Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 16th 2017 Contents A20 commentary
guardian.co.tt Monday, January 16, 2017
CHANGING WORLD OF ENERGY
I've been travelling in Europe
and Morocco for the last month.
The energy conversation here is
different from T&T. On this side
of the Atlantic leaders talk about
when economies will be car-
bon-free. Some technology gurus
predict that within a decade solar
and wind power will be so cheap
that demand for oil and gas will
drop, locking the price of oil at
US$10 per barrel.
It's so different from the infor-
mation bubble in T&T which is
dominated by oil industry think-
ers in Houston and Oklahoma.
People here do not doubt that
they will one day drive electric
cars and live in energy-neutral
It is part of their expectation.
Times are uncertain and maybe
Putin and Trump will have their
way and derail the renewable en-
ergy transition, if even just tem-
My mother is Dutch. She lives
near the Hague, so that is where
I head first. There are some
odd-looking metal posts in the
street which were not there be-
They turn out to electric vehicle
charging stations. At night you see
electric vehicles parked by them
with charger cables lying on the
My first thought, simple as I
am, is "How many people have
tripped on these cables?" Less
than three per cent of vehicles in
the Netherlands are electric, but
the country does plan to ban the
sale of fossil fuel-powered vehi-
cles by 2025.
At my mum's house the hallway
light is blown so I go to the super-
market to buy a new one.
I don't recognise the assort-
ment of light bulbs. There are no
incandescent bulbs on offer, only
These are five-six times more
energy efficient than incandes-
cent bulbs, which are no longer
allowed to be sold in the EU. The
one I buy is expensive, nearly 10
euros or TT$70, but they claim
to earn back money in one or
two years. It's all part of making
homes carbon neutral across the
Now I've always been told to
stop dreaming about renewable
energy for heavy industrial use.
That would be out of reach
for decades, or so they said. The
Dutch National Railway, one of
the country's biggest electrici-
ty users, proved that wrong on
January 1 by becoming the first
national railway system to run on
That's 600,000 people trans-
ported by green energy each day.
These trains do not have sails,
nor does the Netherlands even
produce that much wind pow-
er yet. Instead, the electricity
provider buys wind energy cer-
tificates from Finland, where an
excess is produced.
To solve the wind power ca-
pacity problem, the Netherlands
is co-building an undersea elec-
tricity cable that will connect the
Netherlands, Belgium and Den-
The COBRAcable (Copenha-
allow Denmark to export wind en-
ergy to the Dutch and Belgians.
It will also connect future North
Sea wind farms. It's supposed
to conduct enough electricity to
power a city the size of Amster-
Understand that this is where
Royal Dutch Shell is from.
The Netherlands Government
does not try to stop the evolution
of its economy to protect one
company, even though it a very
large one that is part of Dutch na-
tional pride and identity.
They understand that carbon
emissions need to be reduced and
that the real promise is cheap,
nearly free energy.
I have to admit that the winter
cold got to me, so I decided to
make a trip I'd wanted to do for a
long time and I bought my mother
and myself a 30 euro airline ticket
to Marrakech, Morocco.
We take a wind-powered train
to a city called Eindhoven and
from there an electric bus to the
We feel good about traveling
guilt-free. Three and a half hours
later we are in North Africa.
We shrug off the thought of
having blown our carbon budget
on air travel and dream about one
day being able to fly carbon free.
Walk through Marrakech's
medina and it seems like little has
changed since the Umayyad Cali-
phate that ruled an area spanning
Persia, North Africa and Spain.
The touts will test your ability
to remain polite to handle person-
al space invasion.
There is obvious poverty, with
per capita GDP at under US$4000
Morocco, however, is part of the
energy revolution. It removed all
subsidies on petroleum products
and it has launched one of the
world's largest solar energy pro-
jects, which will cost an estimated
US$9 billion. By 2030 Morocco
intends to get 52 per cent of its
electricity from clean energy.
From where I sit, on a rooftop
terrace in a town called Essaouira
on Morocco's Atlantic coast, I can
see a string of wind energy tur-
bines on the horizon.
Renewable energy follows me
everywhere I go on this trip. It
is changing the way we must do
business in T&T.
Some Trinidadians get upset
when I talk to them about climate
change and the demise of the
global oil and gas industry.
Don't shoot the messenger.
Instead learn about what is hap-
pening in the world and under-
stand that within a decade or two
untapped oil and gas reserves will
We are not locked in to an
oil and gas economy unless we
choose to be.
