Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is GreenTown?
A: GreenTown Curaçao is a lively green Caribbean waterfront city, run on sustainable energy, where thousands of people live and work. GreenTown is an alternative to the heavily polluting Isla oil refinery.
Q: Will there still be enough gasoline for the cars on Curaçao if the refinery closes down?
A: Yes. It is possible to buy gasoline and other necessary fuels on the free market. In that case tankers would deliver gasoline to Curaçao. Neither Bonaire nor St. Martin has oil refineries yet gasoline is still cheap there. Luckily on Curacao we have enough storage tanks at Bullenbaai to stock up on gasoline.
Q: If the refinery closes down won’t gasoline become much more expensive?
A: No. In fact, we wouldn’t have to rely on the Isla refinery but could use the free market to our advantage when buying gasoline. At the moment we are obligated to buy from the Isla refinery. Gasoline prices are the same here as they are on St. Martin, and they do not have a refinery. We can conclude that currently Curaçao does not provide cheap gasoline but that we pay as much for it as countries that do not have refineries.
Q: How many people work at the refinery?
A: 900 people work at the refinery. Most people think that thousands work there, but that hasn’t been the case for a very long time. In the 1950’s more than 10,000 people worked for Shell.
Q: How many jobs will GreenTown provide?
A: GreenTown will provide for 10.000 jobs in the marine, harbor, entertainment, recycling, free zone and city services industries.
Q: If the Isla refinery is shut down what will happen to its current employees?
A: No jobs will be lost! Everyone who works for Isla will get a job in GreenTown. We need people who can start immediately, for example, by cleaning and decontaminating the terrain. The harbor and ground around it are heavily polluted and drenched in oil. The people who currently work at the refinery are experts when it comes to oil and they know the installations there better than anyone else. We would like to implement these people as environmental experts, dismantlers, industrial cleaners etc. After having dismantled the refinery and decontaminated the terrain we will begin work on building the new city. A tremendous amount of people will be needed to do that. Therefore, everyone who currently works at the refinery will be guaranteed a job by and at GreenTown Curaçao. It will take a lot of effort and because of that we need everyone to participate.
Q: What is the Isla?
A: Isla the nickname for what is officially called Refineria di Korsou. PDVSA, Venezuela’s national oil company, leases and operates the refinery.
Q: What are the (financial advantages) for the Netherlands to participate in this initiative?
A: The Netherlands and its business community can become pioneers in clean energy. The city of GreenTown Curaçao is unique and offers many opportunities to universities and think tanks, such as TU Delft and TNO, or Dutch companies such as Ballast Nedam, Boskalis and of course Shell. The latter has a tremendous amount of expertise when it comes to dismantling refineries and sustainable energy.
Q: The Netherlands has already invested a lot of money into Curaçao, why would they want to continue doing so?
A: We aren’t asking the Dutch government and its citizens for money. GreenTown Curaçao offers Dutch companies a unique opportunity to position themselves in sustainability.
Q: Haven’t we seen these types of ambitious projects before? How certain can we be that a project of this magnitude can succeed?
A: Schiphol started this way. As was the Panama Canal. In Canada they want to cut a path through arctic ice to shorten the route to Asia. No one can be certain of success but we have to have the courage to tackle this endeavor now otherwise we are in danger of losing so much precious time. We can’t delay this any longer and pass our problems on to our children.
Q: You want to lay down an electric tramline within GreenTown. Isn’t that overdoing it for such a small area?
A: Firstly, it would not be a tram limited to GreenTown but would also connect other areas to GreenTown. For example, we envision an electric tram that connects GreenTown with the Curaçao international airport. Transport within GreenTown will be based on clean electric cars, taxis and/or trams. Cars that run on fossil fuels will be obligated to park outside of the new city. Secondly, it is not a small area. GreenTown covers approximately six square kilometers, about the size of a city like Bussum that also uses similar forms of public transportation.
Q: Why would Shell share the costs of cleaning the Isla terrain?
A: We do not want to ask Shell to clean the terrain. Curaçao agreed to buy from shell the refinery and all her real estate for the symbolic sum of one guilder. Indeed, Shell was spared the estimated 300 to 800 million dollars clean-up costs. On the other hand, Curaçao acquired for one guilder the refinery, the Curaçao Oil Terminal (COT), the Shell tugboats, the terrain and large tracts of real estate on the island. The government of the Netherlands Antilles and Shell agreed to this. It is a done deal and cannot be changed. However, if Shell wants to create a positive image of itself, in the Netherlands, Curaçao and internationally, then GreenTown Curaçao can help her do so.
We would like to see Shell provide her expertise during the dismantling and cleanup of the terrain. Also, we would like to see Shell take on an active role in the establishment of GreenTown as a city based on sustainable energy. From a PR and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) point of view we feel that they should do so. It would improve Shell’s reputation tremendously!
