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Energy independence and energy security

By Jeffrey Voacolo

The start of one of the biggest booms and technology shifts in U.S. history was kindled by the Spindletop oil field discovery in 1901 in a little town of Springfield, Texas.

Within 15 years, there wasn’t a horse and buggy on any street. By the 1920s, we saw growth unsurpassed as our mobility increased with Henry Ford’s Model A and factories across the United States were chugging away at full capacity.

Black oil—or “black gold,” as the Texans called it— made America what it is today. Even today, no matter where oil is produced, the price is fixed to the Gulf of Mexico and its oil production.

Oil was so plentiful that in some areas across Texas, Oklahoma and the Southwest, you could scrape the dirt away literally and oil would bleed out of the ground. Oil was plentiful and cheap.

Little did we know then the impact this fuel burning would have on our planet.

Fast forward a hundred years later and we are in a whole different situation. Once America took full advantage of the benefits of oil, transportation, industry and steel mills, so did the rest of the world.

Even today, developing countries are destroying their environment for the betterment of capitalism. Believe me, I am a capitalist but not at the expense of destroying this planet for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I believe we should all leave this world a better place, not make as much money as we can now so our linage has no future, or leave them with a destroyed world that they will inherit at our expense or pleasure.

Now, the next energy shift is here, and it is coming hard and fast. Just like the cellphone and fiber-optic industries did in the 90s, it has experienced a 20-year evolution or metamorphosis and is growing wings.

Climate change is real, and it is happening across the world. Over the last five years, we have seen more destructions on this planet with the severity of storm strength increasing in every sector, fires, typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes. Beach fronts and whole islands are disappearing.

Now knowing the downside of burning this destructive fossil fuel and the increasing costs of extracting it from of the ground, what is Guam doing to combat and protect this island from the ever-increasing costs and volatility that we have been dealing with over the last 30 years?

Building a power plant that burns oil for the next 30 years is not on my map as being protected from this ever-increasingly volatile commodity.

The new power plant was sold to the public as being the best solution for Guam’s energy independence and energy security. Was this true?

Being told that it is a dual-fuel source generation plant, that one day will be able to switch over to liquefied natural gas (LNG), another fossil fuel, means we will be landing in the same boat.

Hawaii scrapped LNG as a fuel source more than seven years ago. They deemed it too costly to ship, then transfer from liquid to gas and transport the gas to the power plants.

If Hawaii scrapped this, why would anyone think this would be a reasonable fuel for Guam?

We were sold a power plant that will burn oil for the next 30 years. This is basically stepping back in time to relive another 30 years of being strangled with a colossal power plant that we will not need in five to seven years. ADVERTISEMENT

Energy should be consumed at the point of production. Will these huge solar farms being built on Guam guarantee energy security for the island that is sitting in the middle of typhoon alley?

And again, you need to transform and transmit, then distribute this energy to where it is consumed by businesses and residential homes.

Did we not learn anything from the impact of Yutu, a category 5 typhoon that hit the CNMI? The power plant was up and running in two weeks, but we had no transmission or distribution lines to carry the energy. The average consumer was out of power for three months. Is this energy security?

Distributed solar energy with battery storage is here. Power is generated at the business or your residential house and consumed or stored for power outages, storms, or just self-consumption at night. This is true energy security.

I do not believe the leaders whom we continue to vote for to run this agency have Guam’s interest in line with what Guam needs now: energy independence and energy security.

I dread the thought of paying for this power plant and seeing it left idle in no less than 10 years while paying off a 30-year contract with an off-island company to burn oil and produce energy that no one needs.

Sunsets are pretty but generating my own energy and having energy independence and energy security is prettier to me.

Jeffrey Voacolo is the vice president and chief operations officer of Generation Renewable Inc.Send feedback to

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