The Missing Will Power In Jordan’s Energy Future

 If you’ve been following the local news this past week you’ll notice Jordan is set to purchase a brand-spanking new nuclear reactor from France, while building the country’s first, 40 megawattwind farm. Meanwhile, the non-stop chatter of oil-shale production (which I can guarantee won’t see efficient, full-scale commercial production for at least another decade) is still making the news.

I’m still not convinced of the government’s dedication to utilizing alternative energy sources. What utilization I do hear of seems to be pretty small scale. Compare our first, 40 megawatt wind farm to Peru’s first planned 240 megwatt wind farm.

The emphasis continues to be on nuclear power and oil shale, both of which I think have serious environmental issues and social costs.

The main problem, in my opinion, seems to come from the lack of culture and awareness when it comes to energy. The people are just as much in the dark (pun unintended) as the policymakers and therefore, solutions tend to be very monochromatic, for lack of a better word. There is no energy conscience in our society, and that explains a great deal of why people could care less about the amount of water and electricity they consume and/or waste. Even the connection between price increases and wastage are lost. Similarly, the lack of environmental awareness is what leads us to constantly pollute without a second thought (although this may be a start).

Imagine, for example, seeing a coordinated effort between the Ministry of Energy, Environment, the Greater Amman Municipality and the private sector, to turn off the lights of the Capital’s landmarks in a well-publicized campaign aimed at raising public awareness. Imagine seeing Amman listed in the international Earth Hour campaign next year. Heck, imagine, at the very least, large-scale promotion of energy-saving light bulbs and Energy Star products. Something that would actually save people, government and companies money (to speak in real terms).

Toronto’s City Hall on Earth Hour 2008

Awareness is meant to transform the way a people think and behave and this is why I feel that alternative energy is incredibly important; it has the added benefit of changing a society in the most direct of manners. Solar panels on rooftops are but one example of that change.

With that in mind.

Enter technology…

Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, has developed a catalyst that can generate oxygen from a glass of water by splitting water molecules. The reaction frees hydrogen ions to make hydrogen gas. The catalyst, which is easy and cheap to make, could be used to generate vast amounts of hydrogen using sunlight to power the reactions. The hydrogen can then be burned or run through a fuel cell to generate electricity whenever it’s needed, including when the sun isn’t shining. [source]

In short, the breakthrough is about a new way to harness the power of the Sun, 24/7. Research, if invested in, can yield some pretty brilliant results, and I think a country like Jordan should at the very least, be at the forefront of utilizing the emergence of new energy-saving technologies.

Other countries are doing it. Check out self-reliant Denmark, even a solar radio station in Argentina. Sweden will look to be completely oil-free by 2020 (around the same time Jordan will supposedly be entering its nuclear age), and I have not doubt that they’ll actually do it.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Right now, Jordan needs a bit more will power, and by will power, I mean the willingness to think in broader terms. The willingness to think outside the box. The willingness to have a more multidimensional approach to a multidimensional issue. The willingness to use micro solutions to solve macro problems.

7 thoughts on “The Missing Will Power In Jordan’s Energy Future

  1. You would think so!
    The issue of energy in Jordan could not be any more relevant to your post about corruption. The question is: What’s in it for them? I believe these days are when public officials have nothing else on their mind but what they will have for Breakfast. Their brains effectively shut down, work hours shortened, everything gets pushed back until after 7aj. Well, once Ramadan is over, people will start thinking about Eid Al Adha….

    Anyways, the problem is that these Public Officials, and law makers in the Parliament suffer from two distinct, but closely related in effect, diseases. In regard to Government Officials, unprofessionalism sits at their core. They truly have no pride in their positions for professional reasons. And that to say if, and only if, they reached that position based on merit, which is a rarity. Most government officials spend more time on protocol (a fancy word for hosting guests and doing favors for other Officials) than on the essential duties of their jobs. They basically have no sense of urgency to solve any chronic problems as long as they get promoted. They could care less for coming up with a solution to a critical issue, such as energy, since they are in a position that is idolized by the average citizen, who, as you said, “is in the dark.”

    The MPs, who are supposed to be the voice of their constituents, are just doing so. People doubt that a drama series is causing societal problems, the parliament will discuss it. people, unknowingly, are suffering from pollution, uncertain energy future, continuously increasing costs. But, how would their representatives know their needs for solving such issues?

    When a member of parliament is hosted at an acquaintance’s home for Mansaf, the host will most likely boast of how he was able to pull off such a grand event, but not what issues where discussed, whats that PM stand on the issue of shale oil, or how does that PM respond to peoples’ unease with the lack of progress at the parliament.

    Sadly, in Jordan, all three branches of of government suffer from a stubborn case of impotence. They suffer from persistent ineffective intercommunication. They see their positions as status, nothing else.

  2. What is also amazing is that Jordan has huge expanses of flat, sunny, hot desert and no one is talking about building a solar plant.

    Processing oil from shale consumes huge amounts of water, is no one talking about this? It seems like a problem for such an arid country…

  3. Hello Nas,

    I was wondering while reading this post, what if there is “something” we “the Jordanian citizens” can do, I don’t mean go on strike, I mean, there should be a way, the people on all levels can do something, still convinced that certain projects or strategies need governmental sponsorship or responsibility.
    But don’t want to give up hope, and almost certain that if we “don’t” do it, government won’t, I dunno, its just ideas.


  4. We have WIND in Jordan?!!!!
    suddenly my mind swept away, and i imagined a Jordanian Don Quixote from the south fighting windmills in the scourching heat of the desert!!

    I hope they stick to the Solar energy solutions for the time being!
    Officials: don’t get carried away please.

  5. I have to also wonder, where’s the solar power? I know some buildings (not mine, but…) use solar power to heat water, but what about generating power?! Those “greenies” in the US have been doing for years. They make those amazing green homes with solar panels stretching across the roof to generate all the power they need. Maybe Jordan could benefit from the concept that many American states have. Since the government grants a monopoly for power distribution, if you can generate your own power and more than you need, the power company MUST buy your excess. That’d give some incentive to figure it out, no? Go SOLAR!

  6. Re: MommaBean and S N. Solar power is surely coming but wind is far ahead and that’s why it’s winning in many places in the world including Jordan where supposedly they have complete data for wind patterns throughout the country (I read that in some Jordan Business or Venture magazine article last time I was in Jordan).

    About nuclear energy, I’m really worried about the idea of the nuclear reactor in Jordan simply because it comes with the environmental cost of mining for uranium in Jordan as well (article mentions southern regions of Jordan). I think a reliance on wind, solar and geothermal energy is where Jordan’s focus should be.

    Our government has yet to introduce tax incentives that would put us on a steady trend that reduces our reliance on oil. They can start by introducing custom tax brackets for imported cars that are based on mpg (mile per gallon) ratings. I think they have already removed the private tax on hybrid vehicles, but the high price of those vehicles really renders the incentive inapplicable in the mind of the average Jordanian.

  7. Hi Nas. Most observers doubt that Germany or Sweden will be able to give up on nukes. If they do, they will simply burn more coal, which is not particularly eco-friendly.

    I agree that we should look at all the alternatives. I will try and get to these on my blog, if you care to follow up.

Your Two Piasters: