The Black Energy Economy Misnomer (1)

by Bemgba Nyakuma

The fate of mankind and the future of imminent generations have been greatly discussed over the years. One recurring theme in these discussions is energy and the role it will ultimately play in the scheme of events. Many observers believe that the drive to achieve this utopian existence greatly preached by environmentalists and sustainability eggheads is to create a more sustainable, cleaner and safer world by making wiser energy choices. I couldn’t agree more. However the crux of this piece is not to sing along with these pundits; neither is it to cast a shadow on their plans but in fact it is to correct a misnomer. While reading the online version of the Nigerian newspaper, The Daily Independent, I came across the headline; “Nigeria Must Move From ‘Black Economy’ To ‘Green Economy’–NEXIM”.

The article quotes the NEXIM boss as saying; “Nigeria’s development might tarry a while until the nation moves away from the realm of “Black Economy” into that of Green economy” He went further to state that, “there was the need for the country to focus on the green economy and renewable energy in its bid to join global forces to save a world that is threatened by climate change and global warming” Well said on both counts, I couldn’t agree more. In fact no economy in the world can grow let alone develop without an adequate and reliable supply of energy. However, my attention was drawn to the term “Black Energy” used in this article. The expression “Black Energy” is in fact a misnomer. My reply to that article online read thus;

Firstly, there is no such term or concept as a “Black Economy” in the context of Sustainable Energy or Sustainable Energy Economics. There however exists an economy based on conventional or primary sources of energy such as fossil fuels, as rightly stated by the article; The NEXIM Boss in explaining what he meant by a “black economy”, stated that such economy is an economy that is still wholly dependent on fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum and natural gas” While Black in reference to power and energy only refers to power cuts otherwise known as Black Outs is what can suffice.

In truth the widely preached transition from fossil fuel economy to a renewable or sustainable energy economy termed Green energy is still a concept under immense research. Debates on the efficacy and efficiency of this transition are still a hot topic of discussion among scientists, politicians and opinion makers around the world. More so research analysis and technology assessment of the various renewable energy technologies over the years have even shown that these technologies are not as efficient as may have been perceived in curbing the effects of climate change and global warming. Sadly, it is my belief that term global warming may even have to revised or perhaps redefined in the near future, in view of recent climatic and atmospheric conditions around the world late.

While this is solely my own opinion, what is in fact a general consensus is that Biofuels one of many Green/Renewable Technologies, has been proven to emit as much CO2 as a fossil fuel such as gasoline. It’s perceived and calculated carbon neutrality is utopian, faulty and downright misguided not forgetting the moral and ethic issues that plague it. The efficiency of solars cells, on the other hand, is still deep in research with little success in improvement beyond the lowly 23% threshold for silicon based wafers; Hydrogen rather sadly still carries the safety issues, low storage capacity and the jinx of the well publicized Hindenburg disaster of 1937 among others issues. Wind energy as Solar Energy still poses the problem of intermittent supply of energy and lack of a well developed knowledge especially in developing economies like Nigeria.

More importantly, scientists have identified that the total replacement of fossil with renewable energy is at best a nirvana and may never happen. Many factors in addition to those enumerated above such politics & political instability, technology dependencies and the lock-in theory may all hamper the development and adoption of renewable energy technologies.

On a final note, the adoption of renewable energies is fraught with a myriad of problems including the fact that it is very capital intensive and requires a pool technical skilled persons and a knowledge base not yet developed in the country at the moment – creating a bleak or black scenario for energy. However, all these are but challenges which can be tackled by adequate and focused research efforts by both the academia and public-private sector debates. It is this commendable that institutions such as the NEXIM Bank, Afrexim Bank, ECOWAS Bank (EBID), African Biofuels and Renewable Energy Fund (ABREF) and Global Fuels Limited have all joined hands to discuss the issue. However, my fears like that of many, I presume, is that resolutions drafted from these meetings will simply end up in shelves in the well furnished offices of such banks and institutions rather than in the research labs and experimental field/site where they can make meaningful contributions to the nation and humanity. The decisions from such policy debates, meetings and conferences as the NEXIM Boss rightly quips reshape and refocus the nation’s energy policies and directives towards achieving a more sustainable future for the present as well future generations.

To be continued.

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