The Government is very close to signing off on the Goat Island development. The Works Minister, the Honourable Omar Davies made the announcement in Parliament this afternoon. His announcement was routine as he outlined the steps that are to be taken and what China Harbour Engineering is intending on doing. However, one aspect of his announcement had to do with the type of fuel that will be used in the power plant, which is coal.
So coal is back on the agenda and the environmentalists will and are going to have a field day, as they have been provided with new ammunition to attack this project, but will they be successful? I think not. I have argued previously that given where Jamaica is right now in its development cycle, alternative energy solutions such as solar and wind cannot provide the push necessary to drive the economy to the growth levels required to move our people out of this quagmire. The simple truth is to move this economy to where it can compete effectively in World trade, energy must be cheap, and the cheapest fuel source at this moment is coal. The downside to coal is the harmful effects it can have on the environment if its use is not properly regulated. Beijing is just one prime example of a runaway economy growth fueled by cheap energy, coal, and the harmful effect the city is currently experiencing with smog. Furthermore, Caribbean Cement Company does use coal in its operation, and the coal receival yard is passed everyday by commuters traveling west into or east leaving the City of Kingston and the air is relatively easy to breathe. This is unlike the situation at the Riverton Dump where unplanned fire can smog up the entire western side of the city to include the Portmore Municipality.
Coal is like any other fossil fuel. It can be safely used without causing unnecessary harm to the environment. What we have to ensure with the proposed Chinese built coal plant is that we put in place the necessary measures to ensure the plant maintains the agreed environmental standards prior to its construction. So, with coal there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.