Powering countries, empowering people

Affordable energy brings jobs, improved living standards and pursuit of happiness 


By Paul Driessen

For 16 years, in a scene out of pre-industrial America, Thabo Molubi and his partner made furniture in South Africa’s outback, known locally as the “veld.” Lacking even a stream to turn a water wheel and machinery, they depended solely on hand and foot power. But then an electrical line reached the area.

The two installed lights, and power saws and drills. Their productivity increased fourfold. They hired local workers to make, sell and ship more tables and chairs, of better quality, at higher prices, to local and far away customers. Workers had more money to spend, thereby benefitting still more families.

Living standards climbed, as families bought lights, refrigerators, televisions, computers and other technologies that many Americans and Europeans simply take for granted. The community was propelled into the modern era, entrepreneurial spirits were unleashed, new businesses opened, and newly employed and connected families joined the global economy.

People benefited even on the very edge of the newly electrified area. Bheki Vilakazi opened a small shop so people could charge their cell phones before heading into the veld, where rapid communication can mean life or death in the event of an accident, automobile breakdown or encounter with wild animals.

Two hundred miles away, near Tzaneen, other South African entrepreneurs realized their soil and tropical climate produced superb bananas. After their rural area got electricity, they launched the Du Roi Nursery and banana cloning laboratory, where scientists develop superior quality, disease-free seedlings that are placed in gel in sealed containers and shipped all over Africa and other parts of the world.

Educated in a rural school only through tenth grade, Jane Ramothwala was a hotel maid before becoming a general nursery worker with the company. Over the ensuing decades, she worked hard to learn every facet of business operations, taught herself English, and took adult training and education courses – eventually attaining the position of manager for the company’s plant laboratory.

She now earns five times more than she did previously. During that time, the lab grew from 800,000 plants to 10 million, and today the laboratory, nursery and shipment center provide employment for several college graduates and 45 workers with limited educations. Their lives have been transformed, many have built modern homes, and their children have far brighter futures than anyone could have dreamed of a mere generation ago.

Access to electricity, Jane says, “has had a huge impact on the quality of life for many families in rural parts of Limpopo Province.” It has improved her and her neighbors’ lifestyles, learning opportunities and access to information many times over.

These scenes are being repeated all around the world, from Nigeria and Kenya, to Chile, Peru, China, India, Indonesia and dozens of other countries. Thousands of other communities, millions of other families, want the same opportunities. But for now many must continue to live without electricity, or have it only sporadically and unpredictably a few hours each week.

Across the globe, nearly three billion people – almost half the world’s population – still lack regular, reliable electricity. Nearly 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity.

In sub-Saharan Africa, over 600 million people – almost twice the population of the United States, and 70% of the region’s population – still have no or only limited, sporadic electricity. Over 80% of its inhabitants still relies on wood, dung and charcoal fires for most or all of their heating and cooking needs, resulting in extensive smoke and pollution in their homes and villages.

In India, more than 300 million people (almost as many as in Mexico and the United States) still have no electricity at all; tens of millions more have it only a few hours a day.

Countless people in these communities live in abject poverty, often on just a few dollars a day. Sub-Saharan Africa’s per capita income is roughly $1 per day, Zambia-born economist Dambisa Moyo writes, giving it the highest proportion of poor families in the world.

Mothers in these communities spend hours every day bent over open fires, their babies strapped on their backs, breathing poisonous fumes day after day. Many are struck down by debilitating and often fatal lung diseases. Their homes, schools, shops, clinics and hospitals lack the most rudimentary electricity-based technologies: lights, refrigerators, radios, televisions, computers and safe running water.

Their mud-and-thatch, cinderblock and other traditional houses allow flies and mosquitoes to zoom in, feast on human blood, and infect victims with malaria and other killer diseases. Women and children must walk miles, carrying untreated water that swarms with bacteria and parasites that cause cholera, diarrhea and river blindness. Unrefrigerated food spoils rapidly, causing still more intestinal diseases.

Hundreds of millions get horribly sick and five million die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, due to breathing smoke from open fires and not having refrigeration, clean water and safe food.

When the sun goes down, their lives largely shut down, except to the extent that they can work or study by candlelight, flashlight or kerosene lamp.

The environmental costs are equally high. Rwanda’s gorilla habitats are being turned into charcoal, to fuel cooking fires. In Zambia and elsewhere, entrepreneurs harvest trees by the thousands along highways, turning forest habitats into grasslands, and selling logs to motorists heading back to their non-electrified homes in rural areas and even large sections of cities.

As quickly as rich-country charities hold plant-a-tree fund raisers, people around the world cut trees for essential cooking and heating.

Unless reliable, affordable electricity comes, it will be like this for decades to come. Little by little, acre by acre, forest habitats will become grasslands, or simply be swept away by rains and winds. And people will remain trapped by poverty, misery, disease and premature death.

That unsustainable human and ecological destruction can be reversed, just as it was in the United States. A vital part of the solution is power plants that come equipped with steadily improving pollution controls – and burn coal or natural gas that packs hundreds of times more energy per pound than wood or dung or plant-based biofuels.

“Access to the benefits that come with ample energy trumps concerns about their tiny contribution of greenhouse gas emissions,” New York Times columnist Andrew Revkin observed in his DotEarth blog. Africa sits on vast deposits of coal, natural gas and liquid condensates that are largely ignored or simply burned as unwanted byproducts, as companies produce crude oil. Can someone find a business model that can lead to capturing, instead of flaring, those “orphan fuels,” he wondered.

Ultimately, the energy, environmental, climate change and economic debate is about two things:

Whether the world’s poor will take their rightful places among the Earth’s healthy and prosperous people – or must give up their hopes and dreams, because of misplaced health and environmental concerns.

And whether poor countries, communities and families will determine their own futures – or the decisions will be made for them by politicians and activists who use phony environmental disaster claims to justify treaties, laws, regulations and policies that limit or deny access to dependable, affordable electricity and other modern, life-saving technologies … thereby perpetuating poverty, disease and premature death.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on environmental issues.

