Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Padilla Bay National Estuary & Oil Refineries

Located just a few miles south of Bellingham, Chuckanut, and Samish Bay - Padilla Bay is a gem of the National Estuaries system. What seems odd though is the ability of the estuary and oil refineries to coexist.  There is cooperation on all sides to prevent spills.

We all understand the importance of having enough energy to fuel our auto based economy but the risk is always present for a major spill that could have a devastating effect on Puget Sound, the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Straits of Georgia, San Juan Islands and Canadian Gulf Islands.

The City of Bellingham, and Skagit and Whatcom counties sit between the metropolitan cities of Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. Oil arrives by ship primarily from Alaska but also by pipeline from the oil sand regions of Alberta. After refining, the product is shipped by pipeline to Seattle and Portland, Oregon.  Gasoline is then trucked back here for delivery to local gas stations.  We typically pay a few cents a gallon higher because of the added shipping costs and the marketing plan of the oil companies. (Fewer brands of gas - less competition)

Bellingham and Whatcom County have consistently been rated as having the cleanest air in the USA for an area of this size/population.

That almost changed under the Bush administration, when it was suggested that this area be turned into another Houston, by dramatically increasing the size and number of refineries.  Ted Stevens, former Senator from Alaska also was an advocate for more refineries and the use of larger and more frequent ship deliveries to these refineries.

Understanding national and global issues is important so we can have a better understanding of the effect on the local economy.

An example: to keep the oil flowing from the north slope it is suggested that there are local people involved in the design and fabrication of very large refrigeration units that will be barged to the north slope.  Global warming has been affecting the perma frost and to support the drilling and pumping operations there is a requirement to drill into and then freeze the ground beneath these operations.

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