Carlos Rymer

Sustainability, Life, and More…

Archive for the tag “Dominican Republic”

Why Leaders Ought to Communicate Frequently

Frequent CommunicationOne of the most difficult tasks for any leader — whether of a large organization or a small group — is to communicate frequently and effectively. Communication is not just important because it helps shape debates that lead to important decisions being made, but also because organizations need a sense of direction to keep the engine going. Leaders who don’t communicate frequently and effectively probably outnumber those who do. This is very noticeable when you take entire societies as an organized group, where the people are typically in constant distrust of their leaders because such leaders fail to communicate frequently and effectively.

Over the past two years, the importance of constant and effective communication has become so noticeable to me as I’ve witnessed different leaders employ very different strategies to communicate to the public. I want to focus exclusively on two very good government leaders to whom I can relate and whom I believe have very different strategies of engaging with those whom they represent. While I strongly believe frequent and effective communication is important for any leader, whether at the corporate, civic, or governmental level, I chose to compare two government leaders because of the impact their strategies have in shaping a nation.

The first leader, if you already guessed correctly, is President Barack Obama of the United States. Aside from having a highly successful electoral campaign in which records were set in terms of engagement, President Obama has made it a priority for his administration to communicate frequently and effectively to the public. Not only is he in constant communication with the public — from constant appearances on TV to town halls to news conferences to videotaped weekly addresses to Twitter updates — but his entire cabinet is fully engaged with the public through social media, conferences, and public appearances. It is arguable that this has been the most engaging administration in U.S. history, in spite of the anger some may feel regarding agenda items that have yet to be accomplished.

The Obama administration’s frequent and effective communication has not just helped achieve the most productive legislative Congress in many years, but has also helped rally a nation into debating issues previous administrations largely ignored. Although I feel some anger at the fact that the President has consistently taken a centrist approach towards many issues when they fully deserve and warrant a more aggressive approach, I admire how President Obama has used messaging — messaging that a majority of people can appreciate and understand — as a tool to achieve key goals. While words don’t necessarily translate into deeds, I think many people can agree that President Obama’s frequent and effective communication has helped his administration achieve quite a lot over the past two years.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, we have President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, my country of origin. Here we have a leader who not only understands how to keep an economy growing and is very capable of designing effective policies, but who has been elected three times in the last 15 years (1996, 2004, and 2008). While a majority of Dominicans agree that President Fernandez is one of the best leaders the country has witnessed, a majority of them will also say that they disagree with the way President Fernandez is handling the government. A sweeping 2010 election where the majority party (Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana) took almost full control of government can be used as evidence of the President’s popularity, but it doesn’t deny the fact that most Dominicans disapprove of President Fernandez, precisely a result of how infrequently and ineffectively he communicates to the people about issues that matter to them.

Unlike President Obama, President Fernandez only speaks to the public on rare occasions, such as for his annual address to Congress or updates on emergency actions. As a result, the people don’t feel like they need to follow their leader to get a sense of direction of where the country is going and what they should strive to accomplish. When President Fernandez does speak directly to the public, he does so in such language that people do not understand or feel interested in what he’s talking about, often focusing on statistics rather than telling a story to which people can relate. Not only is this a bad way to negatively impact what is in fact good leadership, but it’s also a waste of power, as President Fernandez squanders all the opportunities he has to get people to think and behave in ways that could help his nation race for a better future.

Good leadership is not just based on how well you can manage a team, but also on how well you can communicate to that team so it knows what it must do to accomplish its goals. All too often leaders fail to understand how valuable a position they’re in, where they can easily grab an audience’s attention and shape a debate, a decision, a common cultural problem, or even behavior. Clearly, some leaders tend to achieve goals from the top down regardless of who is alienated at the bottom or in the middle. Yet oftentimes it is better to achieve goals by having all people on board the ship rowing forward. Leaders who want to become better at what they do should understand the importance of frequent and effective communication if they want to add further momentum to their organization’s engine.

