Making Earth a “High-Energy Planet”

By |2014-07-24T08:31:13+00:00July 23rd, 2014|Op-Ed Articles|2 Comments

Electricity for Africa may become a reality.

If all goes smoothly, President Obama will be able to sign a landmark bipartisan energy-for-Africa bill when more than 40 African heads of state – all looking to attract more U.S. investment for their economies – convene at the White House for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on Aug. 5 and 6.

Two bills in Congress are waiting in the wings for their high voltage debut – the “Electrify Africa” measure (HR 2548), which has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate’s companion “Energize Africa” bill (S 2508), which is ready for a floor vote. Both bills abandon yesterday’s foreign aid handouts and propose only private sector-based incentives such as loans, guarantees, and political risk insurance as a shock absorber for U.S. businesses willing to enter frontier African markets.

The mere possibility of an energy-for-Africa bill with the president’s signature on it is already sparking angry outbursts from Obama’s political base. That’s bizarre but predictable – congressional action would give Obama a big boost for his June 30, 2013, “Power Africa” initiative, which – amazingly – is an “all of the above” energy program and not one of those weasel-worded “all except fossil fuels” shams the White House usually perpetrates. The White House fact sheet specifically said, “Power Africa will partner with Uganda and Mozambique on responsible oil and gas resources management.” It was silent about coal, which is plentiful in Africa.

Africans without electricity IEAWhen Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz touts his department’s “Beyond the Grid” initiative to encourage greenie-approved off-grid and small-scale energy projects, he takes care to avoid disparaging fossil fuels because they’re part of Obama’s Power Africa plan.

Obama’s Big Green base is furious that a measly president of the United States would dare to thwart their exalted global mission to force people in developing nations to live off-grid with only the energy for two lightbulbs, a fan and a radio – a standard measure of “energy access” used by the U.N.’s callous “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative.

A recent Sierra Club report, “Clean Energy Services for All,” defines energy access for poor nations as living on 0.15 percent of the average Californian’s annual usage, according to several critiques. Sierra Clubbers, please lead by example.

The Sierra Club’s sourpuss misers got a nasty slapdown in June from the Breakthrough Institute, a brainstorming enterprise formed in 2004 by Big Green bad boys Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger. The unknown pair published a provocative essay titled “The Death of Environmentalism” – drubbing everything wrong with mainstream environmentalism – and presented all the dirty laundry at the annual retreat of the Environmental Grantmakers Association. They weren’t unknown afterward.

They have matured wonderfully into welcome thought leaders with their April publication, “Our High Energy Planet — A Climate Pragmatism Project.” In the past I have disparaged some of their more leftward shenanigans, so I offer the following quote from their executive summary as part contrition, part admiration:

“Today, over 1 billion people around the world — 500 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa alone — lack access to electricity. Nearly 3 billion people cook over open fires fueled by wood, dung, coal, or charcoal. This energy poverty presents a significant hurdle to achieving development goals of health, prosperity, and a livable environment.”

I have friends in sub-Saharan Africa, from my days working with leaders of the Congress of Racial Equality, two of whom run CORE Uganda, Fiona Kobusingye and her husband Cyril Boynes. Kobusingye is also an outspoken promoter of DDT sprays as coordinator of Uganda’s Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now Brigade. She is a victim of malaria herself, requiring lifelong medical treatment — I was seated next to Fiona at a 2004 conference in New York City when she suffered an attack and went to a hospital where none of the doctors had ever seen malaria — and she has lost many cherished family members to the disease.

I asked CORE’s national chairman, Roy Innis, how he felt about the two energy-for-Africa bills now in Congress. Although best known for his activism in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, he is also a long-time champion of energy access for the disadvantaged — and author of “Energy Keepers, Energy Killers: The New Civil Rights Battle.”

Innis said, “A short visit to most of Africa reveals a crushing shortage of controlled and developed energy. It appears that on this legislation, HR 2548 and S 2508, we can avoid the usual fights that bogged down the legislative branch. We hope that the executive branch can follow.”

CORE Uganda hopes so in particular. The Ugandan census of 2002 reported that 7.7 percent of households used electricity for lighting (only 2.6 percent of rural households), with 74.8 percent of households using “tadooba,” a form of paraffin candle, for lighting. Most tourist areas need backup generators because of grid failures. In 2002, the network fed by hydroelectric dams on Lake Victoria provided power to only 33 of the 54 districts of Uganda. Things have improved with diesel-fueled power turbines and co-generation from sugar works, bringing most numbers up about 50 percent since 2002. And in February, the Ugandan Ministry of Energy signed a deal with three European – not American – oil companies to develop its petroleum reserves estimated at over 3.5 billion barrels, based on limited drilling and testing.

Assuming that Congress does the right thing and puts an energy-for-Africa bill on Obama’s desk soon, the new law and his Power Africa initiative may together have the momentum to steamroller the would-be energy-starvation despots of the world into the frozen darkness of Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell and lift the Breakthrough Institute’s report title into global reality – “Our High-Energy Planet.”


This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner

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  1. TonyfromOz July 25, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    The electrical power availability is Africa is really quite pitiful. There could be as many as 600 million people in Africa who have no access at all to electricity, let alone the constant and regular supply we take so utterly for granted in our already Developed World.

    Recently, The Republic of Niger proposed constructing a new coal fired power plant, only one unit of 600MW. (and consider here that just ONE typical large scale coal fired power plant in our World has four of these 600MW+ units)

    Just that one unit alone, with a yearly power generation of 4.6TeraWattHours will increase Niger’s electricity generation by a factor of 15.3.

    There are 23 separate Countries in Africa with less power generation for the whole Country than what is consumed in an average Developed World city with a population of around 35,000 people. Those 23 Countries have a population of 142 Million people and the combined generation of all 23 Countries is less total power than that consumed in a Large Western World city with a population of around 1.2 Million people, say Dallas, Adelaide, or Munich.

    In fact, that one 600MW unit proposed for Niger will deliver electrical power equal to 75% of the currently generated power in those same 23 Countries, from just one relatively small 600MW unit.

    For the full details on this shameful situation, I have a Post at my home site which explains the situation in greater detail, and the link to that Post is as follows.

    I wonder how well this fits in with President Obama’s decision to, umm, “Energize Africa”.


  2. Thinker822 July 26, 2014 at 1:07 AM

    We have no obligation or budget to do anything like this for anyone. Africa needs to STAND for itself and pull itself from the mire of chaos. This is not America’s responsibility.

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