“Shortage of Gas an Opportunity or Disadvantage to Liberia?

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Over the past weeks, queues at gas stations have increased and the crisis does seem to have quick remedy by the government and key private institutions playing a vital role, but the crisis demands more sustainable actions. Allegedly it was caused by a discrepancy between importers’ inventory figures and the actual quantity of fuel in storage tanks managed by the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company.

Our oil refinery, Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation, built by the Sun Oil Corporation and purchased and renamed by the Government of Liberia in 1978 has the capacity of processing 13,500 barrels per day of imported crude oil. Since then, dating back to 1979, the economy of Liberia has taken a downward trend, following the outbreak of the famous “Rice Riot” that led to the first brutal civil war leaving the prospect for economic growth and human development in a dilemma or uncertainty. According to a Central Bank Report in 2016, imported petroleum products amounted to 212.3 million representing 21% of the total import payments. However, the economy of Liberia has faced uncertainties and growing major challenges over the past years from inflation and local currency depreciation after a slight recovery from a major recession during the Ebola crisis in 2014, and again in 2016 due to capital flight with a fall in private sector investment.

Without a doubt, access to clean, affordable and sustainable sources of energy for both domestic and commercial uses hold key to addressing challenges to Liberia’s economic growth. World Bank/CIF’s Climate Investments in Liberia is using $50 million in grants and concessional financing from the SREP to support efforts to increase energy access through off-grid electricity solutions (mini-grids and stand-alone renewable energy services) that will supplement the expansion of centralized generation and transmission facilities. Some 715,000 people are expected to benefit from development of renewable energy technologies like small hydro, solar PV, biomass, and hybrids. Moreover, the SREP planning process has focused stakeholder attention and political resolve around concrete actions for increased energy access via renewables.

Despite the growing attention and interest of the world to invest in clean sustainable energy and science-base technology, the present Liberia subscribes to the 18th century where everything were at its foundation and to obliterate what started conflicts in Liberia has been difficult because leaders have failed to address the real issues and reverted to blame-shifting of who created or inherited. With the vast natural resources and arable land throughout the country, there’s so much prospects in the energy and agricultural sectors of Liberia for rebranding and building a vibrant and sustainable economy that is food and energy self-sufficient

While transportation network is essential to our daily lives, they are one major source of greenhouse (GHG) emissions. GHG have plunged our world into the worst global crisis (Climate Change) since human existence on earth. Although they have unprecedented impacts on the livelihood of humans, there is still time for sustainable action. Section 54 of the Environmental Protection Law of Liberia is quoted: “It has been established by international research and investigation that the use of leaded gasoline and leaded paint have a public impact and cause neurological damages, especially in children”. Fossil fuels drive economic and livelihood vulnerability as was seen recently in the gas crisis. Businesses were subject to volatile fuel prices resulting in price hikes in goods and services.

Exploration for reserves offshore oil of about one billion barrels was divided by the government into 17 blocks and begin auctioning since 2004. Among the several companies participating in the process, those companies that were fortunate to have won and received licenses are Repsol, YPF, Chevron Corporation, and Woodside Petroleum. The proceeds from the sales of these oil blocks evanescence in thin air, leaving citizens to believe that discovery of oil was a curse to the Republic instead of blessing.

Liberia is richly endowed with water, mineral, resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, but her people are poor and lacking human capital, infrastructure and stability. Assessments have shown that despite the current domination of biomass for generation of energy and fossil fuel for electricity generation, Liberia has the potential to diversify its energy potential using its abundant renewable energy resources such as hydro power, biomass and solar power. For instance, Liberia’s six rivers (Mano, Saint Paul, Lofa, Saint John, Cestos and Cavalla) drain over 60% of the country’s area, having potential for hydropower (EPA strategy for 2018 -2019).

Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable clean energy is the pathway to transforming Liberia from poverty to economic sustainability to benefit from development of renewable energy technologies like small hydro, solar PV, biomass, and hybrids. These environmental and economic benefits of using renewable energy and clean technologies in Liberia such as: a) Diversifying energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels; b) Creating economic development and green jobs; c) Generating energy that produces less GHG with reduced air pollution; d) Higher-yielding agriculture; and e) Increase protection within areas known for significant natural and cultural heritage. This will further place Liberia at the center of investments and rapid economic sustainable development. Also, in line with our commitment to the Paris Agreement of 2015; we will be contributing immensely achieving our climate goals. This action will further serve as a means of revenue generation for the Government using article 6 of the Paris Agreement, carbon revenue of over 55 million could triple if carbon credits continue to rise and an increment in agricultural production.

About the Author

Isaac F. Barcon is a Licensed Physician Assistant from the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts, a Biologist, a climate justice advocate and social entrepreneur. He can be contacted via cell #: 0888669945/0775033498 or email: [email protected].

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks to the management team for publishing this story. So much at stake at this point of our history, we demand more sustainable actions.

  2. Thanks for this article cousin Barcon(Bassa man) . While visiting Liberia i wondered about the massive use of coal extracted from timber in cooking and other uses. The habitat of rare animals are being destroyed as the likes of the timber rogues and other illegal traders that are plunging the tropical forests to extinction. Other forms of energy must be deployed immediately to save the natural environment from disaster. It is my ardent hope that this message is received by the higher ups in the government. BEWARE OF THE IDES OF MARCH

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