Friday, January 14, 2005

Blow This Popsicle Stand

James Ridgeway, scourge of cant and hypocrisy, hirer of interns subsequently interviewed by Gringcorp, and owner of a prime piece of column real estate in the Village Voice, we're not worthy. Really. But some of your doomsday terrorism schtick this week is seriously flawed.

One aspect of Gringcorp's day job involves writing about Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), an economically incomprehensible practice of freezing natural gas until it turns liquid, pouring it into these weird pressurised tankers, and then shipping it from obscure gas-producing markets, to places like Houston or Boston, both of which love to burn that sh*t like mad. LNG carriers are these peculiar oil tankers with massive bulbous kettle-like structures, and Shell, one for is mighty proud of them.

In a way, they are proud and misunderstood beasts, because the assumption of just about any homeland security hack is that ships carrying such a huge amount of flammable material are just the most tempting terrorist targets an up-and-coming jihadist might imagine. Here's Ridgeway:

Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, speculated many years ago that an explosion on an LNG tanker would come close to equaling that of a nuclear bomb.

Now Teller's a smart man, but citing a nuclear physicist on how gases behave does not fill one with confidence in Ridgeway's scaremongering. Same goes for the mayor of Boston, who wanted to ban the tankers from Boston harbour. We might need to explain to hiim that now we're not burning witches, we'll have to burn something else. Trying to blow up an LNG carrier is like trying to blow up a popsicle, and will produce about the same explosion. To become flammable, the gas first has to thaw, and it is hard to do that without it escaping, which is why receiving terminals, where LNG is reheated, are so expensive.

We've tried to imagine armageddon, James, believe us we have. We were going to make our fortune by putting Steven Segal on one of thise suckers and watching it go up. But it is not possible. Which is not to say that the US is not being a little cynical by sending aid to Aceh, just that the coast of Indonesia is more about enriching pirates than potential flaming hell.



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