To read the complete version of this article, go to https://www.masterresource.org/developing-countries/powering-countries-empowering-people-part-i/

166 thoughts on “Powering countries, empowering people

  1. And then , to cap it all, the EU slaps heavy tariffs on their exports which make it even harder to work their way out of poverty. Anyone would think that the west wants to keep these people subjugated .

      • MarkW,
        Free trade means a level playing field for all parties. I’m all for free trade.
        However, if a foreign gov’t heavily subsidizes their widget makers and they put a tariff on U.S. widgets, and U.S. widget makers are forced out of business because our government doesn’t subsidize widgets or impose tariffs… then what? Is that still free trade?
        If you’ve been employed for the past 20 years making widgets, you might see ‘free’ trade as a problem.
        Free trade requires formal agreements to preclude favoritism like subsidies and tariffs. For too long the world has viewed the U.S. as an easy dumping ground for their domestic, subsidized products. Lately, China has been threatening the U.S. whenever we suggest creating a fair and level playing field. Is that fair to American workers and businesses?
        ‘Free trade’ is always an emotional issue, because it’s so easy for either side to use the words “free trade” to make their argument. But when you think about it, it’s not that simple.

      • If a foreign country is subsidizing it’s widget makes, that just means that they are paying our consumers to buy their stuff. The end result is that everything else made by that country becomes more expensive because of the taxes needed to pay the subsidy. So all they are doing is transferring trade from non-subsidized goods to subsidized goods. No net increase in trade.
        As to the widgets, over time, since they no longer have to compete, the widgets being subsidized become lower in quality and the country either has to increase the subsidy to make up for the drop in quality or let the widget maker go out of business.
        The biggest so called subsidy that most foreign manufactures receive is that they don’t have to suffer under the insane tax and regulatory environment that US manufacturers are inflicted with. And that’s our fault, not theirs.

      • The only people that “free” trade benefits are the large corporations. It is a race to the bottom, locating factories wherever humans are willing to work in exchange for the smell of an oily rag. Why should my neighbor have to compete for a manufacturing job with some guy in an impoverished country that will work in inhumane condition for pennies a day?
        The main result of NAFTA and globalization has been that the US has exported a very large percentage of our manufacturing jobs. Here’s a depressing statistic—a few years ago, the number of people in manufacturing was eclipsed by the number of people in all levels of government … and the trend has continued with manufacturing decreasing and government increasing.
        Manufacturing increases the wealth of a country. Government work doesn’t. Sending our manufacturing jobs overseas is steadily decreasing our ability to produce wealth.
        People forget that there are three and only three ways to produce wealth, meaning real things of value. You can grow wealth—start a farm, plant a garden in your backyard. You can extract wealth—go fishing, drill an oil well. And you can manufacture wealth—start a bicycle shop, sew and sell dresses from your home.
        So when we trade manufacturing jobs for government jobs, we are PRODUCING LESS WEALTH … no bueno.
        People say “but the consumers get cheaper goods” … but without jobs to pay for the goods, they are not all that “good” are they?
        I strongly encourage people to read “How Rich Countries Got Rich . . . and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor” before making up their minds on this question. It is the most interesting economics book I’ve ever read, and it makes a very strong case that globalization and free trade are why poor countries stay poor, and that import duties and trade restrictions and protection of domestic industries were how rich countries got rich. Before reading it I believed strongly in free trade. By the time I had finished, I’d reversed my opinion. It’s that good.
        Fifteen bucks on Amazon, or get it from your library, but it is absolutely a must-read it if you are interested in the question.
        I saw the problem in action in the Solomon Islands when I lived there. A guy used to have a nail mill, making the common but ubiquitous nails used in construction. He brought in coils of wire, and made it into nails. He employed half a dozen workers, all of whom were learning about machinery and mass production … and a pool of educated workers is crucial to any economy. Finally, the profits that he earned from the business stayed in the Solomons. Of course, he couldn’t compete with the Asian countries, but there was a small but significant import duty on nails that protected his industry.
        But then the Solos signed a free trade agreement with Australia and some Asian countries, and cheap nails started flooding in, and the nail mill went out of business. Now, that opportunity for the Solomons workers to learn to work in a shop producing something of value has vanished. Repeat this in dozens of industries and you end up without an educated and experienced labor force … and that stops any hope of further development.
        And of course, the profits on the nails all go to the Asian corporations, leading to increased bleeding of valuable foreign exchange. All in all, it was a terrible deal for the Solomons. They traded the possibility of developing their own strong industrial sector for a few cheap nails … a Very Bad Idea™.
        So I am an implacable foe of NAFTA, the TPP, globalization, and free trade in general. Just as in the Solomons, the only ones who benefit are the corporations, everyone else loses with free trade.
        Best to all, and please do read the book, it’s important …

      • the term “free trade” is another misuse of language that seems to be the forte of the progressive / commies.
        it is neither free nor fair nor just. it is corporate welfare.

      • Willis, if this fictional race to the bottom actually existed, nobody, anywhere would be working for more than pennies a day.
        It’s as big a myth as CAGW.
        The reality is that a person’s wages always, and I emphasis this, always approximates his/her productivity.
        That man in a poor country may make only pennies a, but his productivity is also rock bottom.
        You guys spend so much time bragging about how you have studied the science of global warming and have rejected the unfounded myths.
        Yet you fall for the even bigger myths pushed by the socialists.
        I am ashamed of you.

      • MarkW September 24, 2016 at 8:08 pm

        Willis, if this fictional race to the bottom actually existed, nobody, anywhere would be working for more than pennies a day.

        Mark, if the race to the bottom actually existed, corporations would always try to put their factories where the wages are the lowest and the regulations are the laxest … oh, wait, that’s exactly what’s happening.

        The reality is that a person’s wages always, and I emphasis this, always approximates his/her productivity.
        That man in a poor country may make only pennies a, but his productivity is also rock bottom.

