Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cooking with too much gas?

The rush to monetise natural gas in Trinidad and Tobago is feeling rather like the pictures and stories of the Gold Rush in California USA in the past. We're charging ahead, liquifying it at rates previously unheard of, building plants to burn it (smelters etc) doing everything we can possibly do to make money off it while the war in Iraq stumbles on and prices remain high.

But - we can't absorb it all. We are a nation of 1.3 million people. Physically, we have a land mass of under 3000 sq miles. We can't realistically take all this in without inflation, environmental stress, importation of human resources.

If we slowed down the extraction rates, (paused at Train 3 for a breath rather than going straight for 4 and 5, cancelled the smelters) we'd be in a much better position to grow the economy slowly and sustainably. But we want to "strike while the iron is hot". Which to me makes no sense in the O&G economy, as it's a non-renewable resource, and the prices aren't going anywhere. Gas is a "clean" fuel, and if we wait some, the gas prices will go up more and more as dirty fuels are phased out by international agreement. But that means that the party in power won't have unlimited sums to purchase votes to keep itself in power indefinitely. Which is a terrible way to determine economic policy.

We're pushing so fast that we can't even keep up with the human resources, so the benefits are going to imported expats. If we slowed down a bit, then we would be able to work within our resource limits (human as well as infrastructural). We'd be able to train people in
time to work in the projects that are being created. We'd be able to have a highway or mass transportation system that services an area when massive development of that area is finished and not 30 years later.

Have we looked at the buildings that are going up and transforming the POS skyline? How much will they cost to maintain and run? How many are being powered by alternative energy or are built in an energy efficient manner? What will we do with them in 50 or 100 years? We won't have cash to tear them down and build over... we may not even in the near future have enough cash to run the airconditioning!

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