To smelt or not to smelt, that is the question.
As a nation, we have been fortunate to have such a vast array of resources at our fingertips, under our lands and seas. Oil is king, but an old king and Natural Gas his relatively reserved queen. Oil is an old king who knows that these are his last days on the throne but pretends like he is not concerned. But we can all see his wrinkles, and we all talk about him behind his back, now that he is old and weak. Ethanol, Hydrogen, and Hybrids are younger, spicier, more attractive. This old king cannot run our nation for much longer and his queen becomes more and more withdrawn, so what then is the solution?
It seemed like the government had hit on a good idea with smelting. We have the energy infrasturcture to fuel the process for a relatively inexpensive price. Once we protected our share of the profit, it seemed like it would work.
Then came the dissenters! Oh the dissenters. Smelting would not be their new king! Some residents of the area cried foul, Larry Achong mouthed fowl, (well not quite but i eh writing d four letter word he say), and it seemed like environmentalists and UWI’s academia had found something brand new, a political voice.
And so, they were championed by the media. The women of Chattam organized themselves into a grassroots political force like none seen in so long. The government, just prior to Christmas rescinded. The plant would be relocated to Otaheite they announced. Chattam cheered, Otaheite groaned.
Our current Prime Minister, announced last year that after politics he saw himself as a pastor. Well, while still a politician, it seems that a trip to Africa gave him powers…he resurrected the Chattam smelter. And again public outcry, with UWI at the centre of the opposing voice.
I myself, was in stern opposition initially to the idea of a (or three) smelter(s). Ah mean, I was even considering marching on the embassy in Miami. But then I wondered, after oil, what would we do? Indeed we do need a viable economic alternative for the future, and the sooner we find it the better. So I started doing my own research on the process and the environmental risks. Yes, there are cancer causing agents, and hazards to air and water. But once environmental standards are met, barring some horrific accident, Smelter makes a pretty handsome ruler. Might even be better looking that oil if given a chance.
The trick though, a la peanut butter sandwiches and all, is meeting environmental standards. I recently googled the term “alcoa violations”. Carry this out for yourself, have a look at the result list generated by google.
Alcoa is not the responsible firm that we are being led to believe. Alcoa has been painted and madeup to look like a pretty girl, but her undies are dirty. In the United States alone they have almost 2,000 environmental violations. Thats in the US, not a Trinidad where and environmental minister might get paid to look the other way. Not in Trinidad where we grow up KNOWING that our political system is corrupt. This is in the US, not a perfect country, but a bit more transparent that our own Trinbago. This is the fact that has finally allowed me to make a decision and one that I will stick by. As long as Alcoa is involved, I wish no part of this. No amount of profit, no amount of fines will recover a loss in human life. A US$1 billion is not enough. There is no price on quality of life, simply put.
An irresponsible firm such as Alcoa will not respect the EPA of a tiny Third World country, if they violate the EPA standards of their OWN country. I guess I prefer a poor, healthy Trinbago in the future, as opposed to the wealthy, sickly one that I see if Alcoa is involved.
NOT TO SMELT!