        Nonsense. You have two CEOS, one making $10 million per year and another making $20 million … and neither number may even approximate their productivity. In fact, they may be just figureheads.
        At the other end of the scale, black people in the US working at some job on average earn less than white people doing the same job … are you seriously going to argue that this represents the inherent difference in productivity?
        Finally, workers in poor countries like China might make three dollars a day, while workers in the US doing the same job might easily make a hundred times that. Are you seriously arguing that this represents the difference in productivity? Because if so, I’d suggest you haven’t watched many Chinese at work …

        You guys spend so much time bragging about how you have studied the science of global warming and have rejected the unfounded myths.
        Yet you fall for the even bigger myths pushed by the socialists.

        The pernicious effects of the export of our manufacturing jobs overseas is hardly a “myth”, Mark. It is an ugly reality that you seem unwilling to face.

        I am ashamed of you.

        My serious advice is to lay off your pathetic paternalism, it just makes you look like a pompous prig. Leave the moralizing to the preachers, it doesn’t look good on you and you certainly haven’t earned the right to indulge in it. You are an anonymous internet popup unwilling to sign your own name to your words, you don’t get to lecture anyone about shame.
        And in the meantime, READ THE BOOK. I used to believe as you do, until I considered the facts in that book. As the man said, “If the facts change, I change my mind … what do you do?

      • Willis Eschenbach on September 24, 2016 at 1:06 am
        Willis. Absolutely hits the nail on the head.
        Mark W….. another point …. subsidising local (not multinational) manufacturing by taxes is NOT money lost to the economy… the manufacturer makes a profit, pays taxes, employs people, who also pay taxes, spends money on goods, those who sell the goods and services also profit and pay taxes…. etc etc etc…
        Whereas some great multinational doing the same thing buys materials overseas, offshores profits, overpays upper management who then invest overseas.
        Free trade is for large multinational corporations:
        Simply put:
        Make it in one country, sell it in a second country, pay tax in a third.

      • “Willis Eschenbach September 24, 2016 at 9:05 pm
        The pernicious effects of the export of our manufacturing jobs overseas is hardly a “myth”, Mark. It is an ugly reality that you seem unwilling to face.”
        Indeed, and it has been going on for some considerable time. In Australia the term “Manchester” is used to describe bed clothes such as sheets and blankets because that’s where they were made, Manchester in Britain. All made in China/Asia/India now. Here in Australia, no cars are made anymore the jobs have gone to Asia. But this export does not only extend to mfg. jobs, not at all. The relentless export of jobs across most industry sectors continues at an ever increasing rate esp in call centers and IT sectors. The only growth industriy is aged care.

    • From my recollection of the Kyoto Protocol, there was an intent to inhibit electricity, infrastructure, clean water to the populations of Africa.
      IMO, all this is related to exponential population growth and the effect it has had on the earth’s resources in just 150 years or so. If one realizes the livable area on the earth and its limited resources, they have a concern for humanity 500 years from now (or 1,000 or 5,000). But instead of telling the truth, they concocted the Global Warming horror. The Big Lie.

      • If these people had cheap reliable energy they would not have the incredible infant mortality death rate rate they have now as contradictory as it may sound with a better future the size of the families would decrease over time with better health care and education that schools would be able to provide as well. The Big Lie is preventing all of this.

      • kokoda — all this is related to exponential population growth
        ME — Exponential growth is complete crap – the fertility rate leveled off decades ago, ensuring the soon to come decline in world population.
        kokoda — and the effect it has had on the earth’s resources in just 150 years or so.
        ME — More greenie nonsense –Our resources have been INCREASING for the whole time. More population = more people solving problems and creating new stuff.
        kokoda — If one realizes the livable area on the earth and its limited resources, they have a concern for humanity 500 years from now
        ME — More greenie crap — 1) population is about to start decreasing. 2)The whole population of the Earth would fit on 1/4 acre lots on 17% of the USA, leaving the rest of the planet unpopulated. (or 1.5 acre lots to cover the whole USA)

  2. “Across the globe, nearly three billion people – almost half the world’s population – still lack regular, reliable electricity. Nearly 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity.”

      • …The election of President Trump will be a major turning point for the world…even if he is a dork sometimes !

      • “…The election of President Trump will be a major turning point for the world…even if he is a dork sometimes !”
        I don’t think there is any doubt about that. If he blusters and BS’s his way into power, the world will not be the same place in 4 years.

      • ..So sorry Simon, but you and your Lunatic Fringe buddies have to face reality…The people of the FREE world are tired of the stupidity of the left and Donald Trump is your worst nightmare !
        …A proud Deplorable..

      • Marcus
        …A proud Deplorable..
        And that’s the bit I don’t get. He has convinced so many uneducated white males that it is a good thing to be a lying bigot. Almost a badge of honour. Funny old world we live in.

        • As far as embracing the term “deplorable”, Winston Churchill noted in his “History of the English Speaking People” that the party titles “whig” and “tory’ were originally insults–roughly, the thugs and the bluenoses. If Hillary wants to insult someone, we deplorables might as well turn it around.

    • it is not about climate. the elites and the puppetmasters are using the climate as a club to bash the middle class since any population with a strong middle class is not easy to dictate to or subjugate.
      it is only about the elites getting more and more power.

  3. Wealth is created by productivity. That is how much money a person can earn is determined by the value of the things he/she can make in a day.
    Cheap, reliable power is one of the best and easiest ways to boost a worker’s productivity.

  4. ..The liberal Left claims to be the defenders of the poor, but everything they do seems to keep the poor living in poverty !! It is inconceivable that the U.N., with all the money given to them for over 50 years, could not eradicate most of the real poverty in the world ! ..To the poor in Africa, the poor in the U.S.A. are rich !

    • Political parties need a constituency to vote them into office. To that end, Republicans, “The party of the rich,” write policy that allows people increase their personal wealth. Now the Democrats, “The party of the poor and oppressed,” what do you suppose they do?

