Responding to Industry Propaganda

Response to Frank Boykin Op-Ed in the Tacoma News Tribune:

As world leaders meet in Glasgow to discuss what we must do to avert the worst of the climate crisis, here in Tacoma, city leaders seem intent on doubling down on fossil fuels. Scientific consensus says we must be doing the exact opposite, cutting back drastically on fossil fuel use and transitioning to carbon-free energy sources. This transition is actually a huge opportunity for new jobs, with green energy providing three times as many jobs as fossil fuels for a given investment.

Frank Boykin recently wrote about the city’s “non-interim regs” process that is currently underway, with the council considering a set of amendments that, among other things, would allow up to 15% expansion of fossil fuel facilities for “cleaner fuels.” It is important to understand that he is the head of the Manufacturing Industrial Council, a front group for fossil fuel interests here in Tacoma. The executive board of this council includes Puget Sound Energy (building a fracked gas LNG facility), SeaPort Sound Terminal, US Oil and Refining, WestRock (which burns fracked gas and biomass for power), Thompson Consulting (fossil fuel lobbyists) and Neuman Navigations (consultant for PSE).

Unfortunately, as it stands now, the definition of “cleaner fuels” the city is considering in one amendment is just business as usual, including even fracked methane gas. The WA State Energy Office, after seeing this amendment, wrote to the City Council and said “your definition of new ‘cleaner fuel infrastructure’ would include the storage and distribution of conventional retail gasoline.”

If allowed to proceed, this could mean 780,000 additional barrels of fossil fuel storage in our City. The Planning Commission, which was given the task of drawing up the original “non-interim” regulations, said in their “Findings of Fact” that “that the land area required by such facilities and the low employment densities conflict with long-term interest in maintaining and expanding container shipping and uses which provide greater employment densities.”

Speaking of employment, the City’s own fossil fuel study says all such facilities provide only 357 direct jobs. For comparison, Multicare alone provides 8,250. If you go with 168,000 jobs in Pierce County, as tallied by the Economic Development Board in their annual report, fossil fuel facilities provide only 0.2% of jobs in the county.

Some think tanks, looking at global energy use and taking into account disruptive technologies (such as wind, solar, and battery storage), estimate that fossil fuel infrastructure and investments could become “stranded assets” within 15 years, meaning they will be obsolete, useless.

As 350 Tacoma, an all-volunteer climate justice group with a storefront on Puyallup Ave, it is our opinion that truly cleaner fuels should be displacing fossil fuels in the storage facilities that already exist, thus leaving room for green energy industry and jobs to settle in Tacoma. 

From a public health perspective, the World Health Organization recently reported that one in five deaths worldwide was due to fossil fuel pollution. One in five. The WA State Health Disparities map paints a grim picture of Tacoma, with neighborhoods at high risk of exposure to toxic releases from industrial facilities and pollution from roadways.

I don’t know about you, but I’m in favor of green jobs, clean air, and a green city that can see us thrive well into the future. Port Commissioner Meyer is in favor of having wind turbine manufacturing here. Council Member Hines is interested in green hydrogen. 

There are so many opportunities for a green Tacoma, we just need the foresight and imagination to seize them.