184. THE ISLANDS
In #178, I listed the nations of the world which have no coal. It's quite a long list, but even a cursory look shows that island nations and territories account for a large portion of these problem cases. With very few exceptions, islands have no oil, no gas and no coal, and are completely dependent on oil for all their energy needs, as you can see in the following Table of primary energy sources for Carribean nations in 1999 (click to enlarge, Source):
Even Puerto Rico, a quasi-state of the U.S., is severely oil-dependent:
In 2002, Puerto Rico generated an estimated 22.1 billion kilowatt hours (Bkwh) of electricity, predominantly from five oil-fired generators, with a fraction coming from small hydroelectric dams. As of 2002, installed generation capacity was 4.9 gigawatts. The five oil-fired plants are: the Costa Sur plant (1,090 MW); the Aguirre plant (900 MW); the Palo Seco plant (602 MW); the San Juan plant (400 MW); and the Arecibo plant (248 MW).SourceEfforts to wean Puerto Rico from oil (by shifting to coal/LNG) are progressing slowly, as you can see from the following graph (source: same as above, click to enlarge):
In the Pacific, Hawaii is in a similar situation. In 1999, 76.4% of Hawaii's electric power was generated by burning oil (Source):
Clearly, we have a problem here: how do we shift the islands away from oil, and shield them from the punishing effects of high oil prices (or shortages)? At first glance, it looks like dark clouds are looming, but these clouds have a silver lining: sugar.
Many islands like Haiti, Cuba and Hawaii have a long history of sugar cane cultivation. As they say in Cuba "Sin azucar, no hay pais" (no sugar, no country). This dovetails nicely with the rise of Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, which is cheaper per btu than gasoline. In fact, a great deal of the poverty in island nations like Cuba and Haiti is directly attributable to low sugar prices. Sugar cane ethanol can change that. Rising sugar prices driven by the increasing use of sugar for fuel open up a potential win-win solution for everybody. As Newsweek writes (Aug. 8, 2005):
A global biofuel economy, with a division of labor favoring the most efficient producers, is key to developing biofuels as a viable alternative to oil. For many developing countries, year-round growing seasons and cheap farm labor are a valuable competitive advantage over cold, high-cost northern countries. Super-efficient Brazil now sells ethanol at the equivalent of $25 a barrel, less than half the cost of crude.Ideally, the solution will involve developed countries transferring simple, modular, nuclear technology (like the pebble bed reactor) to the islands so they can keep their power grids running, while the islands focus on producing sugar ethanol for export. Even if the islands are only supplied with NG or clean coal, their sugar production infrastructure is a smooth way to turn other energy forms into liquids, while making the islands more prosperous.
-- by JD