      • “The party of the poor and oppressed,” what do you suppose they do?
        Make certain that the poor and oppressed are ALWAY at least 50% of the electorate.
        By Steve Cases way of thinking, if Democrats make the poor well off it will just turn the formerly poor into Republicans. Why would they want that to happen?
        The Republicans as “party of the rich” is also a huge myth. Look at the current members of Congress. While all are comparatively well off, 8 of the top 10 are Democrats When Kerry was in the Senate, he would have been at the top of the list.
        (Note: I was surprised to see Daryl Issa at the top of the list…. He must have inherited his wealth for he is too naïve to have earned it himself.)

      • ..Steve, have you not noticed that the RICH are donating to Hillary, not Trump ? Things that make you go Hmmmmmmm……

        • “Things that make you go Hmmmmmmm……”
          I’ve noticed that many of the news clips of Clinton’s ‘public’ speech seems she’s just talking at her press contingent for the purpose of crafting a favorable sound bite. In contrast, the news clips about Trump often show him surrounded by cheering crowds of people clinging on his every word as the MSM twists those words to fit a narrative.
          It’s interesting how Clinton is spending heavily on negative ads and has a MSM that’s mostly on her side, yet she’s steadily loosing ground to subject of her diatribe.
          The debates will be interesting. I can almost see Trump responding to Clinton about something largely irrelevant and that happened years ago with: “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, what difference does it make (pause for dramatic effect) NOW?”

      • “The debates will be interesting. I can almost see Trump responding to Clinton about something largely irrelevant and that happened years ago with: “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, what difference does it make (pause for dramatic effect) NOW?”
        As long as he can resist making fun of her being off colour because it is that time of the month (blood coming our of her wherever), or the way she loos. Gonna be very interesting. Clinton will do all she can to fire the big guy up so he says something incredibly sexist, racist or homophobic. I wouldn’t bet against him (in the debates) reaching new heights for insulting people. Gonna be such fun to watch alright.

    • You misinterpret “defenders of the poor”.
      They really mean they will defend against anything that will move people away from being poor.
      “they have a right to be poor and we will defend that right until their death”

    • The liberal left are dedicated to helping the poor. However, they make one critical error. They use inequity as a proxy for poverty. If you double the income of a rich guy from 1 million to 2 million and the poor from 1$ to 2$ the perception is inequity has increased and thus poverty has increased. Yet, to the poor guy he is way better off.
      Is this way oversimplified? Of course it is, but the reality is the current system is reducing poverty rates extremely fast, which is what they and in fact everybody including greedy capitalist pigs want.

      • It has been said that a poor man never gave me a job (little do they know how little some of us earn at first) but it is equally true that my best customers weren’t poor. My best customers were those who knew the value of a dollar because they had earned what they had. Only politicians need and want a poor underclass.

      • Are you actually arguing that everyone on the right owns a business?
        Regardless of that inanity, there’s the fact that without profit there is no business. Without the business there are no jobs. Without jobs, everyone is poor.
        Beyond that, what does profits have to do with the poor in any case?
        You do know that profits are restricted by competition. Any business with outsized profits attracts competitors, which forces down profits. Any business with under sized profits will fail to investment and as a result go out of business.
        The ONLY, let me say that again, ONLY time this fails to happen is when the government steps in and either outlaws further competition or decides to subsidize the losers.

      • While the left loves to ensure that they are handing out fish, the right is teaching everybody to fish.

      • MarkW
        I think you might need a little lie down. You read me wrong. I’m all for people making profit… in a sane and reasonable manner that (if we can avoid it) does’t shit on future generations or on my fellow human beings. By the way, I run a business myself that does very nicely thank you.

      • Simon,
        “It is so heart warming to know the right care so much about the poor, without giving any thought to their profits.”
        I read that as sarcasm; did I read it wrong too?
        (Your comment may have been emotionally profitable to you in the moment, but it wasn’t reasonable. And it appeared that it was intended as a shit on others; but maybe that’s O.K. in your book … how exactly do you define your group of “my fellow human beings”?.

      • how much of your profit have you given to the poor Simon? I suspect that you are a world class hypocriter.
        the left only force others to give …they historically do not give.

      • “I don’t care how much profit you make, but I do care how much damage you do making it.”
        Your position suggests that everybody who make profits do not care about the poor. I think you need to watch this. Poverty has decreased by 50% in the last 20 years. It that not extremely exciting?

        I apologize to people that have seen me post this before, but if you are fundamentally ignorant about the world it has a huge impact on your political positions.

      • “Your position suggests that everybody who make profits do not care about the poor. ”
        Nope. Of course it is possible and fine to make a profit and “care about the poor.” It’s also possible to do it with one eye on the health of the planet and the wellbeing its inhabitants. What I loath is this snake oil sympathy for the poor. Using their plight to justifying boosting the profits of the rich. Of course they would benefit from the use oil, but they stand to loose more than others if mainstream science has it right.

      • Simon, you have yet to demonstrate that any body is causing any damage regardless of profit.
        You seem to feel that high profits are in and of themselves damaging. Nothing could be further fromthe truth.

      • Simon, I see that you are as big a fool as you previous posts have made you seem.
        AGW isn’t mainstream science and it has been proven wrong.
        Not that you care.

      • MarkW September 24, 2016 at 8:11 pm
        Simon, I see that you are as big a fool …..”
        Oh I get it…. so you think by insulting me you win. Well done champ.

      • ..Hey Griff…Do YOU have only ONE Solar powered light bulb in your house ? Do YOU use a computer…Do YOU use a fridge ? Do YOU use a T.V…A radio ?…Microwave ? Are they ALL powered by Solar, at the same time ? …You liberal idiots condemn the poor around the world to continued poverty to satisfy YOUR belief of “Utopia” and sweet Unicorn farts….YOU are not sane ! IMHO…

      • Living in the UK, quite a lot of my grid power is either solar or wind -18% of all UK power is wind in a typical December, for example. I’ve got LED lights, as it happens – don’t need so much power and if we don’t move expect to put in solar panels.

    • Is solar power better than nothing? Not when it is supplied by Obama and/or the World Bank with the hidden purpose of stopping people having grid electricity, with proper (i.e. fossil-fired) power stations.

