WASHINGTON, D.C., January 30, 2015 (AMG) — The first Caribbean Energy Security Summit was hosted by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. on January 26. The summit focused on ways for Caribbean nations to convert to cleaner natural gas and alternative energy sources, in part to lower their dependence on Venezuelan oil. As oil prices around the world plummet, the Caribbean’s dependence on a single outside source has become risky.

Venezuela began supplying a majority of Caribbean countries with cheap petroleum products in 2005 through their Petrocaribe program. This program offers products at market prices, but allows member nations to pay only a small portion of the price up front, and finance the rest with long-term debt agreements or trades for agricultural products or services.

While the Petrocaribe program has allowed Caribbean nations to fund their governments and public works projects, it has also discouraged them from seeking energy independence. The current oil price puts the Petrocaribe program in danger of falling apart, which would leave the small Caribbean countries with piles of debt and no oil.

Vice President Biden called the Caribbean the “new epicenter of energy,” and urged that energy diversification and independence is within reach. James Fletcher, the Energy Minister of St. Lucia, agreed, saying, “we have to control our own destiny.”

In addition to representatives from most Caribbean countries, the summit involved representatives of the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. The Caribbean leaders highlighted their energy goals and agreed to pursue energy diversification programs, including clean energy efforts. The World Bank proposed creating a Caribbean Energy Investment Network to bring together development partners and Caribbean nations.

The United States is becoming deeply involved with energy projects in the Caribbean. For example, the U.S Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) announced that it will disburse the first tranche of approximately $43 million in financing for a 34 MW wind project in Jamaica. Meanwhile, the Department of State is providing technical assistance for geothermal projects in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Additionally, the US Energy Association is supporting power sector reform in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador. USAID, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and others are all focused on providing financing and technical assistance with various clean energy projects throughout the Caribbean.

A joint statement from the Summit reaffirmed the United States’ “commitment to support the Caribbean’s transformation of the energy systems of Caribbean states, [and] to share lessons learned through new and expanded regional information networks.”

Obama administration pushing energy independence in the Caribbean

Alison Singer

Alison Singer has been writing about environmental issues for years, and has a particular interest in climate change. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she works for the US Government and writes for a variety of organizations.

PUBLISHED — January 30, 2015

Category: CARICOM & Foreign PolicySustainability

1 comment

  • Let’s not be sophomoric about oil & gas development. The bottom line is; energy needs for humans is imperative. Though, certainly the environment is just as important, too. The oil and gas industry try’s hard to implement rules/regulations to protect the environment; that is a fact. Unfortunately accidents happen, for example; BP. But relative to the amount of offshores wells, and drilling going on, the BP accident is statically irrelevant. The same is true on shore.

    I will say I am biased; I am an oil and gas man. I believe that alternative energy sources should be developed, and implemented. With that said, it will take a multiplicity of alternatives to make-up for the simplicity and relative low cost of developing, and producing hydrocarbons. The public should understand hundreds of products are derived from petroleum.

    Please see this link: A partial list of products made from Petroleum (144 of 6000 items):

    It will take some time to retool the infrastructure, not to mention the cost, to implement alternative energy sources, and substitute petroleum products. Again, it will take a multiplicity of alternatives to make-up for the simplicity of the hydrocarbon. The cost of retooling will result in higher cost to the consumer for many products we use every day.

    Yes, Wind, Solar, etc. are relevant. Why does it have to be green energy or hydrocarbons? Why can’t we create jobs with all energy industries? Why should we close the door on additional jobs that could be created by multiple energy developers?

    Let’s maximize all energy resources, why does it have to be either, or. Everybody wins if will let all energy development co-exist, thus we have exponential job growth and money being pumped into the economy. At this point, our country, is not in a position let any oil and gas development opportunities be stifled.

    We need to become energy independent, or would you rather continue relying on OPEC dictating price and cost. Saudi Arabia has hurt our job growth because of their current gamesmanship with supply. Now there are job layoffs. It may be great that pump prices are down, but do you think it will last? Also let’s not forget the obvious; oil and gas is a finite resource! If we gain independence, and leadership, in the world of oil and gas we can control the game, and pump prices will remain reasonable.

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