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.