Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
WASHINGTON DC, USA:Jamaica should not expect any support, financial or otherwise, from the United States (US) for any coal-powered energy initiative, now or any time in the future.
A high-ranking member of the US State Department's Bureau of Energy Resources last week used the start of a journalists' working tour in Washington to make it very clear that coal was a no-no.
"We have a US Government policy that we don't support World Bank or (other) international financial institutions' financing of new coal facilities abroad for reasons of climate change. I don't know if that applies to Jamaica," the State Department official said in response to a question from The Sunday Gleaner at the start of the working tour which is being done under the theme, 'The Future of Energy in the Americas'.
"I think it would," a colleague chipped in immediately, as the State Department official declared, "The US is not supportive of third countries that want those financing.
"The US government wouldn't support any foreign government that came and asked for international financial institutional support for a coal plant. Leave it like that ...," added the American official.
The comments came during a visit to the Bureau of Energy Resources by journalists taking part in a working tour sponsored by the US State Department's Foreign Press Centre and which runs until Friday.
The majority of journalists are from countries set to benefit under the Connecting the Americas 2022 initiative which came out of the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. At that summit the US joined Colombia and other leaders of the Western Hemisphere in committing to achieve universal access to electricity over the next decade through enhanced electrical interconnection.
Developed by Colombia, the initiative aims to increase access to reliable, clean, and affordable electricity for the region's 31 million citizens who are without it.
Another State Department official participating in the discussion last week explained that under Connect the Americas 2022, the US is in discussions with Jamaica to help identify the best energy options but cited a number of issues that would inform how the country benefits.
"It's a very different kind of issue than you see in Central America and South America where it's more advanced and they are interconnected. It's a landmass that's all interconnected but that said, there are still a lot of areas for improvement.
fossil fuel subsidy
"When it comes to fossil fuel subsidy, when it comes to the amount of particular losses when it comes to electricity sector, when it comes to which resources are deployed, what resources you have available to you," the official said, before questioning Jamaica's failure to attract investments in this field.
"Jamaica, like a lot of islands in the Caribbean, has spectacular renewable energy sources. Why aren't companies coming in? Why aren't those opportunities being taken advantage of? Why does it still have a strong dependence on importing fossil fuel for its energy, even when oil goes above US$100 a barrel?
"Those are the kinds of questions that we work to try and resolve."