|Is The Bahamas ready for oil exploration?|
Published: May 15, 2012
The idea of finding oil in The Bahamas seems like such a good thing.
You can see the eyes of persons glazing over as they think about riches untold and all their problems being solved overnight. But to whom much is given, much will be required.
A disciplined, highly educated workforce along with the regulatory framework to enable the protection of our environment will be essential for long-term success in this industry. Not to mention regulators who are prepared to be enforcers and stand up to well-funded companies and their powerhouse legal teams. Some resource rich countries have done a great job of maintaining their sanity in the presence of great wealth, but for many others they have succumbed to the resource curse with only a small fraction of the population getting increasingly wealthy, while the station of the masses remaining the same or getting progressively worse.
A major shift needs to take place in the efficiency with which we bring legislation to the table and get it passed. Needless to say, a fair amount of legislation and regulation would be required to monitor this industry. Thus far though, we have failed to enact legislation that allows us to make the most of the energy resources that we currently do have – sun, wind and waves. And just generally as it comes to laws on the books, we tend to struggle with enforcement.
In recent years, some strides have been made in the area of environmental protection and citizens have become more demanding on successive governments to report on the potential impact to the environment of various projects undertaken in the country. When it comes to oil exploration and drilling, the game changes significantly and a well equipped and empowered watch dog agency is critical if we are to protect the environment for generations to come.
Our xenophobia if not addressed would also be a downfall.
We would need to accept the fact that for obvious reasons we would not, overnight, have the relevant expertise resident in the country to manage this new industry on both sides of the equation. Regulators and industry workers would need to be brought in from around the world to help with the establishment of this industry. However, over the short-and-medium term, we would need to invest in training local persons so that we have a skilled and knowledgeable workforce to fully embrace this industry in coming years.
I am fully supportive of oil exploration in The Bahamas and hope that we do find oil.
Ahead of that discovery though, my hope is that we learn to curb our energy use and fashion our behavior in such a way that no matter the source of the energy, we use it responsibly. We must see the use of fossil fuels as just a part of our energy plan, developing an energy portfolio that also includes the widespread use of renewable sources as well, and ensuring the introduction of an energy code which sets out responsible standards for use of energy in buildings and the means to build high performance structures. We must ensure that we own this industry and look to a future in which we engage professionals in the industry at all levels.
I remain hopeful about the opportunities and prosperity that this can bring to The Bahamas, but today let’s be good stewards of the energy resources that we do have. Let’s continue to reduce waste and maximize the use of renewable resources.
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• Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.