Few Americans can imagine life without reliable, affordable electricity – for lights, refrigerators, air conditioning, computers, and countless other technologies that enhance and safeguard our lives.

But in Africa, India, and other regions some 2.5 billion people still lack electricity or must rely on little solar panels on their huts, a wind turbine in their village or unreliable power grids. They must be content with a cell phone, light bulb, and tiny refrigerator.

Africans without electricity IEAThese energy-deprived people do not merely suffer abject poverty. They must burn wood and dung for heating and cooking, which results in debilitating lung diseases that kill a million people every year.

They lack refrigeration, safe water, and decent hospitals, resulting in virulent intestinal diseases that send almost two million people a year to their graves – mostly women and children.

The energy deprivation is due in large part to unrelenting eco-activist campaigns against coal-fired power plants, natural gas-fueled turbines, and nuclear and hydroelectric facilities. Even President Obama told Africans in 2009 that they should leapfrog the “dirtier phase” of economic development, ignore fossil fuels, and instead use their “bountiful wind and solar power, geothermal energy and biofuels.”

Citing climate change, his administration even joined Big Green environmental groups in refusing to support loans for critically needed coal and natural gas-fired generating plants in Ghana and South Africa.

It’s thus a momentous development that the House of Representatives has passed an “Electrify Africa” bill; the Senate will soon vote on its companion “Energize Africa” measure; and the White House is sponsoring a “Power Africa” initiative.  All three will spur fossil fuel, power plant, and electrical grid development, improving access to energy, jobs, higher living standards, better health, and longer lives.

The measures speak of a “broad” power mix, including renewable energy, but say little or nothing about oil, gas, or coal. However, Africa has abundant supplies of these fossil fuels and cannot afford to ignore them. A huge power plant in Ghana takes advantage of otherwise unneeded natural gas, while South Africa’s enormous Medupi plant burns coal, using technologies that remove up to 90% of key air pollutants.

dungEnvironmentalist pressure groups will nevertheless probably oppose any “Energize Africa” policy recommendations or project proposals that involve fossil fuels or promote any large-scale power generation, instead of reliance on what they and the United Nations like to call “sustainable energy.”

Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and UN activists would never agree to less than 1% of the electricity that average Americans use. For them to advocate such miserly levels for Third World families – instead of the “high energy” levels they need and deserve – is hypocritical, callous eco-imperialism.

India’s Intelligence Bureau recently called Greenpeace “a threat to national economic security,” noting that it has been “spawning” and funding internal campaigns that have delayed or blocked electricity projects and other infrastructure programs needed to lift people out of poverty and disease. The Bureau says anti-development NGOs are costing India’s economy 2% to 3% in lost GDP every year.

The Indian government has now banned direct foreign funding of local campaign groups by Greenpeace, WWF International, and other foreign NGOs. That’s an important step.

Big Green campaigners constantly demand “environmental justice” for poor families. They insist that for-profit corporations be socially responsible, honest, transparent, and liable for damages the NGOs allege companies have inflicted, by supposedly altering Earth’s climate and weather, for example.

However, they bristle when anyone says the same standards should apply to them, as nonprofit corporations that wield enormous power and influence. They oppose Golden Rice, for example, consigning millions of children to malnutrition, blindness and death.

African children eatingThey incessantly battle pesticides and the powerful insect repellent DDT (see entomologist eating DDT-sprayed porridge), ensuring that half a billion people get malaria every year, making them unable to work for weeks, leaving millions with permanent brain damage, and killing 900,000 per year, mostly women and children.

In their view, anything they support is sustainable. Whatever they oppose is unsustainable. Whatever they advocate also complies with the “precautionary principle.” Whatever they disdain violates it.

Worse, their perverse guidelines always focus on alleged risks of using technologies – but never on risks of not using them. They spotlight risks that modern technologies might cause, but ignore risks the technologies would reduce or prevent.

Profit-seeking companies certainly cause accidents, some of which have killed hundreds of people or thousands of animals. However, the real killers are governments and anti-technology nonprofit activist corporations.

Their death tolls are in the millions – via wars and through misguided or intentional policies that institute or prolong starvation and disease from denial of electricity, food, and life-saving technologies.

India, Uganda, and other countries can fight back, by terminating the NGOs’ tax-exempt status, as Canada did with Greenpeace. They could hold pressure groups to the same standards they demand of for-profit corporations: honesty, transparency, social responsibility, accountability, and personal liability.

They could excoriate the Big Green groups for their crimes against humanity – and penalize them for the malnutrition, disease, economic stagnation, and death they perpetrate or perpetuate.

Actions like these would improve billions of lives, ensure true environmental justice for millions of families, and bring at least a measure of accountability to Big Green.


This article was first published in the Washington Times, August 5, 2014.

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  • Paul Driessen

    Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for CFACT and author of Cracking Big Green and Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death.