Kaieteur News- Forty-five years ago, Burnham began to explore the possibility of reducing fuel imports by using a mix of ethanol and gasoline. At the time, the fuel crisis was raging and Brazil had started to use the ethanol-gasoline mixture in motor vehicles.
The cost of conversion eventually turned out to be a deterrent to the use of this mix in Guyana. And today, despite still being a major producer of ethanol, most of Brazil’s cars still run on fossil fuel sources.
At the time, the talk was that ethanol-based fuels would eventually come to displace fossil fuels. But this never materialised. While cars in Brazil still use ethanol, the production of ethanol has been falling in recent years.
Brazil had the advantage of being a major manufacturer of its own cars and therefore could have installed converters which allowed vehicles, formerly made to run on gasoline, to run on an ethanol-gasoline mix.
But even that did not result in the phasing-out of fossil fuels in Brazil. That country today still uses three times as much gasoline than ethanol in its transportation sector.
Brazil knows that fossil fuels are not going to be phased out anytime soon. It is not getting hyped about all the talk about renewable energy displacing fossil fuels in the near future. Brazil has begun to auction rights to its offshore oil blocks. Instead of reducing investments in fossil fuel development, it is actually opening the country for greater investments in its oil industry.
It seems, however, that Guyana’s Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, is of the view that the future of fossil fuels is uncertain and therefore only a small window of opportunity exists for Guyana to exploit its vast hydrocarbon resources. Jagdeo is unconvincing. His assessments sound more like an excuse rather than an explanation.
Does he really believe that fossil fuels are on their way out? A recent CNBC report noted that the world’s Green Future Index showed that both the United States and China, two of the world’s largest guzzlers of fossil fuels, are behind Europe when it comes to the de-carbonisation of their economies. In fact, the projections are that the end of the pandemic will lead to an increase, rather than a decrease, in oil production and fossil fuel use.
Does anyone, apart from Jagdeo, really believe that we are nearing the end of the era of fossil fuels? Does anyone really believe that the workers of the world will simply abandon the hundreds of millions of motor vehicles in order to covert to electric cars?
Does anyone believe that the industrial companies around the world are going to stop using heavy fuels, having invested trillions of dollars in capital equipment? Does anyone believe that the world can find substitutes for the thousands of products including fertilisers which are made from the by-products of petroleum?
In the United States, six million families depend on fossil fuel jobs. Where will the breadwinners of these families find jobs if oil is phased out? Green jobs are not being generated at anywhere near the rate needed to compensate for jobs losses resulting from the phasing-out of fossil fuels.
But Jagdeo needs to look no further than Guyana where oil companies are investing more than US$20B in the industry. Why would these companies be sinking such large investments if the future of fossil fuels is as bleak as Jagdeo wants us to believe?
But no one should be naïve enough to believe that renewable energy will anytime this century displace oil. It may displace coal but not oil. Too much is running on heavy fuels for the oil market to be overridden by sustainable energy sources.
The world’s population is expected to grow by two billion within the next 25 years. Urbanisation is expected to increase at a higher rate than this population growth. So where will the energy come from to cater for the needs of an additional two billion persons and for the expansion of urbanisation? These developments will increase rather than decrease the demand for fossil fuels.
Jagdeo was once part of the global climate change advocacy. He is now championing an unwritten depletion policy which is gambling on exploiting Guyana’s fossil fuel as much and as quickly as possible.
While he is doing that, climate change advocates are calling for countries to keep their oil in the ground. And the Champion of the Earth is now saying that this makes no sense. What a tangled web he has weaved around himself!
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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