Saturday, August 19, 2006

Maine Needs LNG

Have you had a chance to read the Whole Bay Study being promoted by the Canadian group, “Save Passamaquoddy Bay”? You can tell it is Canadian, they introduce slanted Canadian figures into a discussion of economic growth in Washington County.

The Canadian statistics are pure smoke and mirrors. They totally ignore the economic growth from LNG development in Canada.

One needs to go in 26 pages before there is any factual meat about jobs and community benefits. Here we learn that this $500 million project will employ 250-300 people during 36 months of construction phase operations. We’ll split the difference and call it 275 workers.

So you understand, that’s 275 workers pumping money directly into the Washington County economy for three years. Thereafter, they project another 60 permanent positions. Once again, these are real jobs contributing to our tax base, and the local business economy, on a year round basis.

The report even tells us something that is new. It delves into the secondary jobs associated with a minimum of four 7000 horsepower tractor tugs having firefighting capacity. Having this capacity would also make us attractive to tourist cruise ships.

Not much, 12 additional jobs involving the retraining and expansion of local crews. But that raises the full time, year round, jobs to 72 – none of which a minimum wage. In point of fact, the report acknowledges the average wage would exceed $60, 000 – well about the Washington County, or Maine, or National, annual income.

Some have objected to the construction jobs requiring skills not available among our workers. To that: Who cares!! We are talking three years of economic inflow to our economy as we adjust for the 72 permanent jobs.

For perspective, those 275 jobs equate to a sudden influx of at least 14,300 tourists – each spending a week eastern Washington County every year for three years. What 14,300 new, and monied, tourists worth to the County economy? Because these workers would pay taxes here, these jobs are worth more.

The facility has an estimated life span of 30 years. Keep in mind – from a prior column – the American oil supply only has 12 years and the Canadian only 15. LNG is therefore slated to be the primary fuel source for the nation – and we, not Canada, will be supplying New England.

That brings us to the real issue, the motive behind the Canadian “Save Passamaquoddy Bay” action at a time when they are expanding their LNG facilities – Maine, specifically Washington County, will be the controlling force for a large portion of New England’s energy needs. More important, Maine will be self-sufficient and cease the export of funds to Canada.

Having served up the meat, the Whole Bay Study returns to irrelevant smoke and mirror discussions of the funds moving around outside our economy. But the report does admit that 70 percent of the funds would be spent here in Maine.

When money enters an economy, it circulates seven to ten times prior to exiting. During the construction phase, the LNG facility would generate $2.5 Billion within the Maine economy. The permanent work force would generate more than $40 million annually for Washington County. That is the meat buried in 131 pages of smoke.

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