Lately, whenever an individual or group raises its voice about liquefied natural gas in the county, it seems to be in opposition. But at least one powerful organization has expressed its support for Australian energy firm BHP Billiton’s proposal to install a floating LNG terminal off the coast of Oxnard: the Farm Bureau of Ventura County.
The group, which stands at the head of the county’s billion-dollar agricultural industry, unanimously voted on Oct. 16 to support Billiton’s Cabrillo Port project, citing concerns over the domestic supply of natural gas. The project would import LNG from around the world, with tankers linking up with the floating terminal, where the material would be re-gasified and fed back onto land through an underground pipe system.
“We’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina and other events that if you are depending solely on the domestic supply, there are interruptions,” says Farm Bureau CEO Rex Laird, who notes in a press release issued by BHP Billiton that “a reliable supply of reasonably priced natural gas is needed here and now … to help sustain the long-term viability of our $1 billion agricultural industry here in Ventura County.”
Rory Cox, communications coordinator with Pacific Environment, says the endorsement will have little impact on the anti-LNG movement. “It doesn’t change the fact that this project is as dangerous and polluting as it is. There’s no changing that fact,” he says. “It also doesn’t change the fact that there’s no real proven need for this project. By now, that information is pretty widely spread.” According to Cox, in the 1990s the Farm Bureau also supported the deregulation of the energy industry for many of the same reasons it supports LNG. “They were proven wrong then, and they’ll be proven wrong with LNG,” he says.
Cox adds: “Are the farmers looking at what increased greenhouse gas emissions do to the weather and what that will do to their growing in the future? More than anyone else, farmers are dependent on a stable climate. Are they looking at that? … From their support of LNG, it seems they’re being a bit short-sighted.”
Laird, however, says many in the agricultural industry have been progressive in the use of alternative energy sources such as solar power. The use of natural gas, he says, “doesn’t preclude alternative uses;” it simply answers their immediate energy supply concerns.
“To characterize us as being backward-looking with this endorsement is totally inaccurate,” Laird says.