Green Growth Is The Best Strategy for Puerto Rico — #CleanTechnica Interview

, December 12th, 2018

Hurricane Maria ripped through the foliage umbrella over Puerto Rico, destroying much in its path. The territory’s archaic and outdated energy infrastructure was laid open, a gnarl of last century metal and wires that no longer supported 21st century energy needs. The resulting blackout was the longest and largest in US history. Whether well-meaning, self-interested, or incompetent — you decide — the repair efforts of federal and local authorities have been ineffective and continue to have infrastructure gaps into late 2018. Green growth may be the only viable solution to Puerto Rico’s crisis that exposed critical failures in power, economy, and self-governance.

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Austerity Versus Green Growth for Puerto Rico

Recently I attended a presentation by Dr. Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, sponsored by the Centro Hemisférico de Cooperación (CoHemis) at UPRM.  The title of his talk was  Austerity Versus Green Growth for Puerto Rico.  The thesis of the presentation was that green energy is in fact the solution to our economic problems in Puerto Rico.  The pdf version of the paper by the same title is available for download at the following link:

Puerto Rico will not be able to turn its economy around through imposed austerity measures.  The result will lead to extreme uncertainty for investors, continuous exodus of our younger population, a contracting tax base, severe erosion in the quality of our public education, reduction in public services in general, negative economic growth, etc, etc.  Austerity Versus Green Growth for Puerto Rico argues that there is a much better alternative.  The alternative is primarily based on a carbon tax on fossil fuel (approximately 1 cent per gallon of gasoline), which will allow Puerto Rico to transition to 100% green energy by 2050. In their plan, the carbon tax would be used to provide investment funding for renewable energy (combined with private investment), provide rebates for low income people who would be most affected by a carbon tax, and to service the Government debt (currently around $70 billion).  The advantages of the plan include the following: Approximately $4 billion per year that is currently being spent on imported fossil fuel would be invested back into the island’s economy; the green energy used in the island will be up to three times less expensive than the imported fossil fuel; the net job creation through both clean energy investments and energy import substitution would result in an increase in 25,000 jobs by 2020 and up to 80,000 jobs by 2050; energy efficiencies (e.g., public transportation, home solar energy systems, hybrid and electric cars) will reduce expenses for families; Puerto Rico will be able to recover more rapidly from natural disasters like Hurricane Maria; and as an added bonus, Puerto Rico would essentially eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, thereby contributing to the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims as maintaining global average air temperatures below 2 degrees Centigrade.

Please contact your Representative or Senator and let them know your opinion on this issue.

Eric Harmsen,