“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8
In our quest to identify potential industries for growth in the Caribbean, we have embarked on a review of opportunities in this column, some of which have been exploited, others partially explored and yet others whose potential is yet to be fulfilled. We have discussed the relevance of balance and synergy and have so far specifically revisited tourism and its linkages as well as the plethora of cultural industry opportunities. Today it is the turn of the energy sector which itself is quite expansive and includes (1) mining for oil, gas and minerals, (2) solar for photovoltaics, distillation, desalination, water heating, drying, refrigeration and lighting, (3) wind for electricity, transportation, sports, milling and water pumping, (4) the blue economy which focuses on the potential in the sea and oceans, and (5) spaceports for gathering information which helps to monitor weather and climate.
The five-point generic sustainable strategy, including governance, investment, market, operational and labour force issues, also applies to the investigations into the energy sector’s contribution to economic growth.
Some Caribbean countries are blessed with reserves of oil, gas, bauxite, gold which, with appropriate vision, can lead to downstream heavy industries e.g., steel, ammonia, methanol, melamine, urea, reverse osmosis water desalination and jewelry. Dredging and quarrying are also services which may contribute to economic growth.
The late Professor Oliver Headley, CHB, delivered the 22nd Sir Winston Scott Memorial Lecture on the topic “The Sun Will Still Shine When the Oil Runs Out” in November 1997. We have not diligently exploited our solar energy options for growing the economy. Distillation of water collected using stainless steel drains produces double distilled water which is a necessary ingredient in many scientific processes and for vehicle batteries. Solar desalination can be exploited to convert the vast quantities of sea water associated with islands and coastal communities into potable water. Solar vehicles are gradually emerging on the market. Photovoltaic plants are also emerging not only as a source of electricity for the national grid but also supply electricity to remote locations. Water heating and wood curing and crop drying are underexploited.
Wind turbines generate electricity which can be utilized directly or stored in batteries. Sailing boats have used the wind as a source of power from time immemorial. The wind is utilized in sports and entertainment. Windmills were the source of power for grinding sugar cane for centuries. Windmills are also used for the pumping of water.
The book “The Blue Economy: 10 years – 100 innovations – 100 million jobs” is a publication by Gunter Pauli. The book expresses the ultimate aim that a “Blue Economy business model” will shift society from scarcity to abundance “with what is locally available”, by tackling issues that cause environmental and related problems in new ways. Let us exploit this to the fullest.
We need to follow the visionaries who have recognized that the Caribbean’s weather and climate are ideal to launch space ports. The longest journey begins with the first step.
What a wealth of opportunity. Let’s put our shoulders to the plough. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – Helen Keller.