Costa Rica: First Nation to Ban Fossil Fuels

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Carlos Alvarado’s inauguration. Picture from

In May, Costa Rica’s new 38 year old president Carlos Alvarado announced the plan of the ban in his inauguration speech. Costa Rica will be the first nation in the world to eliminate fossil fuels completely, but it will be a hassle.

In his speech, he said that “Costa Rica must be one of the first countries to decarbonize, if not the first to accomplish it.” He also said “When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate … that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” he promised to the crowds. More than 99% of the electricity in Costa Rica is genereted from alternative energy. The five different renewable sources are hydropower (78%), wind (10%), geothermal energy (10%), biomass and solar (1%).

In recent years, the country’s demand for oil has actually grown. This growth is because of the gas dependent transportation sector. Hybrid and electric cars make less than 2% of the country’s total vehicles. Most residents are moving away from public transportation, which is leading to the explosive growth in private vehicle demand. Based on 2016 data, there were twice as many cars registered as babies born in that year. This problem can be changed if new regulations are placed on fossil fuels to make people go back to public transportation or electric vehicles.

There is also increased demand for electricity, but the renewable energy sources that are used will be sufficient to fulfill the demand. Costa Rica has been investing in new projects for the past 25 years. Projects like new wind farms, El Diquis Dam, and Reventazón-which is the largest hydroelectric project in Central America. The Reventazón project is near the country’s Caribbean coast and it became fully functional in September. Another project called El Diquís dam which would be located in the country’s south-west has been held up for years due to conflicts with indigenous groups.This project has been criticized by environmental groups and by indigenous people for its position along a critical wildlife corridor. The project would flood 10 percent of the China Kichá Indigenous territory (104 hectares) and 8 percent of another tribal communities of Curré and Boruca (726 hectares). The El Diquís dam project would have generated power for more than one million consumers but in 2016, the project was called off by the supreme court. The state run project was shutdown because of failing to consult indigenous communities. On the other hand, solar power has been pushed aside by the government due to political concerns that home-generated power would cut into the state electricity company’s profits.

Despite the country’s limitations, Costa Rica’s renewable electricity production will probably continue to grow. However, reaching 100% clean transportation will be troublesome because there is no infastructure to use. In my opinion, the complete elimination of oil immediately is a reach and could put the whole plan in jeopardy. The government has to build infastructure slowly while doing more regulations on the fossil fuel sector. This will eventually lead to a green Costa Rica.

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Finance and Economics graduate “The truth is permanent, everything else will fall by the way side.” Reach me at

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