Sanity and humanity return to the World Bank?

Extreme greens grouse, but African and other poor families see hope in David Malpass

Paul Driessen

President Obama infamously told Africans they should focus on their “bountiful” wind, solar and biofuel. If they use “dirty” fossil fuels to raise 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.”

So when South Africa applied for a World Bank loan to finish its low-pollution coal-fired Medupi power plant, his administration voted “present,” and the loan was approved by a bare majority of other bank member nations. The Obama Overseas Private Investment Corporation refused to support construction of a power plant designed to burn natural gas that was being “flared” and wasted in Ghana’s oil fields.

As David Wojick and I have documented (here, here, here, here and here), eco-imperialist, carbon colonialist policies by the World Bank and other anti-development banks have perpetuated needless energy deprivation, poverty, disease and early death in Africa, Asia and beyond for much too long.

But now the World Bank’s executive board has unanimously approved President Trump’s nominee as its new president. Former Treasury Department Under Secretary for International Affairs David Malpass has long criticized the bank for its lack of transparency, multiple low-interest loans to China (even as China became an economic behemoth), and insufficient focus on private-sector development and a stronger, more stable global economy for all nations and families. He just began serving a five-year term.

A few critics predictably claimed Malpass had “committed economic malpractice” and would be “a disastrous, toxic choice.” However, others praised his experience, skills, free-market principles, and commitment to accountability and poor country development.

“Malpass is the ideal candidate to cleanse and modernize an institution charged with helping developing nations climb the economic ladder,” said Deroy Murdock, whose travels have given him a firsthand look at rampant poverty and malnutrition all across the globe.

A healthy dose of sanity and humanity is clearly in order. In recent years, the World Bank strayed far from its original 1944 mission of reducing global poverty, providing financial aid and guidance to needy countries, and giving “life-saving global health and humanitarian assistance” to “the world’s most vulnerable populations.” Instead, it increasingly focused on “fighting the effects of climate change,” supporting wind and solar energy projects, and combating emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide.

In 2018 alone, the World Bank provided $20 billion for such projects. Its cumulative loans to China now total more than $60 billion – even as the Middle Kingdom increasingly engaged in predatory loan practices. “Sri Lanka, for example, was forced to cede control of the strategic port of Hambantota to China Merchants Port Holdings Company, after falling into the ‘Chinese debt trap,’” Murdock wrote.

Other supposed multilateral “development” banks followed the World Bank’s callous lead. Most stopped financing coal-fired power plants, slashed or ceased funding for oil and gas exploration by poor countries, and emphasized “total de-carbonization” in their lending practices.

In their warped worldview, manmade climate change dangers that exist only in computer models are a far more pressing concern than horrific real-world, present-day deprivation, disease and death.

Right now, around the world, over a billion people still do not have electricity; another 2 billion have electrical power only sporadically and unpredictably. In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 700 million people (the population of all Europe) rarely or never have electricity, and still cook and heat with wood, charcoal, and animal dung. In India, over 200 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water.

Every year, hundreds of millions become ill and 5 million die of lung and intestinal diseases from inhaling pollutants from open fires, and from lack of clean water, refrigeration, bacteria-free food and decent clinics. Largely because they lack electricity to power modern economies, nearly 3 billion survive on a few dollars per day, and more millions die every year from preventable or curable diseases.

But the anti-development banks still focus on “climate change mitigation” and financing “the shift in energy production to renewable energy technologies, and the shift to low-carbon modes of transport.”

Such as horses, oxen and walking, one supposes. People in those countries have been there, done that. They will no longer tolerate being told these banks will help them improve their lives only a little, only to the extent that doing so would conform to climate and sustainability guidelines, only as much as could be supported by wind, solar biofuel and geothermal energy.

Carbon colonialism is on its way out. It’s about time. Will the Malpass World Bank help lead the way?

In what can only be seen as a massive show of defiance and common sense, developing, emerging and modern economies have well over 215,000 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity under construction: China 128,650 MW; India 36,158; Indonesia 11,466; Japan: 8,724; Pakistan 3,300; Philippines 2,890; Poland 4,170; South Africa 5,429; South Korea 5,429; Vietnam 9,705.

The Africa Development Bank also knows fossil fuels still represent the way forward to a healthier and more prosperous future – and will for decades to come. The AfDB is again financing coal and natural gas power generation projects, because it understands that abundant, reliable, affordable electricity is essential for real progress – and cannot possibly be achieved with expensive, inadequate, intermittent, unpredictable wind and solar power. The continent’s geothermal energy is also woefully inadequate.

Africa has the lowest electrification rate in the world. Its per capital power consumption is a miserly 615 kWh per year, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina emphasized. Compare that to 6,500 kWh per person per year in Europe, and 13,000 in the United States.

