At the end of this month, the Energy Chamber will convene its annual conference.
The event will be held under the theme – Leveraging the industry’s strengths for the energy transition. Among speakers scheduled to attend is the Prime Minister, who has often spoken at this event to outline energy policy.
But when Dr Rowley addresses the conference this year, it cannot be the same ole same ole position Government has advanced in the past.
Repeatedly, the Prime Minister has said the country will not abandon oil and gas, but must instead exploit existing infrastructure and opportunities as the world transitions. On the international stage, he has called on developed countries to provide support to other countries that need to adjust to a new energy regime.
But the disruptions to trade wrought by the covid19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, weaknesses in local systems, a sluggish non-energy sector and the increasingly desperate situation posed by the climate crisis necessitate a radical overhaul of how we meet our energy needs and the role played by energy revenue.
Now is not the time for a tepid rehash of old compromises that put us in a halfway house. Come the end of May Dr Rowley must outline a clearer path forward.
The omens are not good.
On Monday, when Finance Minister Colm Imbert presented his mid-year review, he did little to suggest any real desire to see this country’s dependence on petrochemicals reduced.
In fact, it was the opposite, with the minister trumpeting petrochemical windfalls and saying the sector had supplied a lifejacket to the economy, even though it is commodity price fluctuations that have brought about the current outlook.
During the same sitting, the Prime Minister alluded to ongoing talks with a preferred bidder for the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, while Energy Minister Stuart Young defended his appearance on a US television show in which he promoted this country’s willingness to assist the world in weaning itself off Russian gas.
All missed an opportunity to set out a bolder plan.
What makes this particularly noteworthy is the fact that this country has voiced commitment to green energy in the past while nonetheless signalling a desire to partner with traditional energy companies that have contributed much to local revenues, yes, but also to global carbon emissions.
Some fiscal measures will change consumer habits (for example, people will think twice about fuel consumption, given cuts to the subsidy) and some major solar-energy projects have been supported.
But our plans do not appear to be meaningful enough.
At the same time, there is growing alarm over inaction by key nation states to meet targets for emission cuts. Worse, there are concerns that some of the same companies that today have pledged to turn away from petrochemicals are, in secret, planning a series of “carbon bomb” projects all over the world that could take the planet over the edge.
Dr Rowley must come better and show exactly how serious we are about further diversifying our economy and embracing green energy beyond the short term.