ON THE ENERGY SUMMIT :SEEKING MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENTS IN ENERGY SECTOR WON’T SOLVE ENERGY WOES

Independent think-tank IBON advised against using the ongoing energy summit in further promoting foreign investments in the energy sector, particularly in the burgeoning biofuels industry.

According to the Department of Energy the summit is a “listening and hearing out” session involving all stakeholders in the local energy sector in order to draft longer-term solutions to the country’s energy problems, such as high oil prices. But IBON research head Sonny Africa noted that the summit is being used to further promote foreign investment in alternative fuels, such as biofuels, as a solution to the current oil crisis.

This step, he said, would only intensify further foreign control over the local energy industry. In the oil industry, for instance, the exclusive control of the industry by oil transnational corporations is the reason behind high pump prices. “There must first be a recognition that the worsening global energy insecurity is because of this dominance,” he said.

There is no question about the necessity to develop alternative sources of energy in order to confront pressing issues such as high oil prices, he said. “But to effectively address these issues there is a need to radically change the framework that countries use to develop other renewable energy sources, including biofuels.”

This requires making governments the central players in the national exploration, development and utilization of alternative sources of energy if poor countries are to achieve energy security and independence. At present, most biofuels programs in the Third World are designed to rely heavily on foreign capital and technology, and external markets. Such programs thus end up merely creating more opportunities for First World TNCs exploit the natural resources of developing countries.

Energy independence can only be achieved if energy resources are effectively controlled and managed by the state, and not by corporate interests. Effective state control, for instance, would prevent the wanton conversion of agricultural lands for biofuels production and ensure that the rights of farmers to their land, as well as national food security, would not be compromised.

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