C’bbean reserves the right to fuel economic growth with oil & gas resources – Rowley tells Energy Conf.
By Vishani Ragobeer
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Dr. Keith Rowley on Tuesday strongly rejected the notion that small, developing Caribbean countries should not be able to develop their oil and gas resources to fuel their economic growth.
Instead, Dr. Rowley told those gathered at the opening ceremony of the 2023 International Energy Conference and Expo- Guyana that Caribbean countries “reserve the right” to use those resources that can aid their development.
Explaining his position, he said oil and gas resources remain the main energy source for the world’s economic engine. And, importantly, they are cost-effective.
He, however, acknowledged that the use of oil and gas resources is linked to the worsening climate crisis, leading to exacerbated disasters like rising sea levels and flooding. But the responsibility for mitigating that crisis, he said, should not sit squarely on the lap of developing states.
“The concept of climate change should not prevent developing countries from using fossil fuels as sources of economic growth,” Dr. Rowley said pointedly.
Moreover, he reminded the gathering that when fuel supplies were constrained during the COVID-19 pandemic and because of the Ukraine/ Russia crisis, large, developed nations took actions contrary to much-needed mitigation. According to him, they fired up their coal plants – the more notorious fossil fuel that contributes to the climate crisis – to fuel their energy needs.
And so, he made the case that Caribbean countries should be allowed to exploit their resources, some of which are newfound resources as is the case with Guyana and Suriname.
Importantly, too, he said energy consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean remains significantly low compared to the rest of the world, specifically the developed world.
As such, the region will transition towards cleaner energy resources while still harnessing its fossil fuel resources for poverty reduction and development needs.
“The Caribbean’s response has been to designate natural gas as the clean energy… and we reserve the right to invest in oil and gas resources to fuel the transition as far as we are able to,” the Trinidadian Prime Minister noted.
The Prime Minister’s pro-Caribbean oil and gas stance generated much support from the gathering of local and regional politicians, energy stakeholders and investors at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown.
But he was keen on noting that his stance is in no defiance of the global impetus and incremental progress towards using less harmful fossil fuels and more environmentally friendly renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power.
For him, it was just an acceptance of the reality that confronts the region. That is, the complete substitution of hydrocarbon resources is a “long way off” and there has not been enough financial support for small, developing countries to phase out their dependence on oil and gas resources.
So now, he hopes that countries within the Caribbean can work in partnership to leverage each other’s resources, expertise, and knowledge where applicable.
“Linking the energy and industrial transformation will ensure that the region makes the most out of its abundant oil and gas resources,” he said.