We all know that recent economic, political and social changes have not been kind to Barbados. Tourism took a heavy hit with the advent of 9/11, and then again as oil prices soared – causing cruise ships and airlines to reduce service to the island. The Government’s position of failing to support the United States vis a vis an exception to the U.N. war crimes laws – whatever the rightness or wrongness of the position – caused an old friend to turn away economically from Barbados. The old mainstay sugar has been in death throes for decades – artificially supported by domestic and foreign subsidies – charity really – but even the Prime Minister had to recently face the reality that sugar exports are 40 million per annum while the civil service alone requires 700 million.
Life Is Getting Tougher On Barbados
Even our latest little burble of life shown by the Barbaodos GDP has mainly been the result of construction mega-projects like flyovers, roads and cricket facilities – all financed on the never-never – to be paid for by our children and their children and so on, for how many generations only God knows. Project cost overruns of three and four hundred percent are routine as the vultures devour the public purse and park their Mercedes automobiles in taxpayer-subsidized driveways. And the ordinary working Bajan buys a roll of Bounty paper towels at four times the price of the same roll in New York City or Montreal.
Prime Minister Arthur recently publically defended the government’s policy of selling off pieces of our little island to keep the wolves at bay – which is as much an admission of the government’s failure to enact long-term strategic planning as anything I’ve ever heard him say.
Sugar Cane Ethanol Will Save Us!
I guess that the government just can’t help it. They don’t know what to do about the situation any more than I do… and that hardly inspires confidence.
But I have this sense that in a frenzy to find something positive – anything – for the future, the government is grasping at the trendy. A couple of months ago, it was BIOTECH. Yes… Barbados was going to be a world-class BIOTECH center. As we said in our article at the time, “Barbados Biotech” Sounds Trendy… Like Progress, it looked like the Government believed that merely saying the word “Biotech” would cause oodles of foreign investors to beg to give us money.
Now, it is sugar cane ethanol that is the magic panacea and the government is ready to throw tons of money at ethanol production and use – our children’s money – without even a proper cost-benefits analysis. The Barbados media ask no questions, and parrot the words of those who will gain from a government committment to cane ethanol.
Barbados Media As Ethanol Cheerleaders – Asks No Questions
A Brazilian ethanol exporter says “ethanol is about 40-45 per cent cheaper than gas and it is possible for Barbados to reap the similar benefits” and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation doesn’t ask simple questions like, “How did you arrive at that figure?” or “How much public money has to subsidize the production?” or “Is that cost savings on a per-litre basis or a per-mile basis?”. (This month’s issue of Consumer Reports points out that in field tests of ethanol-powered vehicles, a gallon of ethanol only yields about 60% of the mileage of a gallon of gasoline – so there is zero cost-benefit to the end user) .
Yes, folks. The Government of Barbados has committed this country to ethanol – so don’t expect the Barbados media and newspapers to ask any difficult questions.
It just isn’t done!
Here is that ethanol cheerleading piece from the CBC. It is all part of the process to soften up the Barbados public for another round of “government investment”…
From the CBC website (link here)
The Barbados energy sector got a first hand account today of Brazil’s successful transition from gasoline to ethanol-powered vehicles. The occasion was a meeting between local energy officials and visiting executive Manfred Wefers of Coimex, an ethanol exporter from Brazil.
Mr. Wefers says ethanol is about 40-45 per cent cheaper than gas and it is possible for Barbados to reap the similar benefits.
Charles Briggs, manager of the local cane industry restructuring project, says the Barbados plan is to mix ethanol with gas. In fact he said the mixture is will only be about 10 percent ethanol.
Today’s seminar focused on the topic “Ethanol as a viable alternative source for Barbados”.
Mr Briggs noted that ethanol is only one of the by products of Barbados’ move from a sugar to a sugarcane industry. However as government looks for alternative sources of energy don’t expect to see vehicles powered solely by ethanol on the streets anytime soon.