In this video adapted from Earth Island Institute, meet Erica, a high school student from Oxnard, California. Learn how she fought the construction of a proposed liquefied natural gas facility near her low-income, Latino neighborhood. Hear from a member of the Sierra Club who describes the proposed facility, and hear how Erica educated people about the potential environmental impacts and how to get involved to stop the project.
Natural gas is a major source of energy and has a range of uses, including electricity generation and home heating. Compared to other fossil fuels, natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel; in other words, it produces lower quantities of harmful emissions that affect the environment and human health. While the combustion of natural gas still produces air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, the emissions are much lower in quantity than those from coal or oil. As a result, some people consider natural gas a more environmentally friendly fuel.
Natural gas is abundant, although much of it is located in areas of the world far away from where it is used. The most efficient way to transport natural gas from where it is extracted to where it is used is to convert it from a gas to a liquid. Natural gas occupies about 600 times less volume in liquid form than in gas form. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) becomes liquid at extremely cold temperatures—below about –260 degrees Fahrenheit—and so it must be transported and stored in specially designed containers. Large tanker ships transport LNG from places such as Australia, Africa, and the Middle East to terminals in the United States, where it is stored in large tanks. When it is needed for distribution to homes and businesses, the LNG can then be warmed back into a gas and sent through pipelines.
LNG-receiving terminals can be located on land or off the coast, although proposals for new terminals can be controversial because of concerns regarding safety, environmental impacts, and effects on the community. For example, if there were an accident or spill, LNG would vaporize and the vapor cloud, which is highly flammable, could ignite. The resulting fire could spread quickly. There is also concern that LNG tankers and terminals could be targets for terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, air and water pollution from tanker operations or spills could jeopardize marine and coastal ecosystems. And while LNG itself may be relatively clean burning, the processes of extraction, liquefaction, transport, and regasification also produce air pollution. In addition, the focus on building new facilities for handling natural gas may divert attention and resources from developing renewable energy sources. And finally, people who live nearby would be subjected to increased noise and traffic in their neighborhoods, their property values could decrease, and the pipelines could damage their land.
In the video, the proposed receiving terminal by BHP Billiton would have been a massive facility located in the ocean about 14 miles off the coast of Southern California. No LNG terminals have yet been built on the West Coast of the United States. In this case, environmental groups and community members worked together to fight the proposal. Concerns about air and water pollution, the impact on coastal and marine environments (in particular, migrating whales), and the consequences for nearby neighborhoods led to the eventual termination of the project by the governor of California.
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