About the author
Mark Perry Tweets
What’s New on AEI
Sign up for AEI Today
The Boston Globe editorial board unloads on the ‘pipeline absolutism’ of environmentalists
View related content: Carpe Diem
In a CD post last week, I posed the question “Why is LNG coming 4,500 miles to Boston from the Russian Arctic when the US is the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer? (see map above of the route). The simple answer to the question is a lack of natural gas pipelines in New England due to the “pipeline absolutism” of anti-fossil fuel environmentalists who have blocked all new pipeline expansions, as I explained in a recent Boston Herald op-ed “Epic U.S. energy boom cruises by region,” here’s an excerpt:
Although America is a global energy superpower and the U.S. has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, New England relies on imported LNG from faraway countries for about 20% of its natural gas. This is what happens when you don’t build your own natural gas pipelines, which are the safest and most economical way to transport energy. The trouble is there isn’t enough pipeline capacity to bring in natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to New England in times of high demand. Even as America’s natural gas production has soared, the pipeline capacity to get it to where it’s needed hasn’t kept up. The problem: political obstacles driven by environmental groups.
In the past two years, regulatory obstacles have led to the cancellation of two pipeline projects, which is ominous for a region that desperately needs more natural gas to make up for the shutdown of nuclear and coal plants. Moreover, there are those in the region who promote themselves as climate leaders but continually block new gas pipeline capacity.
Now the editorial board of the Boston Globe is weighing in on “pipeline absolutism” with a lengthy, 2,000-word editorial yesterday “Our Russian ‘pipeline,’ and its ugly toll, here’s part of the opening (emphasis added):
To build the new $27 billion gas export plant on the Arctic Ocean that now keeps the lights on in Massachusetts, Russian firms bored wells into fragile permafrost; blasted a new international airport into a pristine landscape of reindeer, polar bears, and walrus; dredged the spawning grounds of the endangered Siberian sturgeon in the Gulf of Ob to accommodate large ships; and commissioned a fleet of 1,000-foot ice-breaking tankers likely to kill seals and disrupt whale habitat as they shuttle cargoes of super-cooled gas bound for Asia, Europe, and Everett.
On the plus side, though, they didn’t offend Pittsfield or Winthrop, Danvers or Groton, with even an inch of pipeline.
Massachusetts’ reliance on imported gas from one of the world’s most threatened places is also a severe indictment of the state’s inward-looking environmental and climate policies. Public officials have leaned heavily on righteous-sounding stands against local fossil fuel projects, with scant consideration of the global impacts of their actions and a tacit expectation that some other country will build the infrastructure that we’re too good for.
As a result, to a greater extent than anywhere else in the United States, 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. The old environmentalist slogan — think globally and act locally — has been turned inside out in Massachusetts.
And there’s a trendy, but scientifically unfounded, national fixation on pipelines that state policy makers have chosen to accommodate. Climate advocates have put short-term tactical victories against fossil fuel infrastructure ahead of strategic progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They’ve obsessed over stopping domestic pipelines, no matter where those pipes go, what they carry, what fuels they displace, and how the ripple effects of those decisions may raise overall global greenhouse gas emissions.
The environmental movement needs a reset, and so does Massachusetts policy. The real-world result of pipeline absolutism in Massachusetts this winter has been to steer energy customers to dirtier fuels like coal and oil, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. And the state is now in the indefensible position of blocking infrastructure here, while its public policies create demand for overseas fossil fuel infrastructure like the Yamal LNG plant — a project likely to inflict far greater near and long-term harm to the planet.
A long read, but highly recommended.