Note as well that in Morocco
water is scarce but I have yet to see
a plastic water tank in the cities,
you can drink straight from the
tap, plastic bags are banned and
you can walk through dark, medi-
eval alleyways in apparent safety,
despite widespread poverty.
CEMENTING A LEGACY TO BUILD ON
Ten years ago when Barack
Hussein Obama signalled
his intent to contest the
Democratic Party presidential
nomination, with his eyes set on
becoming what is considered the
world's most powerful politician,
his ambition was viewed with
scepticism by many.
Obama represented many
things the American society and
world felt were improbable.
He was African-American,
coming up against the formida-
ble Clinton political machinery,
where Hillary Clinton too was
contesting the nomination.
He was young and wet behind
the ears, a politician with no sig-
nificant experience or national
fame, other than a speech at the
2014 Democratic Convention.
He had all the makings of an
upstart and probably the only
conviction presented to the world
was his catchy and resonating
slogans:---Yes we can, Hope,
Change and Believe.
But this was the man who went
on to confound his challengers.
He drew the admiration of
people from across the spectrum,
home and abroad, held us spell
bound as he toppled stereotypes
and myths, and some who ques-
tioned their abilities causing them
to believe that they too can be
what they want to be.
His first victory came in win-
ning the nomination. This did
not come without challenges as
seen in his confrontation with the
party in arguing the point that
the will of the ordinary voters
(which he secured) takes primacy
over the super-delegates, where
a significant amount was already
pledged to his main challenger,
When the primary was over he
set about mending internal fences
and his eyes on winning the pres-
Having won the elections by
the sheer sense of a campaign
beautifully executed and a people
inspired to look past his skin and
to the content of his character, the
issue of race dogged him from his
campaign and through his presi-
His successor, Donald Trump,
entered the political limelight
by seeking to delegitimise him,
hinting that he may not have
been born in the USA, which that
society felt carried strong racial
Then there was the Tea Party
movement and some Republicans
in Congress who did not accept
his legitimacy to govern.
Obama was judged for what
was considered offensive racial
comments of his pastor, Jeremiah
Wright, whom he not only dis-
tanced himself from, but turned
the incident into an opportunity
to address racial tensions in the
As a black man this aspect of
Obama's presidency would forev-
For what he exemplified is the
strength of character to stand up
and be identified for who he was
and not run from the issue of race
and racism but confronted these
not only in acknowledging them,
but also lending his thoughts
and political muscles to the pub-
lic discourse in addressing and
bringing about equality.
When you look in our society
there is notable dissimilar ap-
proach by the political leadership
though there remain many sim-
ilarities with the two societies in
Some seek escape by position-
ing any public conversation or
identification to race as offensive
or to be identified as black as de-
Where leaders are not prepared
to give leadership to these issues,
race will always be exploited for
self-serving purposes, racism will
prevail, and denial of equal share
to the nation's pie justified.
Globally Obama lead fearlessly.
He revisited estranged USA re-
lations and the wisdom of main-
taining such in light of changed
times as seen in Cuba and at-
tempted to re-set relations with
On the wars that he sought to
wind down those in Iraq and Af-
ghanistan, he lent the impression
that the USA can establish rela-
tions with others and resolve con-
flicts without having to go to war.
In governance Obama has set a
bar, which I hope will be contin-
ued for the good of humankind,
where he insisted on governance
built on rights and the rule of law,
a campaign the Guyana Trades
Union Congress has been waging
It is his conviction, of which the
wisdom cannot be denied, that
when these universal principles
are upheld they augur well for im-
proved human relations, equality,
growth and development, and
reduction of poverty and corrup-
Obama played a shrewd and
compelling politics and what
makes it even more outstanding is
his decency and belief in the abili-
ty of man to respect his fellowman
and treat each other with dignity.
Throughout his terms while he
demonstrated that he did not have
to compromise his core beliefs he
could treat foes and friends with
dignity and respect.
His is a legacy the world will
continue to discuss, but it is
hoped such also translates to
others taking up the baton and we
who have been positively impact-
ed by it continue to give legs to it.
Come Friday, 20th January at
12 pm he hands over the reins of
government to Donald Trump.
(Lincoln Lewis, Guyana Chronicle)
Morocco removed all
subsidies on petroleum
products and it has
launched one of the world's
largest solar energy
projects, which will cost
an estimated US$9 billion.
By 2030 Morocco intends
to get 52 per cent of its
electricity from clean
energy. From where I sit,
on a rooftop terrace in a
town called Essaouira on
Morocco's Atlantic coast,
I can see a string of wind
energy turbines on the
horizon. Renewable energy
follows me everywhere I go
on this trip. It is changing
the way we must do
business in T&T.
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