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NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Cahill Energy claims ignorance, loses steam

Pat Hoyos, [email protected]

NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Cahill Energy claims ignorance, loses steam

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(And the apparition said:)

“Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill

Shall come against him.”

– Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1, p. 60

ONE OF THE MORE INTRIGUING aspects of the whole parallel-universe proposal for a plasma gasification plant to be brought to Barbados is where it is to be built.

The answer, Vaucluse, raises more questions.

What have the people of St Thomas, let alone the whole of this island, ever done to have this ticking environmental time bomb placed where they live, sleep, work and raise their innocent children?

Another, perhaps a little less emotive, but still fairly important, is, where will the water come from to cool down the plant after you have raised the temperature to close to the sun’s?

At a recent town meeting staged by Cahill Energy, the filing-cabinet company located in Guernsey which says it has signed an agreement with the government giving it the right to bring a gasification plant here, there was apparently a lack of information.

According to Nation Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris, writing in his column, In the Public Interest last Wednesday (July 29): “When asked how much water the plant would use, no one from Cahill could say . . . (They) could not say if they would get it from wells or Barbados Water Authority sources, but suggested it could come from ‘potable’ toilet water taken from toilets.”

Are the Cahill Energy people really that “in the dark” about their own project?

Has Cahill Energy been advised that there is not enough water underground at Vaucluse for the project, and that it would require sea water to be piped in from the west coast?

Was Cahill Energy also told that doing this would add well over US$10 million to the cost of the project, to which they or their advisors effectively replied: “No problem”?

So, you see, the Cahill Energy project is really an exciting blend of the old and the new. We will have the new: The technology of a plasma gasification plant, which has failed so far every time (I have read) that municipal solid waste (MSW, or regular garbage) is used as its main raw material; and we will have the old: the re-introduction of sea water to the sunlit uplands of St Thomas, where it has not been seen since the island rose out of the ocean billions of years ago.

The bringing of such a plant to Barbados would not only be a financial disaster for the country but an environmental one. Quite apart from the danger to health caused by any leakage of the proceeds of gasification – the poisonous carbon monoxide and the highly-flammable hydrogen – the MSW must be separated first, so even if you can send 1 000 tonnes of it to Vaucluse every day you would have only a percentage left after separation for gasification. We would still have to recycle the remainder.

Plus, to make up the rest of the raw material, something with a consistent burn – wood chips or stripped tyres are usually used – will have to be imported. Adding sea water to all of this at the end of the cycle will turn Vaucluse into an environmental “black hole”– lakes of slag, the residue from the gasification process surrounded by mountains of processed and unprocessed MSW, and the hills and dales of stripped tyres and wood chips.

Talk about a parallel universe.

Patrick Hoyos is a journalist and publisher specialising in business.