Revista Refugios: El Green Team

Comparto una pieza en la revista Refugios en Republica Dominicana sobre la situacion critica en la cual se encuentra el medio ambiente (y por ende la sociedad) y los esfuerzos que se llevan a cabo por la sociedad civil en busqueda de un mejor futuro.

My Bloodline

Since I always write about current issues relevant to improving quality of life globally, I thought I’d take a departure today. There’s a lot about myself that I know and always think about, but I’ve always refrained from discussing with people or writing about such things. One of those things is my bloodline, which I only discuss with a few family members who don’t mind or are in fact interested in talking about it. Over the past ten years, I’ve sought to learn more and more about my big family and its roots, which are incredibly diverse. I have asked elders about their past, analyzed thinking patterns of some family members and their causes, and estimated what’s in me, genetically speaking. So here’s my story.

As most people who’ve met or known me may know, I’m from the Dominican Republic, a country that shares the eastern two-thirds of the island I like to call by what its original inhabitants, the Taino and other indigenous people, knew it as: Quisqueya. Though I wasn’t born in the Dominican Republic, my entire family is from that country and I’ve lived enough years there to know the Dominican way of life and consider myself Dominican (especially since I intend to live there again in the future).

Now, anybody who knows a little bit about the Dominican Republic knows how diverse it is in terms of the physical character of its people. The current inhabitants are descendants of Tainos, Africans, Spanish, and even Asians. Unlike other diverse countries where you have immigrants form diverse communities, the inhabitants of the Dominican Republic have actually been mixing for centuries now, and so the mixture is much more punctuated than many other countries with diverse populations. In any given family, it’s not atypical to find skin colors ranging from black to white and everything in between, heights ranging from below average to very tall, and even spoken Spanish ranging from formal to very Dominican slang. And although there’s a huge mix, few people recognize it or even appreciate their bloodlines, prefering certain physical characteristics over others even if most of their genetic makeup may side with what they deem undesirable.

When it comes to me, I’ve been able to draw out my bloodline pretty well, ranging to about three (3) generations back, which would put all I know about where I come from to the late 19th century, when the population in the Dominican Republic was just above 500,000, down from 10 million today. From what I’ve learned, my most immediate family members are all from the Eastern part of the country, specifically from the provinces of El Seibo, La Altagracia, La Romana, Samana, and San Pedro de Macoris.

abuela_herminiaFrom my mother’s side, the bloodline has a Spanish and Taino makeup. My grandmother from my mother’s side was completely Taino, with no mixture whatsoever, and of course so were my great-grandparents from my mom’s side. The picture to the left is my young grandmother, which must have been taken around 1950. That entire part of my family is from the rural areas of the province of La Romana, very near to the sugar cane fields used to produce sugar, for reasons my mother does not know.

My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a Spanish descendant on the other hand, who owned a lot of land in El Seibo and in La Romana, all under agricultural production, which was the main economic activity at the time. His entire family, from the stories my uncles tell me, inherited a great deal of land that they eventually sold, including land today owned by hotel establishments (including Reina Cumayasa if anybody is interested in knowing). Of all that land, which from the descriptions ranged in the thousands of acres, including significant portions of prime coastline, about 50 acres remain, which is now owned by my mother and her brothers. My grandfather was a well-known farmer in El Seibo and La Romana during his times, and I was honored to grow up seeing him every day as he walked about 1km to my home at 8am sharp to say hello to my mother and I and drink his morning coffee (see him below carrying me; next to him is my grandmother).

Old 31

From my father’s side, the bloodline is a lot more mixed, with African, Spanish, and Taino all mixed up. Moreover, the size of the family is a lot bigger on this side, and the mysteries are even bigger as my grandparents continue to tell me stories I didn’t know about. On this front, my family comes from La Altagracia, La Romana, Samana, and San Pedro de Macoris. My grandmother from my father’s side, which is a very interesting person for those who have met her, has a mix of African, Spanish, and Taino. Both of their parents, my grandparents, come from La Altagracia, and also owned a significant amount of land there, all handed over by previous governments for agricultural purposes. My great-grandmother came from African and Spanish predecessors, while my great-grandfather, well-known in his times and respected by my entire family, had indigenous roots.

