Last week, The Columbian ran an article about the building-trade unions who are urging the governor not to oppose the construction of a methanol refinery at the Port of Kalama (“Kalama methanol plant: Unions urge state to approve project,” The Columbian, Dec. 3). The methanol would go to China for manufacturing plastics. Washington needs jobs and the company claims this refinery would produce fewer greenhouse gases than a similar plant in China using coal for plastic feedstock. Sounds good, but wait a minute.
Globally most feedstock is produced using naphtha or ethane. They are cheaper, readily available, pollute less, and already used some places in China. So would China use the methanol for plastic or, as many suspect, repurpose it as fuel? It looks as though this is China’s real intention. Unfortunately, fuel produces substantially more greenhouse gases and clearly violates Washington’s fossil fuel approval process.
The article “U.N. calls on humanity to go carbon-free” in the same day’s Columbian reports that world climate leaders are urgently stressing the need for a cleaner future coming out of the pandemic. We cannot continue with the powerful hurricanes, floods and endless weeks of wildfires and heat waves that we have experienced this year. This refinery would produce at least 4.6 million tons of greenhouse gases a year. Regrettably, it is not the way forward to resolve our pressing employment and climate crises. We have more work to do to solve these vitally important problems.