Barbados Needs National Energy Policy, NOW!
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) pledged to Barbadians that within the first 100 days of assuming the reigns of government, it would roll-out several major initiatives. Our commonsense, which has been honed over the years through observation, tells us that the pledge was part of a gimmick which political parties are expected to engage at election time. It should be obvious that a political party in opposition is not equipped to deliver on promises made, simply because it is not in the obvious position of government to efficiently plan and allocate resources. The BU household continue to be amazed at the frenzy which is demonstrated by our educated public concerning trivial matters, whenever we have elections. Following the script to the letter, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has reminded the government of its 100 day promise, we listened to Senator Liz Thompson doing so with her usual eloquence in the Senate yesterday. It’s funny that the only time the Senator’s eloquence eluded her was during the no-confidence motion over the Hardwood affair last year.
Often times BU try to examine events occurring on the world stage and using our simple analysis relate it to what is happening in our backyard. One of the promises, or should we say priorities of this government is to reduce the cost of living. It was a recurring theme on the DLP platform leading up to the last general election. Of course many of us questioned what significant influence any government of Barbados can have on the cost of living in Barbados. Our skepticism was induced by the rising cost of living in the global economy which continues unabated as we write. The main cause being suggested by analysts is the runaway price of oil which has skyrocketed to over USD100 a barrel in recent months. Of note should be that the government of Barbados continues to subsidize the cost of petrol at USD65. If this was the only factor influencing rising prices then the current strategy of subsidization could be excused.
We asked in an earlier blog what tangible benefit could have been derived by the three Caribbean Prime Ministers (including David Thompson) who recently met with the lame duck President of the USA, George Bush in Washington. Despite our best effort we have not read any detail report of what was discussed outside of the powdery language used to describe the visit. We wonder if the current US strategy of using corn to fuel its Ethanol Fuel Program as an alternative to gasoline would have been discussed.
How is this relevant you ask?
According to data widely available to quote our source, despite being a well intentioned program i.e. using ethanol as an alternative for gas, the approach will have major negative repercussions to the World Economy.
Corn is the most widely produced feed grain in the United States, accounting for more than 90 percent of total value and production of feed grains. Around 80 million acres of land are planted to corn… Most of the crop is used as the main energy ingredient in livestock feed. Corn is also processed into a multitude of food and industrial products including starch, sweeteners, corn oil, beverage and industrial alcohol, and fuel ethanol. The United States is a major player in the world corn trade market, with approximately 20 percent of the corn crop exported to other countries.
Barbados should take careful note that the Americans are pursuing alternative sources of energy which is not limited to its Ethanol Fuel Program. In an earlier blog we touched on their flirtation with wind and solar power as well. Why is it that Barbados continue to pay lip service to pursuing a more aggressive alternative energy program? Our criticism can be easily directed at our Caribbean neighbours. Is it not obvious that a sustainable approach to reducing the cost of living is to reduce the cost of energy by developing alternatives? In the face of all the economic partnership agreements we have already signed, and others to follow, it is impossible to shield our small and vulnerable economies to the external shocks of the global market. The onslaught of WTO rules makes a mockery of the token offerings we have been hearing from our regional leaders, including Prime Minister Thompson. We reiterate that a more tangible pursuit is to engineer an alternative energy program. Fortunately for Barbados we have a budding solar energy program with home grown expertise at the ready. Secondly the bureaucratic hurdle which is currently blocking the development of wind energy should be investigated as a priority. The submission of an environmental impact study to Town Planning department by the Barbados Light & Power Company Limited concerning the Lambert Wind Farm project was highlighted by Chief Marketing Officer of the BL&P in an earlier blog. Each day that passes we continue to loose our fight to maintain the standard of living we have come to enjoy.
We believe that former Deputy Governor Darcy Boyce has been given responsibility for the important energy sector. As a former Central Banker he should be well aware of the current threat to the underpinnings of the Barbados economy. Today we listened with admiration to the no-nonsense and provocative Senator McClean who tabled concerns regarding the compilation of the unemployment statistics in Barbados. It is an issue which has been flogged in the bajan blogosphere, especially as it related to tourism statistics. It is this freshness of thought which Senator McClean seems prepared to introduce that we hope infects Minister Darcy Boyce. We could not let this opportunity go by without recognizing also that Minister McClean seems to working towards using statistics as a tool to inform decisions in another area which we have also flogged, that of monitoring the immigrant population in Barbados.
To those of you who want to remain immerse in the old politics characterized by the counting of 100 days, and the largess which should follow, we urge you to recant for the sake of future generations of Barbadians.