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PetroCaribe oil deal “fragile”- Canadian Professor

Professor Suresh Narine.

A Guyana-born Canadian Scientist on Wednesday cautioned that Venezuela’s oil concessionary deal, PetroCaribe, was on shaky ground and the Caribbean would soon have to pay more for fuel when the United States (US) finds shale oil.

“Look at the energy dependence of this region and it’s a very tenuous, tenacious fragile relationship with PetroCaribe and the recent political changes that are occurring in our neighbour,” said Professor Suresh Narine, who is also a top official of CGX Energy

Narine, of Canada’s Trent University, was apparently referring to President Hugo Chavez’ death earlier this year and the subsequent slim election victory by his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro.

Addressing a session on energy at a National Economic Forum at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Narine said Caribbean countries “are in serious jeopardy of energy security because PetroCaribe itself is becoming a very big question mark.”

Guyana buys half of its oil supplies from Venezuela and the remainder from sister Caricom country, Trinidad and Tobago.

With the expected increased production of shale gas that can lead to the closure of diesel and heavy fuel refineries, he predicted a spike in the cost of electricity generation in Guyana. He explained that as the United States shifts its consumption to shale gas, at least 12 to 18 percent of the refinery capacity in the United States would be decommissioned. “What that means, it’s going to put a huge supply issue into the heavy oil and diesel oil equation which will, as we know, escalate prices so even the opportunity to delay peat oil represents severe repercussions to countries like us that have invested large capital sums in our current generation but based on heavy oil and diesel,” he said.

At least 45 to 55 percent of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on importing fossil fuels. Even if Guyana finds oil today, he said production would not begin until another 10 years.

Professor Narine advocated the formulation of a new Guyana Energy Policy to replace the 1994 document. He wants the new policy to be crafted by a task force comprising representatives of the government, opposition, private sector, civil society, academia and marginalised groups under the chairmanship of an obviously non-partisan states person.

“What this taskforce says needs to be respected. We cannot have a repeat of the debacle that we had over the past month where you had myriad people saying myriad degrees of silliness in the daily press,” he said.

Contributors to his presentation, “Energy being a missing element in Guyana’s development”,” included Head of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Mahender Sharma, Winston Brassington, Maurice Veecock, Krishanand Raghunandan, Robert Badal and Shane Sukhai.