The Washington Post discovers that poor people need more energy

by Myron Ebell on September 9, 2009

in Blog, Features

The Washington Post has discovered that poor people in poor countries need access to modern energy.  In an excellent article on today’s front page, Emily Wax details the energy poverty of Africa, India, and Pakistan.  And she draws the obvious conclusion that has evaded most of the establishment media for years: that’s why India and other developing countries aren’t going to sign on to any UN treaty that mandates reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions.  They don’t need an energy diet; they need thousands of coal-fired power plants.

Wax writes: “Just one in four Africans has access to grid electricity, according to the World Bank. More than 500 million Indians, roughly half the population, have no official access to electricity, and those who do are experiencing rolling brownouts as India’s Power Ministry tries to make up for a 25 percent shortfall in electricity generation. The developing world’s dearth of power hinders prosperity and adds another layer of difficulty to daily life.

“In much of Africa, families depend on generators, candles, kerosene lamps and firewood. Blackouts force shops to close early, schools to cancel classes and hospitals to turn away patients. Foreign investors become wary of parking their money in Africa, experts say.  ‘Big companies in Africa seem to get most of their electricity from generators, or they build their own power plants,’ said Thomas Pearmain, an Africa energy analyst for IHS Global Insight.”

Of course, environmental pressure groups say that poor countries need to avoid “our mistakes” and build a new energy economy using renewable sources and new technologies.  The problem is that most of these new sources provide a lot more sanctimonious self-satisfaction than energy.  I recently drove through upstate New York on a mild summer day.  I saw over seventy windmills in several groups along the way.  Not a single one was turning.  That’s because the wind doesn’t blow much in the summer (when demand is highest because of air conditioning).  In sub-tropical countries like India there isn’t much wind at any time of year.

Emma Wii September 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm

My personal ppinion on the matter is that energy consuption is the key to prevent poverty in the puss

Aysha September 10, 2009 at 12:05 am


I live in an African country – South Africa. The majority of our electricity consumption comes from coal-powered power stations, with one nuclear generator here in Cape Town. I disagree with your opinion that alternative power is not a viable option. While we have experienced blackouts in the past year, it is due to bad planning on the part of our major power company. During one of our recent blackouts, our local traffic lights were still working, because both a miniature windmill and solar panel power it. We do NOT need thousands of coal-fired power plants in Africa. The emissions from our existing power plants are already adding to acid rain on the crops of the poor subsistence farmers who do not have agricultural insurance and cannot afford to replace a crop which has been damaged. In addition, solar panels and windmills are an easier and safer alternative for many of our rural areas, simply because laying the thousands of miles of electricity cable is not only difficult, but time-consuming when theft of this cable happens regularly. Perhaps, instead of commenting on Africa and Asia, you should ask its occupants what they feel the best solution would be for their own areas.

PS Does anybody notice that the image of the world you have posted on this article is impossible? All the countries in the world do not experience night at the same time.

Robb Menzies October 3, 2009 at 8:08 am

The fact that the developing world doesn't need an energy diet is precisely why America does need an energy diet.

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