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NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: The night they dumped Cahill Energy


NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: The night they dumped Cahill Energy

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“Building relationships with Barbados; we want to look at Barbados and see how best we can help make it a better place to live and work.”Cahill Energy website (

IN THE UNITED STATES when the government realises it must issue a statement containing bad news, it tries, naturally, to avoid the glare of the cameras and the questions of reporters.

The tried-and-tested way of doing this is via the “Friday news dump,” which, according to the website, is the act of “Releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon in an attempt to avoid media scrutiny.”

Minister of the Environment Dr Dennis Lowe, wisely took this route at the end of the no-confidence debate in the House of Assembly recently. Except he did it late on a Thursday night.

Lowe had clearly come to the conclusion, long after everyone else in the country, that the best way Cahill Energy could help make this country a better place to live and work was to stay as far away from it as possible.

And so, as predicted here by me (Sunday, April 11), Cahill energy’s plasma gasification project was placed in the dumpster.

The man who was quoted in a press release which went around the globe as saying that “Cahill Energy offers us a real solution to becoming energy independent, while at the same time reducing our massive oil import bill,” was quoted by another section of the press that night as saying: “The Government of Barbados would have to be absolutely collectively mad to move ahead on an option where there is global evidence that there are flaws with the technology.”

Perhaps Lowe thought that his news dump would go unnoticed, and he was partially right: As far as avoiding a huge morning barrage of headlines across the media, it was a successful strategy. But as is the usual deal with the Dolittle team, they make lots of noise about things they are doing, no matter how ill-conceived, as if to test just how much bad policy they can inflict on the public. And when that public has had enough of something, they just back off without a fight.

I am just wondering, you know, for the record, just when it came home to the Dolittle team that plasma gasification was a “flawed” technology.

The problems with plasma gasification being fuelled by municipal garbage were known long before Lowe’s news dump. Back in 2009, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives published a report stating: “The core impacts of all types of (gasification, pyrolysis and plasma incinerators) remain the same: they are toxic to public health, harmful to the economy, environment and climate, and undermine recycling and waste reduction programmes.” (Read it here at

The only success stories I have come across are those which use wood or rubber chips almost exclusively in the burners because there must be absolute consistency for the thing to work properly. municipal solid waste – the very thing the plant was being set up to handle – is unsuitable and causes all kinds of health hazards.

But nothing seemed to register with the Dolittle team. When they finally announced they had thrown in the towel, it was because Teesside had closed down in utter failure, no investors had publicly announced their intention to invest in the Cahill plant here, and the public was dead set against it.

Finally, Lowe had to concede, it was time to take out the trash.

Patrick Hoyos is a journalist and publisher specialising in business. Email: [email protected]