The average African’s access to electricity is equivalent to the average American having this miraculous, all-purpose power available 1 hour a day, 8 hours a week, 411 hours per year – at totally unpredictable times. Try running your home, hospital, school, factory, film industry or World Bank office on that.

In reality, most of Africa’s electricity is generated in one country, South Africa, and the vast majority of the continent’s people still have zero, zip, nada electricity – except maybe enough photovoltaic power to charge their cell phones and power a single light bulb in their primitive huts.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her coterie of petroleum-denigrating socialists have no inkling of what life would be like without oil and natural gas. This short video gives a graphic clue of life under their Green New Deal. But in reality, even the metal, wood and cotton items the video leaves behind when petroleum is yanked away would disappear without oil and gas to get raw materials out of the ground and turn them into everyday products – and to grow, harvest and weave cotton into T-shirts and undies.

Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and many other sub-Sahara African countries have vast coal deposits that would last at least a century at rates necessary to electrify those countries. Many also have enormous oil and natural gas resources. Those fuels must no longer be ignored under the “keep it in the ground” mantra.

Of course, all this anti-fossil-fuel fervor is justified by cries of “climate change.” But the issue isn’t whether the climate or weather is changing. It’s whether humans and fossil fuels are truly causing any observed changes … whether any changes will be dangerous or catastrophic – and whether alarmist scientists have any actual, credible evidence that could survive scrutiny by a Presidential Commission on Climate Change that they are scared to death President Trump might create.

Hopefully, David Malpass will set a more realistic, more human-rights-focused tone at the World Bank – and for the various multilateral development banks. Billions of lives hang in the balance.

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of articles and books on energy, environmental and human rights issues.

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31 thoughts on “Sanity and humanity return to the World Bank?

  1. For an outfit like the World Bank the head will be invited to be purely outward-facing, likely to consume all his energy, leaving the zealots alone to pursue their dreams. There is also the risk of “going-native”, in order to leave a legacy for the children, blah-blah, cue the anthems.

  2. This, a few years after The World Bank performed an about face on the issue of large hydropower projects.
    It seems that they can, to some extent, learn from their own mistakes.
    Meanwhile, see this article from the time, for the protestations of the Guardian.
    For the Guardian, Africa can have any kind of power generation, providing it isn’t coal, oil, gas, nuclear, and/or hydropower. So power for Africans will only be delivered on a temporary basis during periods of high wind and sunshine. When it’s windy and dark, then the power grid can collapse.
    Not quite sure what the left is thinking in this regard. At least those Africans have dung to pile on their indoor cooking stoves, I suppose. Lucky for them…(facepalm)
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2013/jul/16/world-bank-dams-africa

    • re. cooking with dung
      Crispin in Waterloo (maybe) has something to offer. link Surprisingly, as far as I can tell, the World Bank is involved. A pretty simple, cheap, efficient stove reduces fuel consumption as well as indoor air pollution.

      • commieB

        Thanks for the remembrance. You are correct: The WB should be viewed more like a university than a company. In a University there are kingdoms – lots of them – which operate within spheres of interest which can be quite varied, with a central authority that operates more as a team lead that sets principles and goals. In short there are differences of opinion and approach going on at the same time.

        As can be see from the document you referenced, there are many difficulties encountered when trying to do practical things for millions of rural poor who are below the radar and treated as “surplus people” or even “deplorables” in many quarters. Strictly speaking that project was fully in line with the original noble goals of the WB.

        In fairness I should point out that when the chips were really down on the Mongolian portion of that project, the Asian Development bank stepped in to save the day and build the first testing lab that was capable of sifting through the numerous and suspicious claims that heating stove products were “improved”. That was in 2009-2011. Then others stepped up to assist: The WB in Indonesia (Central Java improved stove pilot that helped perfect the “contextual testing” method and which won an award for financing innovation). The China Agricultural University (their oldest) in the College of Engineering has done a great deal of work on testing emissions and reining the mathematics, two South Africa groups were involved (10 years so far) and of course the WB technical assistance project you linked to in Kyrgyzstan (which involved a grant, not a loan).

        My point is that the WB was involved in several places on a common goal: a paradigm-shift in the technology that placed the needs of the rural poor ahead of the more influential urban-based policy-makers. It must, at the same time, be remembered that the WB is not a “development organisation” like an NGO or state-directed entity like CIDA or GIZ. It makes loans to governments on agreed terms for agreed purposes. In terms of implementation, it monitors procurement and implementation very closely. That is or that reason that the giant SNC Lavelin in Canada is not allowed to bid on WB projects for 10 years because they were involved in corruption. They are very strict about that.

