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US Energy Experts Says Jamaica must develop a diversified portfolio with RE

Jerome Ringo-US Energy Expert

Jerome Ringo-US Energy Expert

American environmental and energy expert Jerome Ringo says if Jamaica adds more education to its abundance of wind and sunlight, it can develop a green economy.

Ringo, who will address several energy fora in Jamaica this week, spoke to Gleaner Associate Editor, Byron Buckley in an exclusive interview.

BB: There is the view that only intellectuals and science freaks are concerned about the environment. Should working-class people be concerned about environmental conservation?

JR: Absolutely, we all breathe the air, we all drink the water. Environmental issues do not impact only the rich, the poor or the middle-class. The environment affects everyone, but, unfortunately, it tends to impact some groups more than others. And, therefore, requires the input of everyone from all walks of life.

Scepticism still surrounds the doomsday claims of environmentalists. You appear to be a pragmatist. What is your take on climate change?

It is not a doomsday claim; climate change is real. The ice caps of Kilimanjaro are melting for the first time in 10,000 years. The planet’s temperature has risen 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the 20th century and is expected to rise 2.2 degrees in the 21st century. This is not just a cry of urgency. It is a real urgency due to the fact that environmental issues are impacting the lives of so many people around the world. We are dealing with storms that are more intense. Droughts around the world are creating major problems, and we are facing challenges that we have never faced before.

Critics say the planet is self-sustaining and there is no way human activities can endanger it. Therefore, we should just wait and the planet will correct itself. What is your response to that view?

The critics are few. Two thousand scientists of the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change have made it clear that the climate change situation is real. There are those that are still in denial, but their numbers are very few. Much of the world is suffering from the impact of climate change, so the debate is over. We must now focus on solutions and what we can do in a very short time to curb the impact of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Would you not agree that because the measuring tools and techniques were not very accurate in the past, early environmentalists made inaccurate and grand claims of what was likely to happen?

No, they were not just claims; neither were they inaccurate. The rate of global warming today is actually worse than we had predicted. The Inconvenient Truth, written and documented by Al Gore, which won him an Oscar and the Nobel Peace prize showed the plight of the planet three years ago. The numbers and the statistics (about which he wrote) are now obsolete, because the pace of global warming has accelerated. And so the people who were screaming to the public that global warming is real were absolutely correct. What they were incorrect about is the magnitude of the problem. It is far worse than we had anticipated.

Can small countries like Jamaica make an impact – whether positive or negative – on climate change?

It is going to require a collective effort by every country in the world. As part of the Kyoto Treaty it is critical that every country work to reduce their CO2 to the atmosphere. Because of the rising temperature of the earth we must reduce the CO2, and that reduction must take place whether you are a highly populated country like China or India, or a highly industrialised nation like the United States. But it also must take place in countries that are developing like West African and East African nations, as well as islands in the Caribbean. Each must take steps to reduce the CO2 released into the atmosphere to curb the impacts of global warming.

Do you support the view that hurricanes in recent times are a result of climate change?

That has not been proven. What has been proven is that the intensity of storms is due to the warming of the planet which, in turn, warms the oceans. And as we know storms get their energy from warm waters.

What does it take for a small developing country like Jamaica to become a green economy? What level of resources is required?

The first requirement to achieve a green economy, especially in a country like Jamaica, is education. You have to educate your people from the kindergarten level so they understand the value of having a clean energy economy. At the same time, Jamaica must diversify its energy portfolio. It is very clear that the majority of the energy in Jamaica is imported energy from fossil fuel. What Jamaica must consider is wind and solar energy; there is lots of sun there. This would create jobs in Jamaica because as you develop a diversified energy portfolio you create job opportunities for people who will manufacture, install and maintain alternative energy products.

Jamaica should also promote the weatherisation of homes so that they become more energy efficient and reduce the cost of electricity to each home owner. This also helps to reduce the impact of CO2 to the atmosphere. As you use more wind and solar energy, you use less fossil fuel and emit less CO2 into the atmosphere. So, it is a win-win for all nations especially places like Jamaica.

What level of start-up capital is needed to operate a green business?

When you talk about wind energy, someone must develop and manufacture wind turbines. Someone must install and maintain the turbines. Those are green jobs and businesses that can be developed to meet the energy needs of Jamaica. So green job businesses and investments are not limited to industrialised countries; Jamaica has the potential to produce wind and solar energy.

Is there a transitional phase before a country becomes a green economy?

Conservation has to be a part of a diversified energy portfolio. That’s where education comes in, to educate people about why and how to conserve energy. If people can reduce the amount of energy they use, they will cut the cost of their energy, and at the same time they reduce the amount of energy needed to produce the energy they consume. We can cut energy usage from the production as well as the consumer end, recognising that the majority of the income of people across the world is spent on energy.

What’s your view on primary products, like corn, being used to produce bio-fuel?

I think there are good ways to produce energy and there are bad ways. I think that because we are in the early stage of developing alternative energy, we should consider processes other than corn, especially when there are food shortages and shortages of feed for animals. We must develop a diversified portfolio and consider many other alternatives in the area of biofuels. For example, we can use switch grass and bark from trees.

The United States government, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, is investing more money in the research and development of new energy alternatives than any time in history. The US is willing to share technology with other countries to develop alternative energy sources.

Jerome Ringo fora:

May 13: Panel discussion – Raising Awareness on Renewable Energy Security at the US Embassy.

May 14: Public forum on renewable energy at Northern Caribbean University, Mandeville, commencing at 2 p.m.

Source:  Jamaica Gleaner

Category/ies:Jamaica News.
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