The continued fluctuating dollar value of petroleum and the need for sustainable energy has made agricultural crops such sugarcane, corn and others, realistic and targeted commodities to be used to supply sustainable energy in the future. This makes agriculture a key player in the search for renewable energy supplies.
Clarence E Pilgrim
The Caribbean and indeed the world is facing twin energy-related challenges which are primarily focused on acquiring secure and affordable energy as well as managing the environmental consequences of producing the desired energy stream.
A proper balance must be reached and maintained between agriculture for energy and agriculture for food. The delicate balancing of the scales between the two continues to be an issue of strategic importance
Second generation bio-fuels will probably be more important after 2015, depending on sustainable feedstock supply. This will inevitably transform a number of industries within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), should a move in this direction become official policy.
The continued reliance on imported oil and gas within the high consuming region of the CARICOM will increase substantially, if steps are not taken now to reduce our dependence on what can best be described as an energy addiction.
The rapid urbanization of the Caribbean basin and associated changes in lifestyles, will have significant effects on food preferences and hence on demand. As citizens' numbers grow and there is a flow from rural to urban areas, there is proportionally a greater consumption of more processed and natural foods. Hence, there is the increased importance for a greater energy generation capacity to "feed the need!"
Cumulative investment in energy-supply infrastructure, must go hand in hand with a proper energy needs assessment, which should begin with understanding the needs of the basic family unit.
The discovery of renewable geothermal energy in the volcanic mountainous terrain of a number of Caribbean countries can be one sector which may help to alleviate a number of problems contained within the energy-needs equation.
This clean energy source will enable the Caribbean lands endowed with this gift to develop its various sectors without damaging the local environment, while sharing its untapped potential with neighbours.
Geothermal energy utilizes steam and hot water produced inside the earth to generate electricity and heat or cool buildings. It is a renewable energy source because the water is easily replenished and heat is continuously manufactured naturally. The direct use of hot water as an energy source has been happening since ancient times.
The positive environmental impacts of geothermal energy are:
The heating applications being employed have close to zero negative impact on the environment.
Power plants utilizing geothermal energy to generate electricity have a very low emission level of carbon dioxide.
Geothermal plants emit significantly less acid rain causing compounds than are emitted by fossil fuel plants.
It does not divert important critical food crop supplies for energy production purposes.
The current quest for energy trends highlights the extent of the challenge of securing the supply of reliable and affordable energy.
The next logical step ought to be the development of an overall workable Caribbean energy security strategy, which would effect a rapid transition to an efficient and environmentally friendly energy system, with geothermal energy playing a significant role.
This is clearly one path to take in light of the rising energy prices, increased petroleum based import dependence and rising greenhouse-gas emissions.
Direct and radical action must be taken on the regional, national and local levels if we are to become an energy secure region.
Clarence E Pilgrim, is an enviromentalist, advocate for human rights, educator, a senior officer in the Antigua & Barbuda Civil service and volunteer for various non-profit organisations. His pen and speeches are consistent platforms for Caribbean Integration, social policy issues, enviornmental protection, development of alternative energy and the careful management of our natural resources.