  5. It’s not as simple as running power lines in Africa…
    …it would take a complete overthrow of most of those governments first

  6. The great green blob and their political hacks are far more interested in reverting the wealthy, healthy industrialized world back into the environmental and humanitarian disaster that is a manual labour only, elextricity-free backwater. This is their view of the lost Eden.

  7. While the enthusiasm is appreciated, a few corrections are in order:
    “Rwanda’s gorilla habitats are being turned into charcoal, to fuel cooking fires. ”
    That was 20 years ago. Rwanda is producing all its charcoal sustainably from privately owned farmed trees, and a small amount from public forests – none is from in the place mentioned. This has been the case for several years. Credit goes to Robert van der Plas, the quite Dutchman behind the scenes who had the imagination and persistence to turn charcoal from a freebie into an income stream for the rural poor.
    Energy in wood is about the same as a great deal of coal (14-18 MJ/kg) used by the poor. High quality coal (up to 29 MJ/kg) is rarely found in private kitchens, though Tajikistan is a rare exception. These non-biomass fuels are usually of lower quality than good fuelwood. I am not counting LPG (propane/butane mix) because that is for the elite in any meaningful quantity.
    Africa flares about 12 times as much energy as it uses on a daily basis. It’s a scandal, absolute scandal, that this energy is not made available to the poor at least in the countries that produce it. In most of those countries most oil income is siphoned into off-shore accounts of those appearing in the Panama Papers where amoral bankers create the instruments needed to hide the filthy lucre. Read the book to see the list of self-righteous countries that are facilitating this wholesale looting of the national piggy banks.
    Africa is poor because impoverishment is facilitated. Electricity is a liberation.

    • and renewable energy, principally solar, is now supplying the electricity to liberate Africans…
      “Specifically, this means off-grid lighting products impact approximately 71.6 million people, who previously depended on kerosene lamps and battery-operated torches.”
      Even where there are power stations, the grid infrastructure may not be there…

      • Griff, while providing people with a solar light is a good thing, for nearly all of them it doesn’t put food on the table or money in the bank. For that, you need grid-scale power, not some crappy solar light.
        And as for their claims that the off-grid lighting products “impact” 71.6 million people, two problems there. First, what are they counting as “impact”? It turns out that there are no less than nine metrics measuring “impact”. Not only that, but here’s the description of the metrics:

        Five metrics were developed, each of them is a combination of company data (such as sales, product characteristics, and other company information) and coefficients with default values. The default values of the coefficients were determined based on data publicly available or made available by participating GOGLA members, some assumptions and calculations.

        “Coefficients with default values”? And using sales data from solar companies to calculate solar impact? That’s like asking your barber if you need a haircut … of course he’ll say yes.
        And second, “71.6 million”??? When I see bogusly precise numbers like that, the report goes direct into the circular file. Their study cannot possibly have that kind of precision, and we haven’t even mentioned accuracy.
        I’ve looked at projects like this in a variety of third-world countries … and just about every participant said the same thing, which boiled down to:
        “The solar light is nice … but we need real power”.
        And in fact, they DO need real power, to run things from washing machines to steel mills.

      • “Data presented in this report is based on the global
        sales figures of participating companies. While this
        includes sales into developed countries in which
        impact metrics are not applicable for the obvious
        reasons, data presented is nevertheless very likely a
        conservative estimate, given that not all companies
        active in the field participated in the data collection
        So their data isn’t Africa specific? What percent of the global sales were actually in Africa?
        What a completely misleading article and paper.

      • Willis’n’All
        Nikhil Desai says that giving people a solar powered light only allows them to see their poverty at night. Of course he is famously sarcastic, but I gotta admit…

      • Willis Eschenbach September 23, 2016 at 8:28 am writes
        “And second, “71.6 million”??? When I see bogusly precise numbers like that, the report goes direct into the circular file. Their study cannot possibly have that kind of precision, and we haven’t even mentioned accuracy.”
        My off topic response:
        Yes indeed, if you Google [Methane times more powerful]
        Just the first page comes up with:
                84 times more potent than
                25 times as potent as
                25 times more powerful than
                86 times as much as
                25 times greater than
                57 times higher than
                72 times
                20 times
                33 times more powerful than
                greater than 100 times more powerful than
        Boggles the mind it does.

      • “Stephen Rasey September 23, 2016 at 9:00 am
        I can just see it. A mud brick hut, thatched roof, glass-less windows,
        with a….”
        Or a power meter fixed to the wall? Yes, I have seen this in Ethiopia near the “Whispering Falls” where ~75% of the water is now diverted to a hydro power plant. It is so new that the galvanized steel pylons carrying the power to Addis Ababa are still shiny, they haven’t been there long enough to oxidize and turn a dull grey.
        And as Willis quite rightly states, a solar powered LED does not put food on the table. Using Ethiopia as an example, most people now cannot afford the primary staple, teff, that is used to make a flat bread also used as a sort of plate. Many people in Ethiopia, even those working, now cannot afford a meal every day.
        I can tell you no /sarc tag required.

      • Well Willis in the last 50 years no one has built the power stations or the grid for most of Africa. So this makes a real difference – especially in reducing the cost they bear now buying kerosene.
        But solar makes a quick real impact on city grids… in Rwanda it has doubled available power in just months.
        You have to note that many African countries have no oil or gas or coal and importing them costs…
        Kenya is currently rolling out electricity to every citizen, funded by the world bank. They use wind, solar and geothermal as well as other sources – the remoter places get off grid solar.

      • “Griff September 24, 2016 at 11:23 am
        You have to note that many African countries have no oil or gas or coal…”
        Complete and utter uninformed tosh.

    • The main reason CH4 is more IR active than CO2 is because its concentration is so low. If its concentration were to rise and its absorption lines became saturated, the incremental effect would be far, far lower primarily because it is only active in a tiny range of wavelengths in the relevant LWIR spectrum.

