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Concern over region’s US$9b fuel import bill
The biggest energy challenge in the Caribbean is over-dependence on imported petroleum and petroleum products. In remarks at the opening ceremony of a Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (Coted) at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Caricom’s Office-in-Charge, Trade and Economic Integration, Desiree Field-Ridley said the region’s annual fuel import bill is about US$9 billion a year “with the tendency to be rising”.
“This continues to have a deleterious effect on the economic and social development of the net energy importing countries of Caricom,” she said. “It is also the reason why the region continues to search for ways to mitigate the impact of the high price of oil, especially with respect to food and other commodities.
Field-Ridley said achieving energy security through the diversification of energy supplies is a major focus of the Revised Draft Regional Energy Policy. In that regard, she noted, it was only rational that countries in the region without proven hydrocarbon resources aggressively pursue harnessing of abundant renewable energy resources such as solar energy, wind power, hydropower, biomassm or marine energy.
She emphasised: “Renewable energy and energy efficiency are no longer peripheral issues. These are now the business of every Caricom member state.” Field-Ridley commended the T&T government for demonstrating leadership in that area despite petroleum and gas resources and lower energy costs.
On the issue of regional energy security, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said T&T’s refineries sustained the Caribbean for decades with 20 per cent of output from the Petrotrin refinery going to the regional market. He said Venezuela’s introduction of PetroCaribe in 2003 added to regional energy security. “To date all Caricom countries continue to purchase from Petrotrin in order to guarantee security of supply. In fact the volumes supplied to the Eastern Caribbean Caricom market accounts for 55 per cent of their demand,” he said.
“Apart from Petrotrin, Phoenix Gas Processors Limited supplies countries in the region with LPG which is removed from natural gas.” Ramnarine said there is an emerging market in the Caribbean for natural gas and two companies, Centrica and Gasfin, are in different stages of preparation for a CNG export project and small scale LNG export project. The minister said Block 21 on Trinidad’s north coast and the adjoining Grenadian acreage could be explored jointly by T&T and Grenada.
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