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Fuel-Starved Caribbean Nations Seeking Alternatives

images_0Now that Venezuela can no longer afford to subsidize cheap oil for Caribbean countries, the U.S. wants to step into the region’s fuel future, and the State Department’s point man was in Coral Gables Wednesday to promote that effort.

The poor and indebted island nations of the Caribbean rely heavily – too heavily – on expensive fossil fuel imports. Over the past decade, oil-rich Venezuela has helped them out with its Petrocaribe program. But with Venezuela’s economy now in ruins, the Caribbean desperately needs alternatives.

The Obama administration believes developing cleaner energy sources there – like wind, solar and geothermal – is the way the region should go.

“That’s especially true given the drop in the cost of the technologies,” says Robert Ichord, deputy assistant secretary of state for energy transformation. Those savings will “help [Caribbean economies] grow and develop domestic industries and businesses.”

At a forum on transitioning to clean energy in the Caribbean and Central America, hosted by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas at the Biltmore Hotel, Ichord laid out that administration’s new Caribbean Energy Security Initiative. CESI is spearheading both U.S. and private sector investment in clean-energy tech for the region.

Ichord also told WLRN it’s too early to tell if Cuba will become a part of that effort when Washington and Havana re-establish diplomatic relations next week.

“We just learned that the Cubans are sending an energy delegation to the Caribbean energy conference in early October,” Ichord said. “I’m interested to hear their interest in regional cooperation.”

It could be strong: Cuba also depends greatly on fossil fuel and especially Venezuelan oil.


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