Japanese scholar: Millennium Bulk Terminals “offers Japan a sound solution to energy-security challenges”

The Millennium Bulk Terminals project has received substantial business, civic and labor support in Washington because of its importance to the state economy. Last month a major labor union endorsed the project. A supporter said, 

“Longview is a working-class town built on the natural resources industry with a deep-water port on the Columbia River,” said Mike Bridges, President, Longview/Kelso Building Trades, IBEW Local 48. “Millennium is a transformational project. They will breathe new life into our historically industrial community – and they have already taken considerable steps to prove they deserve our support.”

In a state as trade-dependent as Washington – and few, if any, states are – it’s easy and appropriate to focus on the economic benefits trade brings to local communities. Sometimes overlooked are the benefits our ports and export facilities provide to others.

An op-ed in the Seattle Times by Shozo Kaneko provides important perspective. Kaneko, a fellow of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers and retired faculty member of the University of Tokyo, writes of the lingering effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan six years ago. The events triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. He says,

Japan lacks meaningful domestic natural energy resources and consequently imports 96 percent of such resources. Nuclear energy was seen as a viable way to be more self-sufficient in meeting our energy needs. But Fukushima changed all that with the ensuing suspension of nuclear power generation and loss of public support. Despite a concerted national effort to deploy additional renewable resources, the loss of nearly one-third of power generation capacity was difficult to replace. We were suddenly more reliant than ever on imported fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Today, we are one of the world’s top importers of coal. It is a major, indispensable source of energy in Japan for electricity. Our economy and society depend on it as a stable, reliable energy source.

Acknowledging the challenges in reducing greenhouse gases, he points out technological advances in reducing CO2 emissions from coal. And, he points out this reality:

The 2016 International Energy Outlook concludes that coal will remain the second-largest energy source worldwide until 2030. World coal consumption is projected to increase by more than 20 percent by 2040.

Here’s where Millennium will play an important role.

Coal shipped through the Longview terminal is Powder River Basin coal. Due to its unique qualities, this coal is the most suitable fuel for the highly efficient gasification-based technologies we are developing at Fukushima and elsewhere. Japan needs a reliable supply of high-quality coal to support economic growth and national security while also meeting our stringent environmental requirements.

The Millennium project brings substantial benefits to Longview and the state of Washington — and it also offers Japan a sound solution to its pressing energy-security challenges.

The local employment and investment benefits of the Millennium project have long been understood and well documented. It’s good to know that the project provides important global benefits, as well.