Time to accelerate green transportation
ONCE AGAIN, the rising cost of fuel, and more specifically the cost of gasoline and diesel as transportation fuel, have been brought to the forefront of national discussion.
Successive editions of the weekend newspapers have highlighted the growing concern and dilemma facing many service stations, not only in terms of persons filling up their tanks and then not paying for gas but the growing trend among some motorists of using adulterated fuels (mixing diesel and kerosene) as a cost-saving mechanism.
The underlying issue of these recent trends is the rising cost of transportation fuel.
Our inability to control the international price of oil the recent spike in some fuel prices serve to highlight the point that such recent developments are not likely to be a temporary phenomenon.
Besides the cost implications, there is also a concern of the nexus between increases in vehicular emissions of chemicals such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, either through employing standard or adulterated fuels and their impact on the levels of outdoor air pollution in urban areas across the globe.
The World Health Organisation, in its 2016 Country Health Advice synopsis, stated: “Outdoor air pollution is a mix of chemicals, particulate matter, and biological materials that react with each other to form tiny hazardous particles. It contributes to breathing problems, chronic diseases, increased hospitalization, and premature mortality.”
Of specific importance to Barbados, the report indicated that outdoor air pollution also causes upper respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia) as well as exacerbating the effects of asthma and emphysema. The longer term effects of exposure to outdoor air pollution include lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory illness, allergies, heart attacks and strokes.
What then is the answer to these growing health challenges facing the average Barbadian?
The electrification or greening of the transportation sector must be seen as a plausible and attractive solution within our current economic climate. The introduction of electric vehicles on the market and the expansion of supporting infrastructural development, such as electric charging stations, serve as positive affirmations that the electric transformation of our transport sector is not only possible but is already in progress.
While the solution seems simple there are several critical next steps and questions which need to be answered.
What would be the economic impact of such a transformation?
What would large scale fleet conversion mean for our service stations and their current business models?
Would there be benefits or impacts outside of the transportation sector?
What would be required for such a conversion, how would incentives be incorporated and what timelines are possible for such a transition?
A few weeks back, the president of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA), Aidan Rogers, applauded Government’s decision to divest its assets in the Barbados National Terminal Company, recognising this as a positive step in the right direction in terms of advancing the goals of the renewable energy sector.
In that same press release, he referred to the presence of both Simpson Oil Limited and Rubis on the National Task Force on Energy. Both companies were represented when the International Renewable Energy Agency presented the Renewable Energy Road Map in 2016 which contended Barbados could by 2030 consume only 30 per cent of fossil fuel imports for transportation and electricity generation.
We are now at a point where we must begin to look holistically at the renewable energy sector and it cross-sectoral impact on the transportation sector as well as other key productive sectors in the economic transformation of our country.
BREA, understanding the positive economic impact and paradigm shift that the growth of a renewable energy sector and 100 per cent renewable energy agenda could mean, has forged several strategic partnerships with key local, regional and international stakeholders to begin answering some of these critical questions for the energy and transportation sectors. In the coming weeks, the association will begin to enhance its level of dialogue with the public and other key stakeholders in this process, to ensure we push the renewable energy agenda forward.
Meshia Clarke is executive director of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association.