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Volume 14, Number 2
Jan. 20 - Feb. 2, 2008


opinion

Also in this section:
Bernal, Hopes and realities
Leis, Curundu
Grant, Colon
McCain, The truth as best I see it
Clinton, Our can-do spirit
Romney, Rebuild America's automotive leadership

Obama, They said this day would never come

Russell, Killing him softly

Weisbrot, The Suitcase Scandal is another Bush blunder

Interiano, Mexico's booming methamphetamine business
Greenpeace, Report burns a hole in the EU's biofuels strategy
Pilgrim, Biogas and CARICOM
Denis, Association of Caribbean States ministers to meet in Panama
Jackson, Will Washington ever get in touch with reality?
Sirias, Nicaragua deserves better

Biogas should rise as a CARICOM energy priority
by Clarence E. Pilgrim

The 12th Special Meeting of CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Heads of Government discussed measures to address the mounting food prices which were driven up by factors which included rising oil prices, bad climatic conditions along with natural disasters, and a re-designation of land use from agricultural purposes to the production of biofuels.

It is to be noted that the Caribbean region according to a World Bank report is at a development crossroads and must take significant and concrete steps to improve productivity and competitiveness and confront global competition in order to accelerate or maintain past growth.

Being a competitor in the world economy requires among other factors, affordable, reliable and abundant sources of energy.

It is in this area that the heads of government "recognize the rising cost of energy impacts on all aspects of the cost of living and production, and note that its cost is significantly influenced both by the world price and by national fiscal measures. Work which is already being undertaken in the Region in the area of renewable energy will be intensified."

With an increasing demand in new product areas such as ecotourism, sports tourism and upscale resorts, these provide opportunities and energy challenges for the region to make advancements in the tourism sector.

One particular source of energy which could become potentially relevant in the quest to find renewable energy sources is biogas. With the large number of agricultural animals across the Caribbean, along with human bodily waste materials; this may be another way of making them work for society.

Biogas is the production of energy from manure, by the use of Biodigestors and/or Bioreactors. Biodigestors use anaerobic digestion by bacteria to produce methane gas for power. Other useful by-products include material for animal bedding and liquid waste for fertilizer.

Burning methane can produce kilowatts of electricity to run an entire household. The leading country in the world in biogas is Germany, producing 1,100 MW of electricity from biogas in 2006, enough to power 1 million homes, it is reported.

Caribbean leaders and in particular government ministers must meet and constructively formulate plans to join in the global effort to meet the UN target of halving the number of people in the world who lack clean drinking water and modern sanitation by 2015.

Environmental engineers must now focus on installing ecologically friendly sewer systems that do not empty into rivers, gutters or the sea that could create a public health disaster, rather than solving one. Instead, the waste must be used in a way which can be recycled so that villages and agricultural communities can fertilize their fields. Toilets with a new eco-sanitary purpose must be built to store and compost the sewage. Ideally, systems serving communities should be able to separate solid and semi-solid fecal matter from the liquid and recycle them separately, thus enabling them to irrigate and fertilize cash crops. Significantly, this could be a good source to ferment sewage thus producing biogas for specific consumption.

The Venezuelan PetroCaribe initiative is being hailed as more than a trade mechanism for fossil fuel based oil supply among most Caribbean Community countries, at a time when the price of oil is creating negative economic waves. Its supporters see it as a strategic framework for energy security and cooperation to ensure efficiency and savings in the generation, distribution and consumption of energy.

But even with such a deal in place, as a matter of energy security biogas along with other forms of alternative energy should be placed on the energy timetable in parallel to any existing agreements.

Biogas could become a major boon for the Caribbean countries mainly because the outlay of capital is not insurmountable. The ultimate factor deciding the success or failure of biomass is the will by governments to make a direct investment in it.

Never before has the sound of a flushing toilet taken on such monetary and environmental significance!


The author is an educator and senior civil servant in Antigua & Barbuda




Also in this section:
Bernal, Hopes and realities
Leis, Curundu
Grant, Colon
McCain, The truth as best I see it
Clinton, Our can-do spirit
Romney, Rebuild America's automotive leadership

Obama, They said this day would never come

Russell, Killing him softly

Weisbrot, The Suitcase Scandal is another Bush blunder

Interiano, Mexico's booming methamphetamine business
Greenpeace, Report burns a hole in the EU's biofuels strategy
Pilgrim, Biogas and CARICOM
Denis, Association of Caribbean States ministers to meet in Panama
Jackson, Will Washington ever get in touch with reality?
Sirias, Nicaragua deserves better


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