The use of fracking to produce petroleum gases is growing in the US and around the world. Polymer producers - those making polyethylene(s) in particular - are quite excited about this as a good amount of ethane is mixed in with the methane. Being too high in fuel content to burn, the ethane is separated from the methane and sold to be polymerized (after conversion to ethylene of course). One of the larger formations in the US being fracked right now is the Marcellus shale formation which underlies large swaths of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. Sunoco wants to pipe the ethane through Philadelphia to the port, put in on Liquid Natural Gas tankers and float them to the Gulf coast for processing. But in order for this to occur, an Act of Congress was required. Not because of the risks associated with this option, but because of...well, I'll let the article directly explain the hoops that need to be thread and the cockamamie option that the US Congress took to solve the problem:
"... the LNG vessels that hold the supercooled liquid fuel in large spherical tanks now sail under foreign flags. A law known as the Jones Act requires that all ships carrying cargo between U.S. ports must be built, owned, crewed, and maintained by Americans. The ships Sunoco would charter are American owned and were built in the late 1970s in Massachusetts. But they were reflagged in the Marshall Islands in the 1990s. It requires an act of Congress to reflag the vessels as American, which would require them to use U.S. crews. [Senator] Toomey and Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) devised a novel way to reflag the tankers by including them in the America's Cup Act of 2011, special legislation that would permit 60 foreign vessels to participate in the America's Cup yacht race. The law is expected to receive final Senate approval and the president's signature this week, before the America's Cup race is scheduled to start Saturday in San Diego."
LNG tankers attempting to qualify for America's Cup? Can we really look forward to a ship such as this:
Quite a connection, huh?