My grandmother, who grew up in rural communities around the Chavon River in La Altagracia, has a very interesting story to tell, which includes a lot of traditional thoughts and practices involving sacred beliefs, some of which she still claims to practice today sometimes. All of these she learned from her father, who supposedly he also shared with his family in El Seibo and Samana. Eventually, my grandmother, their parents, and her 10+ brothers and sisters all moved west to La Romana, San Pedro de Macoris, and Santo Domingo, where many are today.

Old 49 - Copy (2)My grandfather, on the other hand, has pure African roots. My grandfather’s mother grew up in Puerto Rico, while his father grew up in St. Thomas at a time when it was either British owned or had a strong British presence. That’s where my family’s English last name comes from. My grandfather assumes his father was a slave at the time, back in the late 19th century. Somehow, both his mother and his father ended up in the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in a town called Sanchez in the province of Samana, where my grandfather and his brothers and sisters grew up. These people are known historically as “cocolos” because of the English connection. From there, they all had the opportunity to travel to the United States, where they established in New York City and spread from there to other areas of that country. My grandfather met my grandmother in La Romana when my grandmother escaped from her father in a rural community of Chavon because she felt old enough to marry, something which with my grandfather disagreed. One night, she decided to walk all the way from Chavon to La Romana at night to escape from her father, and along the way, she stopped in a rural community where a brother was, and that’s where she met my grandfather.

So, to sum it up, my mother’s makeup is Taino with some Spanish, while my father’s makeup is very mixed. So my genetic makeup, as a result, is also highly mixed with those three lineages. I’m proud of all three lineages, and I wished Dominican society embraced all three equally and respectfully. In addition to having learned about my bloodline, I’ve also learned significantly about the indigenous people who lived in the Caribbean islands prior to European colonization. The rich history those people left constantly leave me wondering why it’s not explored more deeply, why it’s not appreciated more strongly, and why it’s not honored as it should by Dominican society and its government. Being more closely associated with my mother, I feel more closely tied to my indigenous heritage (which by the way includes many different indigenous people from the Caribbean, not just one united people) than anything else, in spite of being proud and defensive of my entire bloodline. I have come to appreciate and live by the their sacrificing and service-oriented ways, and I hope some day that appreciation can be extended to the level it deserves in Dominican society.

Plantas a Carbon No Solucionaran Problemas Energeticos

coalLa República Dominicana sufre de un problema energético que nunca ha podido ser resuelto. Los apagones que afectan al país reducen la actividad económica, perjudicando la confianza proyectada al sector privado y empeorando la calidad de vida de los Dominicanos. En este año en particular, los apagones han afectado al país de forma dramática, causando protestas sociales y reclamaciones del sector privado. El problema energético se ha intensificado este año por el incremento en el precio del petróleo, que llego a U.S. $140 por barril, forzando al gobierno a subsidiar al sector eléctrico con un record de alrededor de U.S. $1 billón (R.D. $35 billones). Esto no tan solo causa un problema en el déficit comercial, ya que causa un incremento en el valor de las importaciones, pero también causa un problema en los gastos sociales del gobierno, ya que no se puede invertir lo deseado en programas sociales.

El problema energético en República Dominicana se debe a varios factores. Primero, las perdidas en la transmisión y distribución de la electricidad siempre han sido altas, aunque han bajado un poco en los últimos años (se sitúa ahora alrededor de 35-40%). Estas pérdidas se deben al robo de la electricidad y la ineficiencia del sistema de distribución, el cual causa perdidas tan solo en la resistencia y la dislocación de la electricidad.

Segundo, existe una deficiencia en la oferta energética porque se han creado contratos con empresas privadas que no incentivan la inversión privada en el sistema. Esto ha causado que la oferta no incremente sustancialmente en el sector privado, mientras que la demanda aumenta anualmente. Gran parte de la oferta que ha entrado a la red nacional eléctrica ha sido aportada por el gobierno. Con la nueva Ley de Incentivos a las Energías Renovables, el sector privado está invirtiendo en capacidad nueva que entrara al sistema nacional, pero el problema no será resuelto inmediatamente ya que toma tiempo a que se estructure el sector de energías renovables.

