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LETTER OF THE DAY - Shun total reliance on LNG

Published:Friday | June 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR: Sir,

As a domestic consumer of electricity, I read with interest in The Gleaner of May 30, 2012 John Allgrove's expert contribution regarding the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the fuel for the generation of electricity and other energy requirements of the country. I have also noted opinions of others such as Dr Densil Williams of the Mona School of Business.

I do not profess to have expert knowledge on the subject of power generation, but many an engineering fault has been discovered by the user or consumer of otherwise well-engineered products.

There is no doubt that LNG has a lot to recommend it such as cost, environmental benefits, etc., but there are still some lingering concerns. Some of these are:

Availability of supply: Right now, there seem to be questions about the reliability of supply. We seem to be banking a lot on Trinidad, thus putting too many eggs in the same basket. Other possible suppliers are located in areas which could be politically unstable and located far from Jamaica.

Cost: LNG is cheap now, but as demand rises, the price is likely to rise as well. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan could cause a shift from nuclear to other fuels not only in that country, but in others, and Japan, which now has a shortage of power, could well use LNG as replacement. That alone could trigger heavy demand, increasing the cost. Remember, oil was once cheap, but increasing demand and political instability in producing countries resulted in oil becoming expensive.

I understand that LNG distribution facilities will be located on barges at sea, and mostly on the south coast. How vulnerable will these facilities be to hurricanes, tsunamis, fires, terrorist attacks or sabotage, etc? What is the potential damage to the environment if this should happen? Should we lose the power that is generated by LNG, the island would be faced with massive power outages for a long time.

As a consumer, I would not suggest we rely totally on LNG, and we should not abandon the idea of using coal, which is abundant and widely available. With newer technologies, the environmental disadvantages of coal are not as bad as before.

I understand we need to move with some urgency, but a little more study could do us good in the long run.

TREVOR SAMUELS

tasamuels@cwjamaica.com