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A Symbol of Mindless Waste


Dear Source:
Eighteen long months into its first term our Government still does not have a plan in place to improve our energy situation. But there is a growing sense of urgency and with that comes the temptation to jump on half-solutions and temporary compromises that could cost us dearly down the road. And then there is WAPA.
WAPA is our Holy Cow: We can dance around it, but we can't touch it. As a result the entire Territory is slowly bleeding itself into a state of anemia. WAPA is a monopoly with no accountability. – Back in the fifties and sixties the old USSR and much of occupied Eastern Europe tried hard to make this formula work. As we know now, it didn't work there either.
All around us progressive societies have seen the writing on the wall and have set high goals for their energy policies. Converting to 100% renewable energy is a very real possibility. The biggest roadblock is always the same: Lack of political will.
Down In Bonaire they seem to have overcome this obstacle and by 2009 all 12,000 Bonarians (?) will get their electricity from renewable energy sources, thus securing themselves showcase status, bragging rights and a free boost to eco tourism.
Can we do it here? Sure we can. Do we have the political will to do it? Probably not. But let us not forget that there are two sides to the energy issue: There is the way we produce it, and then there is the way we use it: An average American household uses somewhere between 600 and 1000kwh monthly while in Europe the average is below 400kwh, for most parts due to strict building codes and super efficient appliances, but also due to a change in mindsets, something that is fairly easily achieved in a highly educated society.
Over here it makes the front page when we put up a couple of solar lights in public places, and we shouldn't make fun of it. It is a beginning. But the fact remains that our VI Government could save millions of Dollars every year by cutting down on its crazy waste of energy. The list is a mile long, but here are a couple of big ticket items: Changing all streetlights from sodium to LCD could save us a minimum of $27mill over10 years. Adding intelligence to the traffic control system in downtown Charlotte Amalia would improve the flow of traffic and save thousands of gallons of fuel burnt off by idling cars, not to talk about cutting down on wasted man hours both in the public and the private sector.
And since we are on cars: Nobody seems to know exactly how many government owned cars we have, and attempts to cut down on unauthorized driving have not been overly successful.
Leading by example works. So why does our Governor still maintain a fleet of black heat absorbing a/c greedy V8 guzzlers? Nobody is asking our Governor to take his racing bike to Government House (like a PM used to do in Denmark), but surely some form of compromise could be worked out. We need an Energy Hot Line where ordinary people can call in and report on energy waste they see with their own very eyes, and we need an Energy Police Force to follow up on the calls.
Finally, here is an example that speaks volumes about the VI Government's failure to cut down on its own bloated energy consumption: For more than a year the STT Blydon Marine parking lot light has been burning 24/7, all due to a faulty photo cell. In spite of dozens of Emails to various departments of VIG, guess what! The light is still on, and a conservative estimate shows that this one light has wasted $730 of your taxpayer's money. That may not seem like a lot of money until you learn that a new photocell costs $20 and that 10 minutes and a 4ft stepladder is all that is needed for the fix.
The Blydon Marine parking lot light has come to symbolize the mindless waste of the VI. Government, so you shouldn't be surprised if you happen to drive by there at noon Monday 31st and see a concerned citizen put up a 4ft. step ladder and pop in a new photo cell. Is it going to happen? Well, you'll have to be there to see for yourself. Happy Transfer Day.
Steffen Larsen
St. Croix

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