        It is easy to sling stones at large organisations but it is usually unfair. The criticism of coal which led to the policy banning finance for coal fired power stations is a result of pressure from member countries who put up the money each year (remember, it is a subscriber-driven organisation). Changing the WB head may not relieve that pressure entirely. Let’s see how that plays out.

        The project you reference has a positive return of 50 or 100 to 1 (benefit v.s. cost) so it was disappointing that the government did not want to expand it significantly. The perfect loan is one that saves so much or generates so much benefit, it has a large net-positive return. Obviously borrowing money to import propane to sell at a subsidised price is insane. That is advocated by the USA and WHO but not by the WB.

        BTW that document is now available in Russian, downloadable from:
        http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/850031553156121497/Advancing-Heating-Services-Beyond-the-Last-Mile-Central-Asia-Pilot-Experience-with-High-Efficiency-Low-Emissions-Heating-Technologies

        Many of the potential beneficiaries are in countries that speak Russian as a first or second language.

    • There is nothing wrong with burning coal using modern combustors with scrubbers, which are readily available.

      • Yes there is: that still leaves particulates and especially it still generates vast amounts of CO2 which drives damaging climate change

        • Griff
          Where is the proof that” CO2 drives damaging climate change .”
          There is no proof that CO2 is the control knob of the climate .
          Just because activist so called scientists tell you that it is going to happen is no proof .
          Bring some real proof here to WUWT or stop your drive by remarks .
          In the last 140 years the earth has warmed about one degree Celsius but the temperatures were recovering from the little ice age ,the coldest the earth had been for 200O years .
          In the 1970s these same scientific institutions were warning of a coming ice age as world temperatures were falling and they have barley recovered ,and the world is now cooling again since 2016.

        • Importing and burning wood pellets also increases particulates along with the clear cut forests to pursue the green hype. This archaic power generation scheme needs to be stopped.

  3. It seems to be well known that the World Bank does more harm than good. example

    Maybe the World Bank is another example of what H.L. Mencken said:

    … there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong … link

  4. “Carbon colonialism is on its way out.”

    As promising as Malpass’ appointment is, it carries no guarantee of success and is a drop in the bucket. There is too much inertia and too much money behind “carbon colonialism” for it to end anytime in the near future.

  5. “Carbon colonialism”

    A post-modern form of usury in which all men incur debt simply by virtue of existence and carbon credits serve as interest on that debt.

  6. The blows to sick enviro-socialism just keep on coming, thanks to President Trump!
    David Malpass, leading the World Bank, is in a position to end more human poverty-driven misery than nearly any other person on the planet. May his tenure be uplifting to the desperate poor that the enviro-socialists would sentence to lives of wretched impoverishment.

  7. You have to admit President Trump did say one of the dumbest things ever. “You’ll get tired of winning. ” WRONG!

  8. This will depress the Synod of the Church of England which is disinvesting in fossil fuels and cares not a toss for the poor of the world, the ignorant virtue signallers

  9. While it was obvious that the World Bank was taken over by the crazies, why didn’t the people in Africa do what the people in initially the UK do way back at the start of the Industrial Revolution. As the wood used for heating and cooking ran out, they found what was initially called Sea Coal.

    So South Africa has electricity, but until a few tears ago South Africa was run by White people.

    Dare I say this, but it does seem that white people managed to do things like mine for coal, then to use the energy into making their lives a lot better.

    MJE VK5ELL

  10. Although out of control population growth in third world countries is an obvious problem the globalist eco activists still want them energy poor. this is despite all the evidence that improving personal wealth REDUCES population growth as economies modernise.

  11. The fossil fuel/grid technology which could supply power to the entire African continent has existed since WW2 and throughout post colonial times… and yet fossil fuel companies and aid giving govts have not ever deployed it across Africa.

    And now power IS reaching the poorest across India and Africa, through basic and advanced renewable technologies, from solar LED lanterns to the Kenyan geothermal programme. The World Bank has recently electrified Kenya, for example, and without renewable energy that would not have been completed.

    • The whole system is under strain because of electricity and electrical theft but don’t worry the world bank and NGO’s will be asked to cough up another few Billion when it all collapses.

  12. Perhaps the actions of the World Bank and others are behind Rosatom’s capture of the world market for nuclear power plants. Those actually under construction are in Finland, Hungary, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, and China. I have read that Rwanda and Indonesia have expressed interest, and Zambia expects to break ground next year. Rosatom has a forward order book of 38 units with the design signed off by the I.A.E.A.

  13. Malpass has already stated that he does not want to change the Boards focus on renewables. Not winning yet I think.

  14. In Cape Town, the ‘black-out’ schedules are published days in advance. It’s the un-scheduled “black-outs” that get people upset. News 24 collects news items from all parts of Africa…..

    https://www.news24.com/

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