jobs in building and running a facility near the mouth of the Columbia River.
But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must declare a public necessity for the project before granting developers eminent domain authority to extend their pipeline across private lands, was never clear in defining public necessity – something Oregon challenged the agency on to no avail.
Most compelling, however, is the promise of new jobs, more than 2,000 in construction and another 150 to run the facility, according to a study paid for by the project’s backers. Those numbers, coupled with a boost in property tax revenues, require full consideration as the project moves through several agency proceedings.
Oregon’s decision on an LNG terminal at Warrenton should be made with neither hubris or fear, but with a clear-eyed assessment of all potential outcomes. We’re at the start of that process, not the end.