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‘Greener Bahamas From Oil Revenue’


“Nonsensical” was the way Bahamas Petroleum Company CEO Simon Potter dismissed the idea of using fossil fuel to provide energy for the Family Islands. Rather, he said, the potential oil revenues could fund a “greening” of the Bahamian economy.


Speaking from his own perspective, Mr Potter said there were “plenty of options” for consideration into local power generation on individual islands, but cost was a major barrier.


His remarks were made during a panel discussion at an environmental law and policy conference at the College of the Bahamas yesterday.


“I think that a fossil fuel provision in an archipelago is just nonsense,” Mr Potter said. 


“It’s inefficient moving energy around in an archipelago. It creates risk, it’s very expensive to do. What we should be doing is putting our efforts into local power generation at each of the individual Family Islands, and there’s plenty of options. There’s wind, solar, tidal, all of these options. 


“I personally would like to see a greening of the energy economy here in the Bahamas,” he said. “The problem is it’s hugely expensive, it costs an awful lot of money to do that. It costs an awful lot of commitment to rip up your existing fossil fuel infrastructure. My idea would be, it’s a global oil market, what better way to pay for that greening of your economy than through oil revenues?”


Mr Potter was a panellist at the Oil Exploration, Oil Spills and Environmental Damage Conference, hosted by COB’s LLB programme.


He was joined by Brent Williamson, Joint Chair, National Oil Spills Committee; Alicia Elias-Roberts, Lecturer, Oil and Gas Law at UWI in St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago; and Sam Duncombe, director of reEarth.


The panel, Oil Exploration and Oil Spills, was moderated by Dr. Peter Maynard, Head of Department for COB’s LL.B. Programme, and Matthew Brotmann, Pace University Law School.


During his presentation, Mr Potter referred to projections, based on data gathered by an independent scientific research institute, which indicated that in a worst case scenario, Cuba would bear the brunt of the environmental impact from a spill.


He added: “I won’t lie about the motive, we’re a commercial company. We need to generate a return for our shareholders, but I certainly would like to be able to do it in this forum with collaboration, with me being held accountable for the job that we do.”


Although Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson spoke at the opening of the forum, they did not stay for the panel discussions.


During his keynote address, Mr Dorsett underscored that fossil fuels will be a part of the future despite the government’s concerted thrust to pursue alternative energy. He explained that careful oversight was critical to ensuring a meaningful balance for the mitigation and responsibility of worst outcomes, such as oil spills.


Oil exploration in the Bahamas dates back to the ’70s, according to Mr Dorsett, who said that BPC had applied for and acquired five oil exploration licenses by 2006 – four in South Andros, and one in North Andros.


However, exploration was put on hold due to the proximity of perceived boundaries between the Bahamas and Cuba, and given the company’s American interests. Talks with Cuba over clear legal boundary and delimitation lines were not completed until 2012, he said.


During that time, Mr Dorsett said the Macondo oil spill – also known as the Deepwater Horizon or BP oil spill, and the largest spill on record – changed the world, and subsequently alerted the government of the need for better regulations.


“The government,” said Mr Dorsett, “then realised that its environmental regulations did not adequately address oil spills and they needed to be improved to protect the present environment. Since coming to office, my ministry initiated the process that has produced five draft proposed bills and regulations that we hope will be presented to Cabinet soon for review. They are an amended Petroleum Act, amended Petroleum regulations, a sovereign wealth fund, a petroleum exploration and environmental protection and pollution control regulations, and petroleum exploration health and safety regulations.


“It is important to note,” Mr Dorsett added, “that the Bahamas has the third largest barrier reef in the world near Andros, appreciating this fact my ministry – in conjunction with the Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation – are also in the process of advancing draft legislation to protect these environmental treasures.”


Also in the pipeline, is the statutory establishment of a Department of Environmental Planning and Protection, Mr Dorsett said. 


According to Mr Dorsett, the country experienced a spate of industrial and accidental oil spills in 2013, primarily involving the Bahamas Oil Refining Company (BORCO), Haitian sloops, oil tankers, and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s fuel facility.



Category/ies:Bahamas News, News.
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