It is good to hear someone speak the truth about Barbados sugar cane ethanol – without political spin.
Barbados Light and Power Co. Managing Director Andrew Gittens may find himself being dragged onto the carpet for daring to say what everyone knows to be true, but we need more like him.
For months now, we have heard from the Government of Barbados that sugar cane ethanol is basically a "done deal" that will rescue and restructure the sugar industry and bring the country to the cutting edge of sustainable energy generation technology. By any standard, the government's message has been that cane-ethanol is technically and economically viable in Barbados – that it is the future, and a solid part of a National Energy Strategy. A done deal.
Cane Ethanol May Not Be Feasible For Barbados
But the government's statements have been short on technical details and long on environmental catch-phrases and hype. Proponents of cane-ethanol for Barbados love to point to Brazil's success without mentioning that Brazil has achieved economies of scale that are impossible for Barbados due to our topography and small population base. Also forgotten are the serious environmental concerns surrounding the disposal of the huge quantity of deadly toxic slurry that is a by-product of the process. Brazil's story is not all happy happy, you know.
Not to mention that even the best case scenarios for cane-ethanol show only a small net energy gain from the whole process. In other words, once we add up all the energy that goes into making and transporting the ethanol, the net gain is only 5 to 15 percent – depending upon efficiencies and who you want to believe. Cane-ethanol is not voodoo-science, but neither is it a sure thing or a panacea for Barbados' energy needs. In fact, sugar cane ethanol may not work in Barbados for any number of reasons.
Barbados Sugar Cane Ethanol Not A "Done Deal"
And into all this steps an honest man named Andrew Gittens, who tells the Barbados Advocate the simple truth… the feasibility of cane-ethanol Barbados is still being studied. It is not a done-deal. From the Barbados Advocate…
The wind farm is part of the BL&P plans to diversify its energy sources and is coupled with the company's plans to utilise fuel cane. Gittens, however, said he believed the fuel cane project with Government was still at the feasibility stage.
The wind farm that Mr. Gittens mentions is the major subject of the Barbados Advocate article – but his candor about cane-ethanol is the real news.
photo by Shona: Cut Sugar Cane Being Hauled In Barbados
It takes large amounts of energy to plant, grow, harvest, transport and process sugar cane into ethanol. Making ethanol from sugar cane is not an efficient process, and may not be viable in smaller countries.