Human civilizations have witnessed and experienced various ups and downs, which ranged from progress, stagnation, to dissolution. These various epochs have been etched in our world history, but the impact of the industrial revolution undoubtedly shaped how we spend our lives for the past couple of centuries. Industrialization began in Britain, where there was a transformation of the British economy. The aforementioned economy was predominantly agriculture-based, but through the industrial revolution, manufacturing flourished and started to contribute significantly locally and, eventually, beyond the British Isles. Socially, families initially residing in the country’s rural areas migrated to larger cities, in search of better pastures. Scientists continue to debate both the causes and consequences of industrialization, but the industrial age has nonetheless spurred the global economy’s appetite for steel, coal, and oil.
Both coal and oil are fossil fuels that release tremendous amounts of energy when burned. This energy can be utilized to generate electricity, which enabled us to achieve productivity levels that support modern-day economies which, in turn, have improved the living standards of many societies. This dependency is mirrored in the various sectors of the economy. Tourism cannot flourish if airplanes don’t fly and burn jet fuel. Construction companies cannot generate employment opportunities if asphalt and cement aren’t readily available. Even the health sector cannot deliver quality service if their state-of-the-art machines have no electricity access. Financially wealthy nations have greatly depended on electricity generated by burning these hydrocarbons. Newly industrialized countries are following suit.
Needless to say, use of these non-renewable energy resources is at a crossroads. A myriad of issues have arisen covering anywhere from climate change to the motions of the global market. With various international discussions tackling carbon emissions, net zero has been the buzzword in the recent Conference of the Parties (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland. It called for government intervention to address the threats of increasing average global temperatures by investing aggressively in renewable energy sources and cost-effective technologies that would hopefully pave the way for a decarbonized society.
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However, the realities seem to be formidable as the demand for “dinosaur juice” in the global market is on the rise as countries begin to open up their economies. In addition, investments in oil have been dropping resulting in a looming crunch in supply in the market. Basic economics would tell that a decrease in supply coupled with an increase in demand will put upward pressure on prices. Oil cartels like the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) serve as obstacles, as these petrostates are greatly dependent on these hydrocarbons in keeping their respective economies running. This has led the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, India, and China to release a portion of their state-owned stockpiled oil to the market in an attempt to keep prices down.
With the hydrocarbon market’s volatility and unpredictability, the Philippines always ends up a perennial victim of rising oil prices. As a consumption-based economy, all consumers in the archipelago end up shouldering its costs impacts to food, transportation, and other services. Electricity bills have also been a headache to Filipino households, as it is well-known that electricity rates in the Philippines are one of the highest in the Asia Pacific region which, in turn, increases the operating costs of various businesses contributing to a lowering of the country’s economic competitiveness in the region. What should be done to address such predicaments? These require multi-faceted solutions.
The first thing is to utilize nuclear energy by upgrading and modernizing the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Pragmatism is the name of the game if we are to provide a decent answer to our energy needs, and nuclear power addresses them effectively. Even though the nuclear plant was constructed during the Marcos years, it is in the interest of every Filipino that it be run safely and through modern means. Careful re-activation should resolve a significant majority of these safety-related issues. In addition, nuclear power provides cheap electricity while releasing virtually zero carbon to the atmosphere, which aids the country in achieving the lofty carbon-neutral goal in a few decades. As long as proper operation standards are observed, nuclear energy will definitely boost the nation’s economic output.
Second is to tap the latent renewable energy potential of the country’s geography. As the Philippines is blessed with volcanoes, strong winds, and large bodies of water, utilizing geothermal power, wind power, and hydropower will lessen the nation’s dependency on these hydrocarbons. Making parts of the country as test subjects in harnessing wave energy, which is currently under development, will aid in making the Philippines become the poster child of sustainable energy in Asia Pacific. The wind turbines of Ilocos Norte serve as a notable starting point, if the Philippines is indeed serious in maximizing these renewable sources of energy.
Finally, continuous investment in the energy sector both from the government and private entities is imperative. A number of the country’s power plants are ageing and run inefficiently, particularly those that were built during the Marcos administration. Simply mothballing much-needed energy infrastructure projects would run counter to accomplishing energy security, specially considering that building power-generating capacity from scratch cannot be done overnight. As long as the costs incurred in constructing, maintaining, and operating these power plants are recoupable and can generate profit in the long run, these investments are worth considering.
All three of these approaches are feasible in the Philippine context, only if we let economics work instead of wasting resources on political bickering, political vendetta, and political posturing. Consistency to execute the country’s energy policy must go beyond political maneuvering because energy security is vital to the national interest and affects millions of Filipinos. If the Philippines is indeed bound to expand its economy, satisfying the citizens’ appetite for affordable, readily available, and environmentally-friendly energy is a prerequisite.
As such, electing a presidential candidate for the 2022 general elections who has a platform and the background to address the country’s energy needs is of paramount importance. Quoting Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck; politics is the art of the possible. Hopefully, all the presidentiables who are knocking at the doors of Malacanang would use their political capital to attain energy security for the Philippines.
A no one who enjoys the fun things of life in private.
A believer of freedom, capitalism, and conservative brand of politics.
A no one who cares less about popular public opinion.
A believer that life can be better, if every one is a tad more responsible.