A sea of green

By Maureen Foley 04/12/2007

Always remember to follow the money. Especially when weighing the pros and cons of BHP Billiton’s plan to build a floating liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal off the Oxnard (and Malibu) coastline. In the end, money doesn’t lie. And it is money that is fueling this entire project. After all, why would an Australian company bother to spend so much money on plans to build a facility along a delicate coastal ecosystem thousands of miles away from its headquarters?

Answer: Money.

And why would various local chambers of commerce support a project that had so many clear environmental hazards associated with it? Why would the people whose health would be in jeopardy due to the LNG facility’s pollution problems promote such a project?

Answer: Money.

Unfortunately, both the local chambers and BHP Billiton are only looking at the short-term financial gain of having such a project built nearby. In order to truly follow the money, take a look at some of the larger money-related questions surrounding the proposed facility.

Some studies indicate that the facility could generate large amounts of water, air (affecting people) and noise pollution (affecting migrating whales). What would be needed to mitigate the problems that arise due to the LNG plant’s pollution?

Answer: Money.

There are also those who state that having a major natural gas processing facility locally presents a perfect target for terrorists. The site is like a large-scale bomb, just waiting off the coast to be detonated. What will it take to make sure that the plant is effectively protected from threats by intruders?

Answer: Money.

Finally, BHP Billiton has said that it will try to offset some of the water pollution problems by converting some of the ships that will be constantly stopping at the plant to natural gas engines (from diesel). But what will be necessary to convert those engines?

Answer: Money.

Making a large profit is no doubt driving BHP Billiton’s holy grail quest to build this LNG facility. (And the hope to share in those profits is clearly why some local chambers feel compelled to support the project.) However, there are many costs related to the LNG project that are not being accounted for, such as the cost of pollution, the cost of safety and the cost of preserving coastal beauty. And what is the monetary value of those things?

Answer: Priceless.

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