Project would provide methanol to China

Published on June 26, 2017 12:01AM

Last changed on June 26, 2017 10:04AM

This famous line from 1967’s “The Graduate” comes to mind when pondering one of the latest large industrial developments planned for the Lower Columbia River: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. … Plastics.”

In that far simpler time 50 years ago, it was plausible to suggest to a fresh college graduate that his future — and indeed the world’s — could hinge on that then-new material. Countless uses have been developed for the many varieties of plastic created by chemical laboratories and factories. We’re surrounded by it in our vehicles. Our trash cans fill up every day with single-use plastic packing materials. It would take near-fanatical concentration to avoid it entirely.

Though it has yet to make much of an impression upon public awareness here near the mouth of the river, a proposed chemical plant in Kalama, Washington, is exciting much attention elsewhere in the region. The Seattle City Council unanimously voted earlier this month to oppose the $1.8 billion distillery planned for the banks of the Columbia southeast of Longview. Working its way through the regulatory system, this plant would take methane (natural gas) and convert it into methanol (wood alcohol) for export to China, where it would be chemically manipulated into plastics. Read more