Monday, August 29, 2005

Hyperbole marks debate over LNG

The Ventura County Star gives a surprisingly balanced look at the debate over importing natural gas:

Ventura County residents face a choice between freezing in the dark and dying in a fireball.

Or so you might conclude from the arguments framing the fight over liquefied natural gas imports into Southern California. For nearly a year, since Ventura County was swept up by the nationwide resurgence of interest in LNG, the debate has bounced like a pinball between scenarios of crisis and catastrophe.

Proponents of LNG imports, such as energy companies and business groups, warn that California's economy will be crippled unless the state taps new gas supplies. Opponents counter that LNG tankers and terminals, handling flammable natural gas that is shipped as a super-cooled liquid, would unnecessarily expose coastal residents to mortal danger.

Both arguments contain elements of truth, but the debate over LNG is about much more than public safety and energy resources, and it reaches well beyond the borders of Ventura County.

The fight over LNG will decide the fate of billions of dollars in investment by energy companies. The debate raises questions about the reliability of the nation's fossil-fuel resources and how best to regulate them.