        • “CH4 absorbs LWIR where CO2 and H2O do not.”
          Both CO2 and H2O have significant absorption lines between about 12u and 20u which is considered LWIR and certainly relevant to the radiant emissions of the surface.

  8. “When the sun goes down, their lives largely shut down, except to the extent that they can work or study by candlelight, flashlight or kerosene lamp2
    and kerosene is expensive, taking a high proportion of incomes and producing fuel poverty.
    Fortunately there are many schemes in place in Africa (and also Asia) to entirely replace the kerosene lamp, by selling rechargeable solar LED lights (which can also charge mobile phones)
    These schemes don’t give the lights away -they sell them at reasonable prices, thus helping commercial development of areas where they are sold.
    See here:
    or here
    or here

    • For those interested to read about some pretty sensible power projects, check out National Geographic’s TerraWatt Prize. The idea was to have a competition to bring electricity in a usable form to communities that were really unlikely to be connected to the grid for several years, or never. It was run by Chad Lipton who has gone off to Mozambique to pursue his dream of really making a difference. Good on him.
      He explored a number of prize ideas before agreeing to the TerraWatt Prize. There were many good entries, nearly all of them viable as businesses. The two winners are of course successful private enterprises now.
      Lighting from dry cell batteries, long the staple for the poor, costs $50 per KWH, and that has been a static number for decades. It shows the collusion that exists in the battery manufacturing field, as it used to with incandescent light bulbs that were never ‘allowed’ to last longer than 1000 hrs.

      • How is it a collusion that dry cell batter prices haven’t fallen? Have there been any technological breakthroughs that would reduce that cost?
        As to your comments recarding bulbs. You would have a lot more credibility if you drop the anti-free market conspiracy theorizing. Bulbs that can last longer are being made. It’s just that they cost a lot more to make, are less efficient, or both.
        This conspiracy of evil business people exists only in your mind. Grow up.

      • ..Liberal politicians promises : Here, we will give you a FREE minimum power energy source so that you and your family might have a chance of prospering ( and surviving) , BUT, you must agree to never ask us for a REAL energy supply….otherwise, you would no longer NEED us !!

  9. This article is a massive straw man argument. Of course it’s good that underdeveloped countries have access to cheap electricity. But does this have to mean continuing unlimited use of fossil fuels? Are no other options thinkable?
    It also carries the implicit assumption that reducing world fossil fuel consumption means that it’s the poorer counties that will have to do without, richer countries will carry on unchanged. Reducing fossil fuel consumption in developed countries, to allow underdeveloped countries to take a bigger share of a reduced worldwide CO2 budget, apparently isn’t a thinkable option.

    • Bob, I would suggest that your argument is the straw man argument. There is no evidence that allowing poor people to have power at reasonable prices, even if that power is generated from coal, is a bad thing. It is the climate obsessed who have successfully pushed the idea that the 3rd world must continue to be deprived of good energy. Skeptics want everyone to have lots of power. Power To The People!

      • Further to Hunter’s remark, the Kyoto specifically exempts these groups from any ‘climate burden sharing’ if you know what I mean. If there ever was a straw man argument, it is CAGW and all that that entails. There is nothing wrong with poor people uplifting themselves using any resource they can manage efficiently and safely.

    • In agreement with hunter.
      It is not that renewables are “unthinkable”. It is that under the circumstances they are unaffordable, unreliable, intermittent, inefficient. Renewables under the circumstances do not compete.
      Furthermore, no matter how affordable solar and wind may become, could they possibly compete with electricity generated by natural gas that would otherwise be flared? To many, it is renewables are the only option and fossil fuels are unthinkable. It is precisely the “renewables or nothing” mentality of the UN or World Bank that is slowing the development of electricity from of waste gas.

    • No, there are no viable alternatives. That’s already been proven.
      As to the CO2 budget, since CO2 is on net a good thing, why should it’s production be budgeted?

    • ..Hey Bob, …How about some evidence that Fossil Fuels and CO2 have a detrimental effect on life ? In real science, I find only benefits for more CO2 now AND in the future…BUT, the economic pain the liberals want to impose NOW and in the future, will destroy ALL the worlds children’s future…..Socialism DOES NOT WORK !

    • hmmmmm reminds me of an interview I saw of an old man in India near a “dirty” power plant; the interviewer asked him “isn’t it awful all the pollution around here destroying your quality of life?” and the old man replied “it is wonderful that with the electricity my children will have a better life and can expect to live longer lives instead of dying before they reach 10.” I am paraphrasing but that was the gist of the interview. The “green mafia” think that living to 30 or 40 years old with the help of “dirty energy” is worse than dying at 6 years old without it. uuhhhhggggg such idiocy!

      • As the area becomes richer, thanks in no small part to that dirty power, they will have the money to buy cleaner sources of energy.

    • Morocco, which has no oil, gas or coal of its own and thus a large bill to import them, is going for a cheap locally built version of concentrating solar power (which of course stores heat so can supply power after sun down, plus installing solar PV – just launched a programme to put panels on every mosque.
      Several places are using solar to supplement existing diesel generators… supplies power in the day and with batteries the diesel covers at night (but more power available and less expensive fuel used)
      Rwanda is using solar farms for its city grid.

      • Giff, please go there and have a look at the wonderful effectiveness of these extraordinarily expensive programs, if you dare. You will be disillusioned.

      • Peter, Griff appears to be an armchair expert on Africa the sort who do their research on Africa in the Guardian and Wikipedia. I very much doubt, based on his posts, he has actually been there, lived there or even been involved with African communities..

      • Griff,
        If you want to experience the direct benefit and cost savings of Concentrated Solar Molten Salt Generation, you need look no further than Ivanpah in the California/Nevada Desert. The facility requires the use of a Natural Gas fired boiler for 8 hours just to keep the salt molten at night or the entire system would require up to 4 hours of solar concentration every morning to reattain operating temperatures. It also requires 5 square miles of area to produce the same amount of electricity that is equal to approx 1/5 the capacity that a typical 2 unit – 2200 MW Nuclear facility can do on 12 acres

  10. Trade not aid will help the Africans. We should also take advantage of their cheap labour. We did it to the Japanese and other Asian countries. Look where they are now. We did it to the Chinese. Look where they are now. Now the Chinese are taking advantage of the Africans. They will solve the African problem.

