For eight long years I have preached the same gospel: We are destined to reach a critical mass in our energy supply situation unless very radical measures are taken to prevent it, or at least insure a soft emergency landing.
Had we acknowledged the problem eight years ago, we might have been in a better situation. Back then I had visions of the Virgin Islands being a roll model for much of US and the rest of Caribbean: Free power for all! What an incentive for the right kind of businesses. They would be begging to come here!
As it stands now we are inches away from disaster, and the few people that are aware of it are remarkably quiet. Many of them seem to close their eyes and hope it will somehow go away. Who wants to be the bearer of bad news?
Here is our situation in a nutshell:
Oil at almost $100 a barrel and it does not stop there.
The demand for oil exceeding supply by 3% annually starting last year.
The US dollar slipping into wallpaper status and inflation about to take off like a rocket.
Add to that a White House that has (#@%*&^) for brains, and we have the perfect storm.
(A deep recession would slow demand for energy and would almost be a blessing at this point.)
And what does all that mean for the average Virgin Islander?
Here is one scenario:
By next year your Wapa bill could double.
Cost of transportation could increase 30%, affecting everything we import.
Add inflation and $4 a gallon for gas ($5 on STT) and anybody earning less than $40,000 a year would be forced to change their life style in a very dramatic way.
So where do we stand today?
For eight long years our Energy Office has lived an obscure life hidden away in the back yard of DPNR. While I have been screaming and shouting, Bevan Smith and his department have quietly compiled studies and recommendations and have used what little muscle they had to sway Wapa and Gov. Turnbull to at least take a look at their findings. And look where we are today.
So finally we have a Governor whose outlook goes beyond his own wallet. He is not afraid of presenting a less rosy picture, and I for one strongly urge him to stand up and make an Energy wake up call to all Virgin Islanders.
Changing a light bulb just won't do it!
And boy! do we need a wake up call! Friday's hearing in the Senate certainly underscores that. For Usie Richards to oppose the Governor's request for an administrative change that would move the Energy Office out of the shadows is more than petty–it is dumb! Welcome to the last place on Earth where 'Energy' does not have its own well-funded budget and a seat right next to the top elected leader.
Last week I thought I had a good Idea: Let all the kids in the Territory write a science fiction essay. Subject: Life without electric power in the Virgin Islands. The idea, of course, was to raise awareness of our dependency of electricity. Within hours I had the blessing of the Governor, the Energy Office and Wapa and the editor of this publication gracefully volunteered to publish the winners. Next step was to contact the Department of Education. Gary Malloy got my message a couple of times but never called back. In all fairness, without a commissioner, he surely must have his hands full.
Finally: Is this another 'Cry Wolf'? Can it really get this bad?
Answer: Yes, it can get this bad. It can also get a lot worse.
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