Finalmente, la demanda en el país ha incrementado significativamente, lo que indica que no ha habido ningún esfuerzo para disminuir el consumo de energía vía la eficiencia energética. Fue en este año que se lanzo un programa para mejorar la eficiencia energética, pero esto tampoco lograra resultados inmediatos.

Recientemente, se ha debatido lo que se debe de hacer para solucionar la crisis. El Consejo Nacional de la Empresa Privada (CONEP) ha propuesto crear un fondo para reducir el robo y pagar la electricidad ya servida. La propuesta también incluye la re-negociación de los contratos con las empresas privadas, la conexión de todos los usuarios en el país con contadores, la re-privatización de las EDEs. Claramente, esta propuesta reconoce que el problema energético del país está en las perdidas eléctricas, por la mayor parte.

En otra propuesta, el geólogo Osiris de León de la Academia de Ciencias plantea que el gobierno invierta hasta U.S. $2 billones en plantas a carbón para elevar la oferta energética. Aunque esto es algo preferible, hay varios problemas con tal propuesta. La primera es que eso requerirá de un incremento significativo en la deuda externa, ya que el gobierno no cuenta con los recursos financieros necesarios. Segundo, tal propuesta ignora las grandes pérdidas eléctricas en el país, lo que significa que alguien tendrá que seguir pagando la tarifa eléctrica de las pérdidas de hoy y las que podrían venir si se suman plantas de carbón con gran capacidad a la red nacional eléctrica. Finalmente, y en esto se basa el resto de esta opinión editorial, tal plan ignora el futuro mundial del carbón mineral, el cual no tiene un lugar en un mundo que quiere reducir las emisiones de dióxido carbono.

Desde hacen años, la administración de la Corporación Dominicana de Empresas Eléctricas Estatales (CDE) ha querido construir plantas a carbón con capacidad de 1,200MW como forma de solucionar el problema energético. Como Osiris de León, la administración de la CDE ha pensado de que si se aumenta de forma sustancial la oferta, entonces no habría ningún problema energético en el país. Políticamente, quizás esto sea verdad, ya que los consumidores quizás pagarían un menor precio en el corto plazo y tendrían un abastecimiento de 100% de la demanda. Esto sería algo que el pueblo Dominicano felicitaría y quizás retribuiría con votos en el futuro.

Realísticamente, esto no será ninguna solución al impacto económico que las perdidas eléctricas tienen en el país, ya que el gobierno todavía tendría que absorber el costo de estas pérdidas y el de las plantas, que nunca serán de U.S. $450 millones, como pensaba la administración de la CDE cuando fue ofrecida con plantas de una empresa China. Como consecuencia, el gobierno tendría que mantener los niveles corrientes de gastos en el sector social ya que todavía tendría que intervenir económicamente en el sector eléctrico. Es el sector social (la educación, la salud, programas para la juventud y la mujer, protección social, etc.) el cual más necesita del gobierno y el más visible en la sociedad Dominicana.

El otro problema del carbón mineral es que, como el petróleo, hay que importarlo y por lo tanto depende de la situación internacional. El precio del carbón mineral, así como el del petróleo, depende de un mercado internacional en el cual los mayores consumidores, y por lo tanto los que mayor influencia tienen en el precio, son grandes países como Estados Unidos, China, la Unión Europea, y India. Estos son los mismos países que producen y consumen casi todo el carbón mineral anualmente en el mundo. Esto quiere decir, que así como el petróleo, estos países son los que controlan el precio del carbón mineral.