  11. This sort of underdevelopment almost makes me think nice things about the Stalinists. Brutal, oppressive, but trying to develop a modern infrastructure. What the green blob does is counterproductive unless one assumes that keeping the profoundly poor profoundly poor is a main goal.

  12. …The best evidence of the useless and damaging policies of the U.N. and their accompanying bodies of liberal Fairy Dust believers…..
    ” the U.N. , that began as a moral force, has become a moral farce…”
    …Benjamin Netanyahu….
    ^ No, I am not Jewish..or any other “organized religion”, but Netanyahu seems to be the only sane one left within the U.N……IMHO…

  13. I think this is an excellent article and just wish it could be read in schools as an antidote to the poisonous doctrine of the green /environmental lobby which is determined to impose “sustainable” development on those African nations where there is still great poverty – thus ensuring they are trapped forever in low wage, low productivity and small enterprise work , nomainly in agricultural activities.
    Perhaps the most sickening image is the now common sight of some rich western activist wiring up some pathetic solar device which gives a poor light in some African village home and probably not much else . It may be better than nothing, but is that an acceptable ambition when we in the developed world have and expect so much more? In fact Obama was pictured doing something like this the other day. Perhaps we should be giving aid in the form of power stations rather than money?
    I wonder if the textbooks in American schools are as appalling on the subject of climate and “sustainable” development as they are in theUK

    • I don’t think you have been keeping up to date – those solar devices, which are sold by local people, are replacing the kerosene lamp and dragging people out of fuel poverty.

      • Why shouldn’t poor people watch TV?
        I want them to have the same options I have.
        conventional power has not delivered that.

      • Again, you have not been to Africa and seen how poor real poor people are. TV is the last thing on their mind and many see it as a propaganda tool. Sheesh! In 2005 people in Ethiopia could not send text messages via a Govn’t mandate as the Govn’t feared mass gatherings in protest at the Govn’t.

  14. ……The election of President Trump will be a major turning point for the world…even if he is an idiot…. sometimes ! The election of Hillary would be devastation to the FREE WORLD !

  15. While American and European leaders comment on the ill effects of corruption, those same leaders are just as detrimental with their scatterings of demonstration projects to show off their personal agendas in place of solving root cause issues and anything like organized development. NGOs and Jeffrey Sachs are not much better. But then what would you expect from marginally attached experts who benefit from infrastructure and institutional foundations laid down 100 years before them.

  16. As quickly as rich-country charities hold plant-a-tree fund raisers, people around the world cut trees for essential cooking and heating.

    It is instructive to see a picture of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The contrast is really stark. The Dominican Republic has verdant forest. Haiti has bare dirt.
    One of my students from the Dominican Republic joked that their previous dictator had been better than the one in Haiti. (This should not distract us from the fact that Haiti got badly messed around after it won its independence.)
    There are other issues besides the availability of electricity that determine peoples’ prosperity. The blame for most of the starvation and misery in the world can be laid at the feet of one government or the other.

  17. The map must be based on theoretical grid coverage. Otherwise it’s wrong in the case of many other parts of war ravaged Africa and ideologically ravaged countries like Venezuela.

      • not to defend hillary but she was doing the bidding of the clown who is presently playing the part of a legitimate president. put the blame where it belongs.

  18. natural gas and fracking for gas is the way to go.
    It seems we have gas here in South Africa in a very low populated area [the Karoo] but as usual we have the powers that be [which by the way include members of the Royal Dutch family who own some property out there and various action groups who only have a few members] that are playing the violin while the country suffers. We could be having the same upturn in the economy as USA due to gas but for the present ANC government who seems intent on getting nuclear energy [supplied by Russia, no doubt with some certain benefit to the governing ANC]

  19. But Obama said that the youth of Africa can’t be allowed to have the same access to electricity as the youth in the US, in order to save the planet.
    “Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.”

    • Obama says: “the planet will boil over”
      Did he really say that? And, if he did, does he believe it?….does anyone know?
      I find this very hard to believe. When it comes to climate change and man’s influence, surely, at his level, he has some understanding of where the science ends and the supposition begins.

    • Myron, he could have meant that we should find new ways of producing energy too, don’t you think?
      Just to be fair to him I mean. If we take his words literally, we have two options to avoid boiling the planet, either disallow the youth of Africa electricity, or find a new way of producing electricity.
      Which answer would you expect from him if he was asked to pick one of these options?

      • Hey co2, I think we’re getting there. It’s a process. Given the difficulty understanding the climate phenomenon (coupled, non-linear, chaotic, etc.). I think, once the public appreciates the uncertainties, it will become politically acceptable to dismiss the alarmist narrative. I predict soon…the ice volume variance of the artic will settle things. IMHO of course.

      • …Hey Jan, how about the BEST option….STOP believing that the ” planet is going to boil ” from 1 degree of warming in 100 years, then maybe, you can make sound, logical and useful decisions.. !!

      • What I’d expect, is that he would understand that people DON’T need a McMansion and a BMW in order to have basic refrigeration and access to clean water. There’s no need to hold off providing power to people in the name of waiting for a better way to come around.

  20. The opposite picture of reversion back to pre-industrial times can be clearly seen in Venezuela today with power cuts, lack of store-bought food and medicines, widespread crime…..

