A new ship has entered Boston Harbor. No, not the British vessel The Somerset of Longfellow’s fabled “Paul Revere’s Ride” but a French tanker, Gaselys, which delivered much-needed natural gas from Russia’s Yamal LNG project to New England.
This unprecedented delivery of Russian gas to the U.S. has resulted in public outcry, brought into question the notion of U.S. energy dominance and caused some thought leaders in the region to question the prevailing resistance to new pipeline infrastructure.
We are all aware of the opposition in Northeastern states to pipeline projects that would connect the region to the benefits of clean, low-cost natural gas produced in the U.S. For years, local opposition has thwarted efforts to build pipelines to would bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale plays to the populous regions of the northeast coast. The primary argument against these pipelines has been their impact on climate change. This argument has also successfully thwarted efforts to develop shale gas in update New York.
Ironically, U.S. natural gas production and its growing role in electricity generation has done more to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions than any other factor.
Now, the region is facing a tough, cold winter and its resulting skyrocketing energy prices. This is not surprising given how the region has isolated itself from the U.S. energy market by denying itself delivery of gas supplies. To meet local demand, LNG imports are coming to the rescue – and some of them, for the first time, are arriving from Russia.
On its face, this should not be surprising. It is basic supply and demand. New England needs gas, and Russia has gas. What’s making people scratch their heads is the fact that our own application of opposition to pipelines has made us unable to help ourselves, at least in the Northeast. And the gas they are receiving at the Everett regasification facility is a lot more expensive than what it could have received from pipelines that should have been built.
The U.S. ability to export LNG globally is one of the truly amazing outcomes of the shale revolution. It is helping the U.S. geopolitically, helping counter the trade deficit and providing an important relief valve to an oversupplied North American market. But the Northeast is denying itself an adequate connection to this relief value. We can’t even send it our LNG because U.S. law, the Jones Act, won’t allow foreign vessels to deliver it.
The delivery of Russian LNG to Boston appears to have been a bit of a wake-up call.
A Feb. 13 Boston Globe editorial calls into question the rejection of new gas pipelines in Massachusetts, stating that “the Commonwealth now expects people in places like Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Yemen to shoulder the environmental burdens of providing natural gas that state policy makers have showily rejected here.”
An interesting statement from a Boston editorial board that is calling for a “reset” of the environmental movement and environmental policy in the state.
In the meantime, we now have an opportunity to have a larger national discussion about the need to enhance and repair our nation’s aging infrastructure and Congress begins discussions about a comprehensive plan delivered by the Administration.
Our energy delivery system is a critical part of our infrastructure, and how we better connect the Northeast and the rest of our nation and world to our abundant energy supplies needs to be an important part of that discussion and ultimate plan.
Jack Belcher is executive vice president for HBW Resources and consults energy and transportation clients on government relations, regulatory affairs, situational risk management, coalition building and stakeholder relations. He is also Managing Director of the National Ocean Policy Coalition.
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