En los Estados Unidos, la nueva administración de Barack Obama ha anunciado que su país está comprometido a enfrentar el cambio climático. Con esta declaración, los Estados Unidos se suma al resto del mundo, especialmente la Unión Europea, en la lucha contra el cambio climático, el cual amenaza afectar significativamente a países vulnerables como República Dominicana. La única forma de enfrentar el cambio climático es incrementar el precio de los combustibles fósiles, especialmente el carbón mineral. Adicionalmente, con la ausencia de tecnología que prevenga la emisión de dióxido carbono causado por la quema del carbón mineral, esto significara que habrá una oferta mundial que disminuirá significativamente con el tiempo, incrementando el precio del carbón así como ha pasado con el petróleo.

Si este es el futuro que la comunidad internacional ha decido para el carbón mineral, entonces no cabe duda de que plantas a carbón en República Dominicana no solucionaran definitivamente el problema energético que sufre el país. Si decidimos instalar plantas a carbón en el país por razones políticas (las ventajas políticas de esconder el problema al publico Dominicano), no tan solo estaríamos incrementando nuestra deuda externa para que los jóvenes tengan que pagarla en el futuro con impuestos, también estaríamos ignorando el problema de las perdidas energéticas y el gran potencial que tenemos de atraer inversiones en la producción y manufactura de energías renovables en tiempos cuando tal sector está en pleno desarrollo agresivo en el país.

La solución a la crisis energética es administrativa. La CDE y las EDEs, con apoyo del gobierno, tienen que enfrentar las perdidas eléctricas en el sistema. Estas agencias gubernamentales-privadas deben trabajar conjuntamente para elaborar un plan que reduzca las pérdidas de 35-40% a 5-10% en cuatro años. Se debe aplicar la ley que criminaliza el robo de electricidad y conectar todos los usuarios de electricidad a la red nacional con contadores.

También se debe modernizar el sistema de distribución con miras a reducir el robo y las perdidas en resistencia eléctrica. Como propone el CONEP, también se debe re-negociar los contratos con las empresas privadas y debe de haber una mayor supervisión del gobierno en las plantas privadas para prevenir problemas y la cancelación de la generación eléctrica. Finalmente, se deben efectuar los planes para ahorrar energía masivamente y entrar a la red nacional eléctrica gran capacidad de energía renovable aportada por campos eólicos, plantas solares-termales, geotérmicas, hidroeléctricas, y otras. Esta es la única solución real al problema energético del país. Las plantas a carbón forman una solución reactiva y costosa que no solucionara los problemas energéticos en nuestro país.

Global Warming To Eliminate Tourism in the Caribbean

Hispaniola-con-6m-subida-del-marOriginally published in It’s Getting Hot In Here.

Over the years, many island nations have fought hard to be heard in the international arena about the effects that global warming is already having on them. Some islands have already been lost in the Pacific, and the forecast is that many more will go in the coming decades, especially if nothing is done to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions globally. Now, in the Caribbean, the picture is looking bleak as well. Today, the top newspaper in the Dominican Republic reported that global warming will eliminate tourism by 2050 under business-as-usual.

The Caribbean islands, for the exception of Cuba and Haiti, are largely dependent on tourism. Coastal development for the purpose of tourism is growing in the region at a high rate despite a recent regional decline in tourism. In the Caribbean, tourism accounts for 15% of the gross domestic product, with higher rates in many islands, and over 2.4 million jobs (about 16%). It has also pushed populations towards the coasts. For example, in the Dominican Republic, over 50% of the population lives near coasts where a 6-m sea-level rise would plunge them into the sea.

Recently, the Dominican government received a report detailing that, under their estimates, sea-level will rise by 6 meters under business-as-usual by 2050, eliminating the tourism industry and sending the country into complete chaos. The same would happen around the Caribbean. The fast development the region is seeing may be completely obliterated by global warming, and the same case goes for much of the rest of the developing world. The outcome would be to put billions of people in situations of poverty, hunger, and violence.

There are good reasons why people in the developing world should have high hopes. One reason is that, aside from what governments are doing (whether it be block negotiations or push for tough measures), industries are rushing towards making a profit out of solving the climate, and that’s a great thing. Companies like Ausra, eSolar, Solel, Nanosolar, Google, Honda, GE, Vestas, Aracruz, and many others are working hard to make renewable energy, transportation, and products cheap, feasible, and appropriate for smart, sustainable development. We are already seeing every major industry making significant investments in the solutions we need. Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t need governments to step in. We especially need huge subsidies to shut down coal plants globally and replace fossil fuels with renewables.