  21. Tramping around Europe in recent years, I noticed how people burn what they can get their hands on. In cities, that’s not much. In the countryside, however, even a twig is worth incinerating. We’re not talking about impoverished eastern countries but regions like Tuscany and Galicia.
    The reasons are simple: tradition, but also the sky-high cost of power. And when you consider that the greater part of European “renewables” is still biomass of one sort or other you have to wonder how much “carbon” is being saved by all the fiddling and regulation. (Vigorous wars can now be fought in North Africa over European energy needs since NATO decided to destabilise that region – as well as the other regions. Maybe we could find a bright spark to calculate what wars cost in the way of “carbon” and add that to all the biomass and twig burning.)
    Amazing that all these years after Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse we now have intellectuals incapable of appreciating power which provides cheap light and heat over huge areas while concentrating and controlling the hazards at source.
    As to getting our choicest Australian intellectuals to consider the real cost of imported, emergency and back-up fossil fuel power for the Great Green Basket Case also known as South Australia…
    Best to say nothing, or they’ll just invent another South Australian non-industry to subsidise!

  22. WE;ll there ya go.
    Green energy enforced on the third world is simply more Neo Colonialisim.
    You know, the thing those who support green policies, are always accusing the Neo conservatives of.

  23. ..Once Donald Trump becomes president, the liberal left will start to destroy itself from within as it tries to understand why it’s message of a “Green” Utopia, with it’s Special Unicorn Farts, has failed…as can be seen in the following video…( no, I will not pay for your new video monitor or keyboard…or your wasted coffee….) lol…O.K….Maybe I need more coffee…but it’s funny..

  24. Fail safe modular nukes gifted to the 3rd world is the best contribution developed nations can make to help raise people out of poverty. No need to waste money on corrupt officials or useless programs that merely help people subsist in poverty. Power to the People can have a real meaning. Sorry if this comment is redundant. Didn’t have time to read the others.

  25. Mosomoso is spot on with his comments about people in Europe looking for fuel to burn. A recent EU report said that 42 million people in the EU were now struggling between having to choose to have enough food in winter or enough heating. That’s the EU note, supposedly one of the wealthiest regions in the world.
    Naturally this wasn’t headline news on the BBC, which on the scale of rank dishonesty in its reporting of climate and environmental issues and its flagrant disregard of its charter which requires fair and informative reporting puts the Corporation in the company of the North Korean television news. Maybe I’m even being unfair to the North Koreans. But then it’s increasing reliance on an ever diminishing circle of BBC luvvies forming a self selecting, self editing and narrowing band of viewpoints leaves the Corporation immune to anything which contradicts their blinkered values and beliefs.
    When even a former Chancellor of the Exchequer is now banned from appearing on the BBC to talk about climate issues, because he is so effective in his critique of the green blob, and our soporific MPs fail to act, it is indeed late in the day for fair and honest news reporting in Britain.
    Instead, last night the BBC news treated viewers to a 5 minute whine about the Corporation loosing a smug, middle class, programme about cake making to a higher bidder. Obviously encouraging diabetes and obesity ranks higher in the concerns of the BBC than more important world issues. And certainly higher than old and poor people having to choose between food or warmth because of our insane energy policies. The founders of the BBC would be weeping with shame and rage.

  26. I was in Laos recently watching this village generating electricity by little home made turbines in the stream. It lengthened their day a little. We MUST get them a power station NOW

  27. In my experience in the 3rd world, the cooking fuel problem gets solved by availability of natural gas or propane — not electricity.
    Electricity does provide all the other benefits described in the main article. Life is miserable without reliable 24/7 adequate electrical power — the lack of which guarantees poverty.
    We worked with the profoundly poor in the DR for ten years — and never found electricity providing fuel (power) for cooking (other than the occasional electric kettle for tea or coffee).
    The alternative to wood/charcoal for cooking was bottled gas/propane — I believe subsidized (somewhat) by the federal government there.

    • No.. I have no employment or income from any renewable or green group. This is just a private interest of mine
      (Griff is a nickname derived from my surname, the 13th most common in the English speaking world, so I’m told. My brother is also Griff, which used to get confusing when we were both still living in the parental home…!)

  28. I went to lie in a third world country for 5 years as a child. In approximately 15 years, with the impact of globalisation and trade, stone age cultures went from walking everywhere, no metal, isolation, no written tradition, no roads and death before 45 yrs. That country how has roads, electricity, metal tools, ships, air transport. There is manufacturing – still limited. Life expectancy is increasing. It’s not perfect, but despite major issues including corruption I see year on year improvement. My brother went back.
    I took my children to another third world nation. At independence after the Japanese left, there were four engineers, no doctors all industry had been destroyed, there were a hand full of trucks. People lived to 45 years and were midgets from malnutrition With globalisation, that same country builds and exports aircraft, has multiple car manufacturers with native designs, has a ship building industry, a national road system, a national electricity grid. People now live decades longer. Malnutrition is much less of an issue. There are multiple universities. It’s not perfect, but despite major issues I see a year on year improvement. I went back.
    Don’t dare tell me how bad globalisation is. People criticising globalisation have NO idea how powerful or massive it’s effect on quality of life or life expectancy has been amongst the poor. Many of these people were friends or colleagues. In general critics just want to hold back development, to freeze the diasadvantaged in some supposed idealistic state – while stopping the rate of change in global society.

  29. President Obama
    “Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.”
    But we already have, it was invented in our own national labs in the 1960’s, with a few years of engineering it could be powering the world for less than coal, both upfront capital cost and operating cost. Molten Salt Reactors. check out Thorcon Power, Terrapower, Terrestrial Energy, Moltex, Transatomic Power, or Flibe, all start-up reactor companies that could be in mass construction within 10 years. Here is just a sample.

    • The only ‘green’ thing that really worked well here in South Africa is the solar heating of water. The installation works like the opposite of a car radiator, collecting heat from the sun and transferring it into a solar geyser filled with water. If the T is not high enough due to lack of sun, your normal electricity supply can be used to bring the T of the geyser up. I did not see any of those in California – although I am sure it would work well there. It would also work well in Australia but I don’t know if they sell them down there.
      I did try putting up some solar panels for electrically powering the office, but I find the maintenance – and other issues – too much trouble to bother about it further.
      Nuclear is a disaster, unless they came with a plan for a thorium reactor.

      • Mind you, be careful in areas where freezing occurs in winter. I had mine frozen up one year,
        which cost a bundle –
        the insurance companies always have an escape formula [for freezing conditions]

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