Study: Kalama methanol project would help fight climate change but disputes continue

KALAMA — A new study of the proposed $2 billion methanol refinery draws a surprising conclusion: From a global climate change perspective, it’s better to build the plant than not to build it.

The draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the project, released Tuesday morning, supports what Northwest Innovation Works has contended all along: That the plant, which would convert natural gas to methanol, would displace coal-based methanol plants that produce far greater volumes of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases linked to global climate change.

Given the worldwide demand for methanol (a key ingredient in plastics manufacturing), failing to build the plant would mean other, dirtier projects would be built. The plant, though it would release about 1.1 million tons of carbon at the Kalama site, would therefore have a net decrease on carbon emissions worldwide, the study concluded.

“Our technology is so superior,” Kent Caputo, general counsel and chief commercial officer for NWIW, told The Daily News in a briefing about the study Monday afternoon. The project “would have a gigantic displacement effect” on carbon sources elsewhere, Caputo added.

Columbia Riverkeeper Executive Director Brett VandenHeuvel said the displacement effect the project would have in China is “speculation.”

“It’s laughable the world’s largest fracked gas refinery would reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” VandenHeuvel said. “We should not sacrifice clean air in Washington based on speculation on the Chinese energy market.”


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