Another good reason is that people are standing up everywhere. We are seeing people getting together to deploy solutions, taking action to shut down fossil fuel projects, and even elect leaders who will do something about global warming. The fact that climate criminals in Washington are hindering progress should be no reason for us to lose hope. Within a few years, we may be seeing ourselves agreeing that the entire world can be carbon neutral within two decades – and that’s where we need to get ourselves for the sake of uncertainty, urgency, and the billions of people who will have to suffer as a result of something they didn’t do. The good thing is, as I show in this recently released report, that we can do it while booming economies and improving the quality of life of everybody. Let’s do it!

Dominican Republic Set To Lead on Renewable Energy

cneOriginally published in It’s Getting Hot In Here.

While there is a lot of debate about a national renewable energy standard and more than half of the states have some kind of RPS, where does the rest of the world stand on renewable energy targets? As an Hispanic, I’m very interested in what Latin America and the Caribbean do about global warming, not just because we need to show leadership to northerners, but also because this is our future. Most countries in Latin America depend on oil imports, and most of them are also already being and will be impacted by global warming. So, not surprisingly, we are seriously trying to be on top of this.

Everybody knows about what Brazil is doing with ethanol, but what about other countries in Latin America? And what does the future hold for renewable energy in this region. I’m from the Caribbean, specifically the Dominican Republic, and I’m very involved in what’s happening in that country and elsewhere around the region. Since 2005, I’ve been visiting the country quite often, helping found an organization that promotes sustainable development and now looking into renewable energy ventures in that country. So, what is the Dominican Republic doing about global warming? In short, it’s emissions are going up, but it has a renewable energy standard that says 25% renewables by 2025. Let’s take a closer look at the details.

Last April, the President of that country, Dr. Leonel Fernandez, signed a renewable energy law passed by the Congress. After 6 years of meetings and drafts and building support, it finally passed. Within a year of the idea that the law was going to definitely pass under Fernandez’ administration, a Spanish company invested E$100 million in solar cell production, wind companies announced over 400MW of planned installations, the Brazilian company Infinity Bio-Energy announced an investment of $200 million in a large ethanol plant (since the country has a lot of sugarcane), and lots of small solar and wind energy subsidiaries have been set up in the country. With over 25,000MW of wind potential in less than 3% of the land (over 60,000MW in 9% of the land) and an infinite supply of sunlight (sunny Caribbean), the potential is there for the country to meet all its energy needs from renewables.

Before specifying what the law does, it’s important to mention the fact that the government is committing to paying for what the incentives described below on top of all the problems the country has. Among them are an unemployment rate of 15%, a per capita GDP of just over $8,000 (though growing at 10%), some 25% of the population in poverty, a relatively high crime rate, congestion in large cities, high energy costs and power blackouts, many urban areas without potable water or paved roads, and an education system that is not near the best it can be. Of course, high energy costs justify taking this action because it will create large energy savings in the future, but the investments required to incentivize renewable energies are coming out of the pockets of citizens of the Dominican Republic.

So, what does this law do exactly? First of all, it removes all taxes from all equipment, sales, and income for at least 10 years. Clearly not the case in the United States or elsewhere. Second, it pays up to 75% of the cost of installing solar or wind in homes or community co-ops. Again, higher than the incentives in the United States or elsewhere. And third, but most important, it places a feed-in tariff! That’s right, utility producers receive a premium equal to the estimated externalities of fossil fuels for the renewable energy they produce. Essentially, they’re putting the incentives that makes solar work in Germany. But, of course, this country is sunnier, so the potential for higher installations is clearly there.

