Thursday, August 18, 2005

LNG facts get the ax

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This LNG thing is an emotional rollercoaster. Just thinking about it for too long gives me the vapors. I cure this with a bracing pony glass of crude oil.

First we were not getting LNG. Then we were. Now we're not again. Stop the federal energy regulatory process -- I want to get off!

Part of the journalist's mission is to make things clear for the public -- particularly, things that, I might add, being complicated, as so many municipal processes are, could benefit from the elucidative touch that bestows upon the very unclear thing a heretofore unknown film of transparency that improves one's understanding of the issues and, yes, most of all, the comprehension thereof, especially for anyone who knows already what exactly they are.

So, yes.

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the recent developments to the LNG project that you may find helpful. If not, feel free to find them unhelpful.


Q. What's going on with the LNG project lately?

A. Welcome back to Planet Earth! Let's see. On June 30, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave Weaver's Cove Energy the right to horn in on a residential neighborhood so it can build a huge tank of liquefied natural gas and a facility to turn it from liquid to gaseous form. Everybody who lives in that area of North Main Street yelled a collective "SHIT!" And then the "For Sale" signs went up.

While the bigwigs at Weaver's Cove were busy twirling their mustaches with evil glee, our representatives in Congress were busy finding a nice, cozy spot in the more than 1,000-page 2006 federal transportation bill to bury a provision making it illegal to use federal money to tear down the old Brightman Street Bridge when the new one is built. It literally blocks LNG tankers from getting to their proposed destination. It's a scheme as clever as it is diabolical. President Bush recently signed that into law -- so the city has used the energy industry's most powerful tool against itself. Weaver's Cove then issued a press release saying, "SHIT!"


Q. Why would having the old bridge in place matter?

A. The old bridge is downriver from the proposed facility, and it's too narrow to squeeze an LNG tanker through, not even one that's slathered in butter. Weaver's Cove would have to sail its tankers up to the old bridge, about a half mile away, and then offload the LNG by carrying the stuff in buckets back and forth to the facility.


Q. I'm confused. Does this mean that once the new bridge is built we can drive across the old one, too?

A. God, no! I wouldn't drive on that bridge now, and there's a Pizza Hut over there!


Q. So what, pray tell, will the old bridge be used for?

A. Uh...fishing? Bike riding? They can use it for storing elephants, for all I care. The LNG tankers can't get through!


Q. Can't the LNG tankers just plow right through the old bridge, smashing it to pieces, like in a Will Smith movie? People diving out of the way? Tommy Lee Jones should play the renegade LNG ship captain.

A. I agree. That would look cool.


Q. Were any other anti-LNG provisions put into the transportation bill?

A. Yes! In case the bridge thing doesn't work, there's also $25,000 in funding to build a large arrow-shaped sign that reads "FALL RIVER THIS WAY" on it. It will be installed at the end of Mount Hope Bay, and will point toward New Bedford.


Q. Have you taken a stand on LNG?

A. Listen. I have no problem with LNG itself. Some of my best friends are LNG. What I do have a problem with is putting an LNG facility where people live. A terminal doesn't belong here. It belongs someplace where, if there's an industrial accident, human beings will not be hurt -- the Gulf States, for instance, or Delaware.

Besides, even if Massachusetts needs more natural gas, it's not Fall River's job to carry the burden for the rest of the state. We already take their garbage and their heroin addicts. And think of this: Once we let Weaver's Cove put LNG in here, what other kinds of LNGs will it sneak in? Live nude girls? In a residential neighborhood? How about loud, noisy gorillas? Are you going to be the one to say yes to loud, noisy gorillas in Fall River?


Q. Weaver's Cove Energy has been putting up a lot of billboards and online ads. I even got something in the mail addressed to "Our Neighbor." What's up with that?

A. Ah, advertising -- the last refuge of a scoundrel. Personally, I don't like the tone of their ads. They're very elitist and bullying, if you think about it. They keep telling me to "get the facts," like I'm an idiot who's been easily misled by lies all this time. Also, the ads say, "You haven't heard the whole story," which implies that I haven't been paying attention. That's just mean.

"We might not be able to change your mind, but we'll settle for opening your eyes," reads the little bit of propaganda I got in the mail. OK -- first, it's saying that I'm stubborn. Then, it's saying that I'm living with my eyes closed. Basically, the ads could only be worse if Joe Camel started pushing LNG to children.

If anybody from Weaver's Cove is listening, there are three ways your ads can be improved.

First, learn my name and don't call me "Our Neighbor."

Second, don't talk to me like I'm some closed-minded schmuck. I've read your Web site, thought about it for a while, and it turns out I still don't want LNG here. I gave you more of a chance than I do the religious wackos who knock on my door. Now go away.

Third, next time, mail me a sample packet of LNG so I can try it at home. If I like it, maybe I'll buy it.

Until then, I'm getting my bike and fishing pole ready for the Brightman Street Bridge. See you there!

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