The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
World's Largest Methanol Refinery to Be Built Along the Columbia River
By Brett VandenHeuvel
Communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel development are taking a stand against dangerous fossil fuel projects. Take a look at the big fight in the small town of Kalama, Washington. The Chinese government is planning to build the world's largest methanol refinery to convert fracked natural gas to liquid methanol for export to China to make plastics.
This four-minute video on the Kalama methanol refinery shows why these residents of this town are fighting and winning:
From a greenhouse gas perspective, this fight is a big deal. The methanol refinery alone would use more natural gas than all industry in Washington combined. Flip it around: If we win this one battle and stop the methanol refinery, we stop the equivalent of doubling industrial natural gas usage in Washington State.
While the gas industry tries to spin natural gas as clean, new science shows just the opposite. The bulk of natural gas is methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane leakage from gas wells and pipelines led scientists to conclude that fracked gas can be as bad coal for our climate. And it gets worse. Gas production in North America relies heavily on fracking, a process famous for polluting air and water, endangering the health of nearby residents.
On the Columbia River, we're no stranger to the fossil fuel industry's pipe dreams. Liquefied natural gas. Coal. Oil-by-rail. Our communities have celebrated major victories. The fossil fuel industry's love affair with the Columbia ignores our region's fierce passion for clean air, salmon and standing up for our neighbors. The coal and oil projects that remain—the nation's largest proposals for coal export and oil-by-rail terminals—face a high-profile movement led by cities, businesses, Tribes, faith leaders, conservationists and others to hold the line on short-sighted, high-impact fossil fuel proposals.
But the Kalama methanol refinery represents a new wave of fossil fuel export. This project would drive demand for massive new pipelines and lock the Pacific Northwest into a half century or more of fracked natural gas consumption, further delaying the transition to cleaner energy alternatives.
Northwest Innovation Works proposed a similar project in Tacoma, Washington, on Puget Sound. Community members and elected officials put the project under the microscope and rejected it. Just days before the company dropped their Tacoma methanol refinery idea (and doubled-down in Kalama) an elected public utilities commissioner told the company to "go away and don't come back" without specific answers to Tacoma's concerns.
Tacoma is a city of 200,000. Kalama is a town of 2,000. The passion to fight the methanol refinery is strong and inspiring in Kalama. But because of its small size, voices must rise from across the Pacific Northwest to stop this behemoth. You can help by signing our petition to Gov. Jay Inslee calling on him to oppose the methanol refinery.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The climate crisis got its moment in the sun during the ninth Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Wednesday.
By Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky
One year after the Flint Water Crisis I was invited to participate in a water rights session at a conference hosted by the US Human Rights Network in Austin, Texas in 2015. The reason I was at the conference was to promote efforts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to encourage scientists to shine a light on how science intersects with human rights, in the U.S. as well as in the context of international development. My plan was to sit at an information booth and share my stories about water quality projects I spearheaded in communities in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Philippines. I did not expect to be thrown into conversations that made me reexamine how scientists use their knowledge as a public good.
The shipping industry is coming to grips with its egregious carbon footprint, as it has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the dumping of chemicals into open seas. Already, the global shipping industry contributes about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, about the same as Germany, as the BBC reported.
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC overlooks the Tidal Basin, a man-made body of water surrounded by cherry trees. Visitors can stroll along the water's edge, gazing up at the stately monument.
But at high tide, people are forced off parts of the path. Twice a day, the Tidal Basin floods and water spills onto the walkway.