Today’s Opinion: Wasting energyPOSTED: 02/28/11 12:19 PM
The crisis in North Africa is going to have an effect on our daily lives in the Caribbean. Libya’s oil output has dropped by 75 percent and the effect will be higher prices on the global oil market. That will, sooner or later, be felt at the gas pump on our island, it will be reflected in our energy bills, and we will also feel it at the check outs in our supermarkets.
Facing higher fuel prices, Economic Affairs Minister Franklin Meyers has called on citizens to conserve energy on the road and at home. That will not make prices go down of course, or make Libya put more oil on the market, but it will save individual consumers a penny here and possibly a dollar there.
The St. Maarten government is one of the most wasteful organizations as far as energy consumption is concerned, so Minister Meyers’ remark, no matter how justified, comes across a little awkward.
Just this Friday we witnessed an indication of how thoughtless the government is when it comes to saving energy, or maybe we ought to say about wasting energy.
The biggest energy user on the island, after cars and buses, is the air conditioning. Friday afternoon there was a meeting at the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall at the government administration building. The tribune was packed, the air conditioning was keeping the place nice and cool, and the door of the meeting hall was open.
This is happening all the time. In a way, the government is wasting energy to cool down Clem Labega Square. It is a ridiculous and thoughtless attitude coming from a government that is struggling to balance its budget. It just makes one wonder about how much the government owes utilities company GEBE, because it treats energy as if it costs nothing at all.
Closing the door to that meeting hall is only the beginning of a solution. There is also the temperature civil servants apparently like to maintain in their offices. In the A.C. Wathey legislative hall it is always freezing. In the new parliament building it is freezing. In the courthouse it is freezing. And though we have to admit that we did not go around all government offices to check the temperature, we’re pretty sure that the temperatures are freezing everywhere.
There are of course ways to deal with these situations. A proper energy management system could take away control over office air conditioning systems from employees who wallow in arctic temperatures at the taxpayers’ expense.
An indoor temperature of 23 to 24 degrees is agreeable, considering that the temperature outside is usually quite a few degrees higher. There is no need to set the air conditioning at 20 or even 18 degrees. Yet this is the case in many offices across the island.
Maybe we’re entering tricky territory here, but the issue needs to be addressed. Women who are in menopause usually experience hot flashes. It is a very disagreeable condition, and we have heard quite some stories about offices where the air conditioning is cranked down further and further because these women feel it is too hot in their office.
The reality is that their body temperature is skyrocketing. That this makes them uncomfortable is certain. But the thing is: lowering the air conditioning is not the solution to this condition. There is very good medication on the market that will help women to control the effects of menopause. It is not exactly cheap, but we imagine that the health care coverage for especially civil servants will offer a solution for the monetary aspect. After all, menopause is a medical condition.
So before Minister Meyers starts telling citizens that they have to start conserving energy, we think he ought to take a good hard look what is going on within the government organization and how his civil servants are handling their air conditioning. Apart from that, the incoming Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever may want to negotiate an agreement with the insurance companies to offer an affordable solution to civil servants that suffer negative effects from menopause.