The US is offering to pick up where Venezuela’s PetroCaribe has left off, by offering financial aid for Caribbean nations that want clean energy. Solar and wind resources in the Caribbean are huge, and unlike cheap oil, they are likely to last for the next few million years.
Here’s a note just posted by the White House (hat tip to Boz, who tweeted it and is probably writing a more insightful note on the topic at this moment):
Today, President Obama met with Caribbean leaders in a U.S.-CARICOM Summit in Kingston, Jamaica… Discussion focused on the importance of improving energy security, reducing energy costs, and fighting climate change… Initiatives:
Clean Energy Finance Facility for the Caribbean and Central American (CEFF-CCA): The United States will launch a $20 million facility to encourage investment in clean energy projects…
Clean Energy Finance: In January, OPIC formed a dedicated financing and insurance team to advance development of the Caribbean renewable energy sector. OPIC is in advanced talks to finance a 20 MW solar farm in Jamaica, and has already committed financing to Jamaica’s largest private-sector wind farm, a 36 MW facility in Malvern, St. Elizabeth Parish. OPIC is actively looking for opportunities to support solar and wind energy projects in Jamaica and throughout the broader Caribbean region…
Clean Energy Economy Transition: The Department of Energy assembled U.S. and Caribbean stakeholder working groups to look at opportunities ranging from clean energy, efficiency, diversifying electricity generation, clean transportation and energy education, at the Caribbean Clean Energy Technology Symposium, held in St. Thomas in March…
Greening Tourism: … Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency and Renewables (CHEER) initiative, which supports projects to improve energy and water efficiency as well as the exchange of best practices in the hotel and tourism industry. USAID is launching a complementary project focused on the Eastern Caribbean that will develop new financing tools for energy efficiency and renewables.
I am skeptical of PetroCaribe because I don’t like anything that encourages poor people or countries to increase their fossil fuel dependence. Oil is likely to get more expensive over time and even if it doesn’t, burning oil and gas contributes to climate change and increase dependence on global trade, both of which are especially risky for small island countries.
I know the US is doing this out of self-interest, both trying to get brownie points with small countries that have votes at the UN, OAS, etc. and also trying to expand markets for big solar and wind companies. I’m sure there will be criticism of the program because it’s not altruistic, while PetroCaribe arguably is/was. But if that’s the best criticism of this project, bring it on. A world full of that sort of problems would be a world I’d be happy to live in.
In a way, this is the best possible result of PetroCaribe. I can’t prove this, but I suspect that if it weren’t for competition for regional loyalty from energy-rich Venezuela, I doubt the US would be doing this right now. But the competition is there, and this relatively interesting program is born.
This is part of why it is so sad that the Venezuelan revolution was so laden with hypocrisy and corruption. The basic idea of a “mundo pluripolar” is sound.