Q: What are the advantages for Shell were they to participate?
A: Good Will and an enormous positive influence on their reputation. The people and government of Curaçao would be very grateful for Shell’s help. Taking the historical relationship between Shell and Curaçao into account we would very much appreciate a dialogue Shell. GreenTown isn’t out to damage Shell, on the contrary, we acknowledge Shell’s contribution to Curaçao’s development. The truth is that we are facing a huge problem and we are asking Shell for help. It would be great if Shell would help, it would influence their reputation positively and that is something their shareholders would profit from.
Q: If the Isla refinery is shut down for dismantling and cleanup this would only cost the project money, right? There wouldn’t be revenues from rent.
A: At the moment we barely gain anything from rent. PDVSA only pays 13 million euro’s annually! The Curaçao government and Curaçao civilians gain but 13 million euro’s for the lease of the 600-acre terrain. 600 acres is the size of 1000 football fields on the most beautiful spot on Curaçao, along the largest and deepest natural harbor in the Western Hemisphere. Apart from that, this is the amount the government needs to pay for the upkeep of the energy plant that provides the refinery’s power. In short, the government doesn’t earn anything from the refinery. The refinery only costs money. The costs of medical care for the people who live under its smoke, for example, is estimated to be around 15 million euro’s a year.
Q: How will we draw companies to GreenTown? What makes it attractive to them?
A: Currently, there are companies on Curaçao who are looking for expansion possibilities. But we also need to attract other companies. The attraction, then, is an increase in the number of visitors to the island. Owners of mega-yachts (due to our harbor that lies outside the hurricane belt), tourists from neighboring countries like Veneuzela and Colombia (that are situated only a half hour’s flight from Curaçao) who would visit our shows and entertainment center. No one thought Curaçao could organize the North Sea Jazz festival but we did succeed. It is in Curaçaoans blood. It is our national talent, like Carnaval. That is precisely why we want to organize many more events like this.
Curaçao has a comfortable climate, stunning nature, beautiful beaches, a magnificent harbor with the historic Handelskade, a city that is on the Unesco World Heritage list, wonderful opportunities for diving, golfing, mountain biking etc. But the current water and air pollution prevent us from becoming a true tourism hot spot.
Also, what do you think would happen to the areas that currently lie under Isla’s black smoke and pungent stench? Once the refinery is shut down investors will flock to those areaa which in turn will create more jobs.
Q: The houses in GreenTown wouldn’t be affordable to the general population right? Will Curaçaoans really benefit?
A: We will create both social housing projects as well as villa’s and waterfront condos. A balance between the two must be found. The Curaçao government is obligated to think along these lines. Our mission is to create sufficient social housing in GreenTown. It will be a city that is pleasurable both to live and work in.
Q: Why would the EU contribute? Especially now when they probably have more important issues to deal with in Europe itself. Issues that demand a lot of money and attention.
A: Because of the colonial history between various EU member states and overseas territories such as Africa and the Caribbean, the European Union has set up special funds to contribute to the development of these areas. These are the so-called EDF’s (European Development Funds) that were founded in 1957 during the Treaty of Rome.
The Netherlands could play an important role by applying for these funds for use on Curaçao. The VVD is currently helping us in this regard and we have a contact in the Netherlands who is investigating this further.
Q: Won’t other countries that had colonies and settlements elsewhere also apply for financial support?
A: This is already happening. We have to try to get this type of support as well!
Q: Chavez isn’t too happy with Curaçao to begin with, wouldn’t shutting down a Venezuelan oil company increase tensions even more?
A: First of all we have to think about ourselves. What does GreenTown mean for Curaçao? If it is to Curaçao’s advantage then Venezuela will have to accept that. PDVSA, the Venezuelan national oil company that runs the refinery, has given Curaçao’s environment little thought in the past 25 years. PDVSA doesn’t elicit much sympathy.
Q: Why would the Dutch government be involved in this project?
A: We have pinpointed a huge environmental problem on Curaçao that was caused by a refinery run by the Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA. Every year 18 Dutch nationals die as a direct result of the pollution. 5,000 Dutch children have health problems because of the pollution. Curaçao is, after Qatar, the second largest emitter of CO2 (greenhouse gas) per capita.
By October 1st of this year a decision has to be made about the future of the refinery. We are concerned that the Curaçao government will not properly take its people health and island environment into account when making a decision. The past has taught us that the government does not maintain international environmental norms and that it frequently covers for PDVSA. On top of that one of the government’s ministers is currently on the PDVSA payroll: this is a total conflict of interest. We ask the Netherlands government to be aware of this and intervene if necessary in order to protect the people of Curaçao.