The United States Monday rolled out a new initiative for Caribbean countries to ensure energy security in a move widely seen as distancing the Caribbean from Venezuela for their oil and energy needs.
United States Vice President Joe Biden, addressing the first ever Caribbean Energy Security Summit, told Caribbean Community CARICOM countries that there are more options at their disposal now for natural gas delivery than they have ever been.
“You can now purchase gas on the open market from many countries including your neighbor Trinidad and Tobago right now. There is also LNG exporters in the United States with licenses to export to any of your countries whether you have a free trade agreement or not. If you want gas go talk to them.
“Meanwhile we are in the midst of a seismic shift in the global economy, the ascendancy of the Americas as the epicenter of the center of energy production in the world.
“We have more oil and gas… than all the states in the world combined. Mexico Canada the United States is the new epicenter of energy,” Biden said.
Regional countries have in the past relied on Caracas for oil and petroleum products under the PetroCaribe initiative, an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.
But Biden told the summit an integrated North America working to promote energy security beyond its borders “can be a major asset for the entire hemisphere and its profoundly in the self interest of the United States to see the Caribbean countries succeed as prosperous, secure and energy independent neighbors, not a world apart but an integral part of the hemisphere where every nation is middle class, democratic and secure”.
Biden told the summit that it is the first time in history such a vision can be accomplished.
“You can see it if we make the right decisions. So taken together these changes create a moment of energy opportunity that hasn’t existed. Progress is possible and it is possible to begin now,” he said, insisting “not a decade from now”.
He said that was among the issues discussed with the regional leaders, adding “some people think it can’t be done in the Caribbean they are dead wrong.
“Not only can it be done, it is being done right now with some of your neighbors, look at what the US Virgin Islands is doing they are combining renewable energy with propane to lower costs…”.
Biden said St. Lucia is breaking down the barriers to develop new investments in geothermal energy, it is creating new legislation to create a national regulatory body for energy to “stabilize the rules of the game and make investments more attractive for those of you who are energy suppliers”.
The US vice-president said Barbados “has long been the leader of solar technology (and) is posed to make major new investments in renewables.
“Progress is practical, it is possible and it is profitable,” Biden said, adding that significant improvements are within reach for every Caribbean country.
But he told the CARICOM leaders that they needed to summon the political will to ensure success “because as we learn real and lasting progress for energy security everywhere in the world depends on more than just spending money”.
He said over the last 10 years tens of millions of dollars had been pledged and invested “but we don’t have nearly enough to show for it”.
He said the primary goal of the summit is “not to put up another solar panel or sign another gas contract (but) it is to help you create the conditions where your countries can attract private sector investment and it is there”.
He said the Caribbean now has an opportunity for a supply of energy that is more resilient, more sustainable, cleaner, more affordable than you will ever, ever had.
“You have a chance to reduce the number of oil spills, protect your waters, pout the money you are saving into schools, hospitals, jobs, infrastructure, manufacturing,” he said, acknowledging “ a lot of work lies ahead”.
“But we have a chance …and the single biggest burden that can be lifted upon you right now, economically is the cost of energy and the dependence that you still have on single suppliers,” Biden said.