Thinking globally, but acting warily, on new gas pipelines
Since need for LNG is temporary, new pipelines would be costly and lasting
Re “How gas demand from Boston changed a faraway island” (Editorial, Dec. 30): As problematic as it is, US reliance on Trinidad plays a small role in gas imports. In 2017, 97 percent of US natural gas imports came from Canada, almost all by pipeline. Liquefied natural gas from Trinidad was a very distant second, supplying just over 2 percent of US gas imports. Gas from Trinidad was more important to the United States in the past, but by 2017, imports from Trinidad had fallen to one-sixth of the volume in 2007.
The editorial’s passionate account of the effects of gas production on Trinidad could be placed alongside descriptions of what fracking does to water supplies and the local environment in general — or contrasted with the effects of coal mining, which are deadly for local health.
Most important, New England’s need for LNG is temporary. By the mid-2020s, planned new renewable investments, such as a massive buildup of offshore wind, combined with energy efficiency measures, will reduce the demand for electricity from gas. This will make it possible to allocate more gas to heating during the peak winter months.
Building new pipelines would be ineffective and expensive. They might not come into service until the mid-2020s or later, ready for 40 or more years of use, just after the end of the need for LNG. There would then be immense economic pressure to use the new pipelines for gas export, encouraging fracking in the Northeast and/or providing a new opportunity to export Canadian gas. It would be much better to continue New England’s LNG imports for a few more years, avoiding commitment to new, long-lived, and costly gas pipeline infrastructure.
Synapse Energy Economics
Argument for new pipelines is questionable
The Dec. 30 editorial “How gas demand from Boston changed a faraway island” seizes on an environmental justice argument to continue the paper’s endless drumbeat for more gas pipelines. The editorial argues that Massachusetts environmentalists happily support the import of liquefied natural gas, thereby trashing the island of Trinidad, while simultaneously opposing the construction of new local natural gas pipelines on environmental grounds.
But the Globe’s perspective is questionable for a number of reasons. First, it cites Trinidad’s irresponsible environmental policies. But isn’t a reasonable solution to that problem to require that we import gas only from responsibly run facilities? Second, the editorial does not mention the worrisome and well-documented environmental impacts of fracked natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, which would supply much of the gas transported by way of new pipelines. And third, contracts for LNG are relatively short term, as opposed to the decades-long commitment to fossil fuels that new pipelines involve.
The opposition to new pipelines is far from symbolic. It’s time for the Globe to reevaluate its position.