This appeared in the Gleaner yesterday:

Jamaica Public Service (JPS) to build 150MW plant… to be fuelled by coal.

full version: http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20060920/business/business1.html

Several questions arise from this article not least of which is WHY is this project being undertaken? In this the 21st century in a country that claims to be on a mission to be first world and world-class how can our strategic vision include a coal-burning power plant?

The article quotes JPS CEO Mr. Obiglio as saying that “[they] are currently working on environmental approval” and I fervently hope that such approval is not be granted. This is truly a poorly thought out, backward, and short-sighted idea. It seems that the only consideration being taken into account by the JPS is sustaining or improving its $1.4 billion profits because one surely cannot believe that the REAL costs of this kind of plant have been taken into account. I shudder to imagine the additional smoke and harmful chemicals that will rise into the air surrounding Old Harbour, or how far that smoke will travel, or the health of the residents who live in the immediate Old Harbour area and even beyond. This plant cannot be allowed to be built. The burden that it will place on Jamaica’s already fragile and unprotected environment is unconscionable, and far outweighs any benefit of a reduced energy bill.

Furthermore, the article notes that the “cost of coal as a fuel is considerably less than that of petroleum liquids and LNG” as support for the decision to build the plant. But let’s examine this closely. Coal mining begins with stripping forested and lush hillsides to access the resource below. Witness the environmental devastation heaped on the mined areas of the Black Hills in the United States, not to mention the long-term health ills of the miners. Again, the REAL costs of this coal-burning plant venture have clearly not been closely examined. And if Jamaica doesn’t possess suitable and adequate coal deposits surely we’re not going to import coal and add yet another import item to our balance sheet? I cannot understand how this plant is being seen as a solution!

However, I am not altogether surprised that this ill-advised recommendation and assault on our environment, and indeed our intelligence, was sanctioned by the then PJ Patterson-led administration, nor am I surprised that this decision falls under Philip Paulwell’s ministry’s purview. Given the latter party’s proven incompetence at handling his portfolio and considering the travesties heaped on the irreplaceable swamps surrounding the Causeway Bridge as it and its adjoining roads are ‘improved,’ the Bahai and Long Mountain debacles, and the general neglect visited upon our heavily-depended upon coastline, this recommendation under Mr. Patterson’s direction fits right in. We need to end this legacy of shortsightedness, neglect, and poor decision-making and management here and now.

A new prime minister is in charge and she must be urged to review and correct this decision expeditiously in favour of more prudent and sustainable solutions. Mr. Thame’s article notes that hydroelectric and wind energy account for a mere 2.7% and 2.6% of Jamaica’s energy mix. These percentages are embarrassingly low. At this juncture and considering Jamaica’s long term vision we must be working on modernizing our existing power plants’ equipment and efficiency as well as pursuing research into renewable sources of energy. It is in forward-looking measures like these that we will find viable, environmental and health conscious and sensible methods of improving our energy conservation techniques, and of reducing our energy bill and dependency on petroleum imports.

You know where I’m sending this, right? Un-fucking-believable that this is even a thought in Jamaica. Are we seriously regressing???

mood: intensely annoyed
music: quiet

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