On the fuels side, they have lots of incentives for ethanol and biodiesel production, including the 100% tax exemptions. Brazil and Chile are therefore very interested in producing ethanol in the country. The law mandates that all gasoline sold in the country be blended with a 10% mix, with higher blends to come. While there may be transformations coming to the mobility sector of that country that will make ethanol unnecessary (and thus solely for tax-free exports to the U.S.; yes, CAFTA works for this), this is pretty impressive. There are several experimental plots that will be producing biodiesel from Jatropha and other plants. And the President joined investors last week at the Clinton Global Initiative to announce plans for biodiesel production in Haiti (to promote growth, create jobs, etc.).

Now, isn’t this enough to justify the U.S. hopping on board? “No,” the administration will say, “it doesn’t matter what others do, as long as India and China are not in…” But, then again, India is on track to cutting emissions 25% by 2020 anyways and China just announced investments of up to $280 billion over the next several years, and has a renewable energy standard of 15% by 2025. Well, if we go past the tipping point, the city where I grew up will be under water, and so will most of the major cities in the Dominican Republic and many other countries all over Latin America. Anyways, this is all really impressive, but don’t think we’re stopping there…

As I mentioned, I work for an organization in the Dominican Republic that promotes sustainable development. I’m currently leading a renewable energy campaign that seeks to make the country climate neutral by 2030, with a medium-term target of 50% renewables by 2020. The current law doesn’t call for this, but our campaign is looking to do something that hasn’t happened in many places. The country, as many know, is blessed with great beaches and beautiful landscapes. No wonder, then, that tourism is the #1 sector of the countries economy. Next year, it will experience a demand of around $10 billion. So, what are we trying to do with this sector, specifically the $10 billion in demand?

Our renewable energy campaign is calling on the tourism industry to use take out 2% of its demand ($200 million) every year, beginning in 2010, to invest in renewable energies and new mobility systems together with all the investors that will be rushing into the country. With this scale of annual investments, the carbon neutrality target is clearly achievable. The logical question is, why would the sector be interested? Well, a story is well-deserved. The sector began to grow in the 1960’s, when the government passed a law that gave tourism activity a 100% tax exemption and payments for roads and other services. As a result, the sector kicked off. A decade later, many incentives remained, but taxes were put in place (well, the hotels couldn’t run out, could they?). Today, they have a 30% tax on their income, though some of it is reinvested in roads and other things that they need. What we’re saying is this: here’s the opportunity to enjoy of the business opportunity you had in the 1960’s.

With this new renewable energy law, the tourism sector can meet Agenda 21’s call for social and environmental responsibility at a huge profit. The sector has the opportunity to team up with foreign investors in scaling renewable energies in this country and make profits, all with 100% tax exemptions for at least 10 years and a feed-in tariff. Under our view, there’s no reason why the sector should ignore this business opportunity. The reason why others are already planning to invest more than $2 billion in the next few years is because this law makes these investments highly profitable. Here’s a chance to reduce and stabilize energy costs in the country, promote strong economic growth and fossil fuel independence, create 1 million jobs while at it, and green up the sector’s image, attracting ever-more tourists. In fact, the sector’s decision to do this would likely lead this country to achieve a very high quality of life (more than $25,000 per capita; of course, this does not fit the entire picture of “quality of life”) within 10-15 years at current rate of economic growth.

For those skeptical ones who ask: “how is the government going to pay for this?” Currently, electricity costs are over $0.22/kW-hr. This is more expensive than solar! The reason is that most electricity comes from oil. While coal and natural gas are on the way, it will still keep electricity prices up at around $0.15/kW-hr. So, this means that funds are going to come directly from price differences. For example, if wind costs US $0.07/kW-hr, the market price is still $0.15 or 0.22/kW-hr, and that’s what they charge. The difference they keep is used to pay the premium. In addition, the government currently taxes gasoline and natural gas at 5%, so those funds will be used to pay for homeowner installations.

All in all, this looks like the future for the Caribbean and the rest of Latin America. Where is the U.S.’ leadership on this area? If nothing is done about emissions, all the work in Latin America won’t matter. Global warming will destroy us anyways. The hope is that these bold actions by both the government and the private sector send a message to Washington, D.C. and Europe: climate neutrality for the world within 2 decades is necessary!

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