In January I contributed an article entitled “Being boiled by big oil”. Evidently from the number of views and comments I touched a pertinent issue. That article discussed that even as the price of oil continues to rise and as a result we experience more and more pain when we pay our electricity bills or fill up at the gas pumps (those of us who still fill up) we have basically accepted the status quo and have surrendered to high energy costs .
The concept of the article that seemed to resonate with readers is that Jamaican citizens are like frogs that get boiled without actually realizing they are getting boiled. If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will seek the quickest exit route but if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like some of us in a hot bath (you better believe it), and before long, with a smile on its face, will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.
So are we really helpless and are doomed to remain hapless victims of high energy costs, being slowly boiled to death? That depends on us, each and every one of us. I believe that we are a set of people that when the going gets tough the tough gets going. We just have not reached our tipping point that will catalyze us into action. When energy costs finally become unbearable, we will channel our intellect and will to finding meaningful and sustaining solutions. On what basis do I make this hypothesis? The fact that Jamaica has done it before. During the heart of the recession when Jamaica could no longer bear the burden of its debt it successfully conducted the “Jamaica Debt Exchange” or JDX. When Jamaica needed to find a solution it did, long before the rest of the world, especially Europe who it still struggling to find a solution to its own economic and debt crisis. This is irrefutable evidence that Jamaica can be a trail blazer in other areas apart from sports and music.
By tapping into the creativeness that shaped Bob Marley, the tenacity that produced Usain Bolt and the intellect that implemented the JDX, Jamaica can become the shining light in an energy revolution, which is closer than we think, especially if no diplomatic solution can be found to the Iran situation. By leveraging innovative ideas and technologies in energy efficiency and conservation Jamaica can address its stifling dependency on oil and save significant sums of money in the long run, without any loss in living comfort. For any energy transformation endeavor to succeed, every sector, every company, every institution and every person will need to play its part. Here are some realistic steps we can take.
For the private sector, entrepreneurs can establish energy service companies or consultants or “ESCOs”. An ESCO is a service provider that develops, installs and helps to put together financing for projects designed to improve energy efficiency at companies. These companies also conduct energy appraisals. An energy appraisal identifies components that contribute to overall efficiency losses and enable a company to take the necessary corrective actions. The private sector can further help by providing low cost loans to companies to engage the services of ESCOs and finance the implementation of the recommendations that arise from the energy appraisal. In Singapore each $1 spent on energy appraisals uncovers $5 - $10 in annual savings in energy costs with the energy efficiency investments identified having an average pay back period of less than three years.
The government can play a role by administering an ESCO accreditation scheme. The objective is to enhance the professionalism of services offered. This in turn will enhance confidence in ESCOs and help promote the growth of these firms and their proliferation into all sectors of the economy. Hopefully it will become the norm to get an energy appraisal every five years or so. Can you image how energy efficient Jamaica would become if all of its companies became energy efficient. It would go a far way in improving our global competiveness, not to mention significantly reducing our national oil bill which currently accounts for 37% of our total import bill.
Of course, there are things that you and I can do also. Keep cool with fans instead of air conditioners where possible. If you must use your air conditioner, set the thermostat at about 25 degrees Celsius. Why do people in Manchester use air conditioners anyway? Switch lights off when you leave a room. Do not overload the refrigerator as this will obstruct proper air circulation within. Dry clothes in the sun instead of using electric dryers. Use a solar water heater, and if you can’t use a solar water heater use an instant one instead of the storage type. Use energy efficient lights and set your computer to energy saving mode.
None of the steps mentioned above for the private sector, government or individuals are rocket science solutions, but cumulatively form a significant part of a credible energy revolution. So instead of being a frog that is boiled by “big oil”, let us be the optimistic frog in the following story. One day, two frogs accidently fell into a farmer’s bucket of cream, and they couldn’t get out. The two frogs kept swimming around to keep from drowning, and every once in a while they would try to climb out, but this was becoming very tiring.
One frog kept saying, “This is useless, we should just give up”. But the other frog, the optimistic frog just ignored the comment and kept swimming. Finally, the pessimistic frog gave up and drowned. The optimistic frog was sad at the loss of his friend, but he wasn’t going to give up. He kept swimming and swimming, and, finally, the cream turned into butter and the optimistic frog simply climbed out.
This story shows that even if we persist we can do it. If you are an optimistic frog, like I am and think Jamaica can climb out of the bucket instead of being boiled alive, leave a comment on this article stating “I AM AN OPTIMISTIC FROG, AND JAMAICA CAN DO IT”!
The Trying Farmer