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General News    H4'ed 12/2/17

Will Puerto Rico Be Singapore or SOLARTOPIA?

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"I am 100 percent backing renewables," said Governor Rosselló to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "This is an opportunity to make microgrids in Puerto Rico so they can be sustained in different areas."


But not everyone shares the vision of a green-powered future. In October, Puerto Rico's national utility, PREPA, made global headlines with a $300 million grid rebuilding contract given to Whitefish Energy, a two-year-old two-man operation based in Whitefish, Montana.

Whitefish is the hometown of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose son had worked for the company. When it began shipping in line workers at huge rates, they were showered by locals with rocks and bottles. Finally the contract was voided and PREPA's president resigned.

More recently, PREPA awarded a $200 million contract to Cobra Acquisitions LLC, a one-year-old subsidiary of Oklahoma-based Mammoth, which is primarily in the oil, gas, and fracking business. Nearly all Puerto Rico's pre-Maria power came from fossil fuels. Its future plans still include a $400 million liquid gas terminal.

The fossil-fueled vision has strong support among lawmakers like Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, who is backed by the oil and gas industry. Lamborn told a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing in early November that "renewables are great, but to provide that much electricity in that short a time is unrealistic." Lamborn instead supports natural gas, with a rollback of environmental protections to encourage drilling and imports.

Committee Chair Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, also the recipient of fossil industry support, has joined Lamborn in opposing an EPA presence that might restrict drilling and imports for a restored fossil-fired grid.

But corporate visions for the islands hardly stop with gas and oil. Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, thinks "Puerto Rico has the potential of being the Hong Kong of the United States, where businesses would flood in there."

"Puerto Rico has the potential of being the Hong Kong of the United States, where businesses would flood in there."

Benjamin Dierker, of the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education, wants an "economic freedom zone" where environmental, minimum wage and other legal requirements would disappear. The "less restricted environment with more available resources would open the doors to investment and real estate development," he says.

Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, also wants a reduced minimum wage and "corporate-friendly economic reforms" to make Puerto Rico "the Singapore of the Caribbean."


Amid all of this corporate conniving, the people of Puerto Rico remain in dire straits.

"Food and water are still in short supply," Joel Segal, a North Carolina activist with strong ties to the island, said in a recent radio interview on my Green Power & Wellnessshow on www.prn.fm. "The FEMA people just hand out forms with a phone number to call and a website to consult. People can't even get tarps to cover what's left of their homes."

At least 200,000 citizens have already left Puerto Rico, most headed for Florida.

Because land titles have been passed down through generations of the poor, some ancestral residents are not being let back into what's left of their homes because they can't officially prove ownership.

Residents who have been restoring school buildings and re-starting classes at their own expense are being told by local authorities they must have inspections that never happen and permits that never come. Education activists are afraid that private charter schools will crush the public system, as in New Orleans after Katrina, where only a few public schools remain.

Because land titles have been passed down through generations of the poor, some ancestral residents are not being let back into what's left of their homes because they can't officially prove ownership.

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Harvey Wasserman Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Harvey is a lifelong activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, election protection, social justice, grass-roots politics and natural healing, personal and planetary.He hosts "California Solartopia" at KPFK-Pacifica and "Green Power & Wellness" atprn.fm. (more...)
 

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