Mary King

We celebrate the massive find of petroleum in Guyana and envisage that Guyana could become one of the richest countries in the region based on the rents left by the international energy companies. However, I am on record as saying that Guyana should leave the petroleum in the ground and use its human resources to build its economy given the future damage the exploitation of such a resource will do to the planet. The Waorani people of the Amazon are of the same view as they block such exploitation in their lands.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is approaching 410 parts per million. This has already driven the global temperature to nearly one degree centigrade above pre-industrial levels and has intensified drought, damaged vineyards, encouraged wild fires, sea level rise, hurricanes and cyclones and other natural disasters. We are betting on cutting emissions by the use of renewables, i.e. reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, this alone will not be enough to prevent sharp increases in global temperatures. It is also becoming evident that we also need to remove vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which will not only be very expensive to achieve but will present the huge problem of what to do with it. Though some of it could be used in the production of synthetic fuels, polymers, carbon fibre, concrete, what is needed is a cheap way to store the carbon dioxide we need to extract from the air.

Renewables like wind and solar energy are being touted as the saviour of the planet since they do not emit carbon dioxide. Though they are becoming cheaper to deploy they do not provide electricity when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. This constrains how much energy these sources can supply and importantly, how quickly we can move away from the steady, dispatchable, sources like coal and natural gas.

The cost of providing batteries to back up the traditional grids when these sources flag—no wind, no sunshine—will be astronomical. Surely engineers and scientists are working, say, on storage using tanks of molten salt, but we need cheaper and more efficient ways to store vast amounts of energy. (MIT, Technology Review, March/April 2019).

Dr Anthony Bryan as reported in the local press tells us that: “… though renewables could account for some 64 per cent of electricity generation worldwide by 2050 … they will never take the place of fossil fuels completely.”

To date fossil fuel plants are being used to back up renewables. Dr Bryan also sees that the traditional oil exporters like Venezuela and the Gulf Cooperation Council states and regional exporters like T&T and eventually Guyana could be among the countries hardest hit by the gradual transition away from fossil fuels unless they embrace the clean energy transition now. This could disrupt major oil and gas producing countries with consequences for supply security and living standards. This is indeed a plea for us in T&T and Guyana to move our economic development accent on to diversification based on innovation and become globally competitive exporters.

The drawback of renewables—solar, wind, hydro—is that they are not dispatchable and depend on when the fundamental resource is available, and the ability to store the energy for use at a later time.

Get caught up with news from the news leader
Subscribe now and get access to the Trinidad Express E-paper

Many years ago I wrote that the obvious replacement for fossil fuels was nuclear energy. Today in certain circles this option is back on the table, though at the moment the conventional fission plants are expensive. The new and much safer fusion plants need more research and the general population fear the concept of nuclear energy, associating it with the disaster that would occur by the deployment of nuclear weapons. It is thought today that the new fusion plants that mimic the sun’s generation of energy, may be harder to build but they would be more acceptable since the do not present the hazards associated with fission plants.

There are two aspects of this energy transition that will affect us in T&T—what should we do when there are no more petroleum rents to support the economy; how should we move our energy demands away from fossil fuels?

Many envision every house having solar panels on their roofs and becoming, hopefully, self-sufficient in their energy demands, even exporting the excess to others. However, the main fossil fuel power station interconnected to the grid that serves consumers was/is the most efficient model for electrical generation and distribution.

Will renewables change this model given that renewables are not dispatchable and will require energy storage devices, though nuclear energy would require a central grid and can be dispatched based on demand? As potential users of the renewables’ with even nuclear technologies and given our need to earn foreign exchange to survive, coupled with our expensive and depleting natural gas resource, economic diversification should become the major emphasis today.

—Mary King is an economist


Much has happened since April 2018 when, in response to media reports of sexual misconduct allegations against former sport minister Darryl Smith, Government spokespeople claimed no knowledge, limited knowledge or “nothing untoward”.

One of the joys of being a T&T citizen is the fact that we have learned over the years to embrace and respect the rich diversity of our people who have come to T&T from many parts of the world—not as empty vessels, but with their different cultures, traditions, religions, languages and so on. This diversity is a source of strength.

THE blight surrounding the compilation and publication of the Foundational History text on Trinidad and Tobago continues, with the discovery of wrong page insertions and numbering in a chapter written by eminent historian Dr James Millette.

Haiti is in turmoil again. This time the countries of Caricom cannot be criticised for inaction, but questions must be asked about others in the hemispheric community who have been silent about the political and humanitarian situation in the country.

Now that the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket tournament has come to an exciting conclusion with the Barbados Tridents taking the trophy and claiming supremacy, it is time to look closely the performance our local Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR).

I have read and listened to Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte responding to talk of an increase in WASA rates of 35 per cent, and referring to it as “fake news” and United National Congress propaganda designed to hurt the Government.