Dasheen bush. Ochro. Pumpkin. Coconut milk. And Magi Flavour D’Pot, if you please. These are all essential ingredients to a good Sunday Callaloo. But if it wasn’t for the blue flame raving beneath granny’s charred coal pot, these flavours would not create this Creole masterpiece. So too with Trinidad’s economy where oil and natural gas are its currency. Guest blogger Devendra Rajcoomar analyses the energy policies of the two main political parties in a two-part entry. Rajcoomar is a Trini-to-d- bone Consultant Fluid Drilling Engineer for the international firm Mi Swaco.
The PNM’s 2010 election manifesto points out the importance of energy to the Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, with it accounting for 50% of our GDP, and the need to sustainably manage this resource.
They also outlined 4 main areas that they would place their energy focus:
- Fiscal terms or Production Sharing Contracts will essentially give tax breaks to companies who decide to revitalize old oil fields so they can have money to explore and drill. Good idea. However, this particular policy seemingly targets companies who are producing oil and not gas. But over 10 years now there has been a need to review the gas taxation policy as this is our country’s bread winner now. NOT OIL
- Prioritising of Gas, basically they are only saying how they intend to divide the gas being produced in Trinidad between the existing petrochemical industries and future ones; including the aluminum smelters. There was no insight on how they intend to increase sales of gas on the international market. Especially considering how our major market, the Eastern US seaboard, does not get 75% of its gas import from Trinidad anymore. Basically we need to establish new international markets for our gas. This is our mainstay at the moment. NOT OIL. Trinidadians need to realise that although the price oil is so high, the actual oil Trinidad produces doesn’t sell for the odd US$60 a barrel market value. It sells for almost half that.
- Petrotrin, they are asking the state owned oil company to utilise the 3D survey data they have deployed to discover new oil potential which in return should result in increased oil production. However, all the pundits, even company Ryder Scott who compiled an independent energy report a few years ago, have all suggested that worldwide oil production is on the decline if it hasn’t already. This is true globally and more so in Trinidad. In his book Peak Oil Paradigm Shift, Bilaal Abdullah, argues that the world’s oil production has plateaued, and it will never reach production levels that it has in the in the past. And so it’s misleading to expect Petrotrin to single handedly boost its oil production significantly through new discoveries. Again, OIL IS OUT, and GAS IS IN. And foreign oil companies will not consider any new ideas into new oil in Trinidad either, at least not on the scale the PNM is asking.
- Renewable Energy, probably the biggest concern globally, has been spoken of last. And other than a few promises of developing policies and partnerships with the US, they have not clearly stated what they intend to do. Why aren’t we envisioning windmills and solar panels? Basically, I believe they have only inserted this item in here to calm the environmentalist. I for one do not expect any serious drive to a solution for this anytime soon. Pursuing a renewable energy policy doesn’t mean we abandon oil and gas production. These green energy sources go hand in hand with oil and gas discovery. Even Barack Obama has said the US will accelerate its oil and gas discoveries and alongside its renewable energy breakthroughs. Soon they might be drilling off the entire US Eastern Seaboard. I might be flying to NY, getting into a chopper and going to the rig. Why then should we expect anything different from Trinidad? And if the PNM pursued both policies, I could also be flying from Movie Towne past a windmill farm Down De Islands to an offshore rig in the Gulf of Paria.
Read Devendra’s views on the energy manifesto of the coalition of the People’s Partnership here.