Top republican plans to use fossil fuels to make puerto rico “the energy hub of the entire caribbean” gas vs electric oven temperature


Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty ImagesAsked if he will be meeting with oil and gas companies during his time on the island this week, he said he would not, but that he has been talking to them in Washington. When asked which companies in particular he had been meeting with, Bishop said, “This is like … if I start thanking the volunteers on my campaign, I’ll insult somebody by forgetting them. So, let’s just keep it blanket and say I love all of them.”

Bishop laid out some specific changes he would like to see to the energy landscape in Puerto Rico. “I would love to see more natural gas ports. They could be either stationary or terminals that float, as we have in other areas of the world,” he said, noting that there “has to be some infrastructure built before that. You just can’t put the ports in there. … There has to be infrastructure to integrate that within the bill.” He did not elaborate on whether he was referring to a specific piece of legislation.

Notably absent from Bishop’s remarks was the idea of renewable power. As Naomi Klein noted recently, clean energy sources were among the most resilient during and after Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last September. Casa Pueblo, for instance, a long-standing community center in Adjuntas and an early adopter of solar technology, kept its lights on as its neighbors were left without power for weeks and even months after the storm — an “energy oasis.” Nine months after Maria, hundreds of thousands of people remain without power around the island.

The center’s director, Arturo Massol, told me not long after Maria, “We don’t have natural gas or coal or oil. But we have plenty of sun, and if we want to make more resilient communities we need to reduce the vulnerability of an energy system that collapses frequently,” as it did several weeks ago when a subcontractor got too close to a downed high-voltage line.

Bishop’s remarks come in the context of a long-running push to privatize the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, the most recent plan for which would see different pieces of the utility’s transmission, distribution, and generation capacity auctioned off to private bidders. He’ll meet with the utility — which is some $9 billion in debt — on Friday.

The natural resources committee Bishop chairs has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico’s federally appointed Fiscal Oversight Board, and he and González-Colón spent much of the press conference expressing their shared frustration with the board and the need for more oversight over the body. Last month, in a scathing letter, he criticized board members for not taking a stronger hand with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has said he will refuse to weaken labor protections or the island’s pension system, as the panel has demanded. At the press conference, Bishop committed to holding an oversight hearing some time later this spring or over the summer. And while the board, Rosselló, and Bishop have all traded barbs, they all agree that PREPA should be privatized.

“There is no technical reason why PREPA couldn’t transition its system off of oil and achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 or 2050, as Hawaii is planning to do,” she said. She recently authored an IEEFA study outlining why privatizing PREPA would be a poor means of modernizing it, and told me that the utility currently spends around $1 billion a year on imported fuel, down from before the 2014 oil crash. PREPA generates just 2 percent of its power from renewables.

If Bishop’s vision becomes a reality, he and his allies on the island could drive Puerto Rico in the polar opposite direction, encouraging companies to import fuel to the island only to export it back out to other Caribbean nations, dependent — like most island energy systems—on oil and gas shipped in from elsewhere, with profits funneled almost entirely to multinational fossil fuel corporations.