American Elephants

When Electricity Comes, It Brings Progress and Promise. by The Elephant's Child

In a story posted recently at Watts Up With That, Paul Driessen writes about the coming of electricity to the veld, South Africa’s outback, and what it meant.

for 16 years Thabo Molubi and his partner had made furniture in South Africa’s outback, known locally as the “veld,” using nothing but hand and foot power. When an electrical line finally reached the area, they installed lights, power saws and drills. Their productivity increased fourfold, and they hired local workers to make, sell and ship far more tables and chairs of much higher quality, thereby also commanding higher prices.Living standards soared, and local families were able to buy and enjoy lights, refrigerators, televisions, computers and other technologies that Americans and Europeans often take for granted. The area was propelled into the modern era, entrepreneurial spirits were unleashed, new businesses opened, and hundreds of newly employed workers joined the global economy. …

Thousands of other African communities want the same opportunities. But for now they must continue to live without electricity, or have it only sporadically and unpredictably a few hours each week. Over 700 million Africans – and some two billion people worldwide – still lack regular, reliable electricity and must rely on toxic wood and dung fires for most or all of their heating and cooking needs. (continue reading)

What these people most need is clean water and reliable power. Modern coal-fired power plants have few environmental or health problems, except in the minds and propaganda of eco-activists. Africa would appreciate less aid, not more. And the chance to improve their lives with their own industry.

Environmental do-gooders  want Africa’s poorest nations to worry more about CO2 than about cholera, tuberculosis and malaria. It’s self-serving nannyism. Help them to get the energy technologies that will give them a chance.


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Environmental do-gooders want Africa’s poorest nations to worry more about CO2 than about cholera, tuberculosis and malaria.

That’s not true as a generalization. Maybe you can identify a few groups or people who have said this links, please?), but there are many more that care very much about these more immediate problems.

And, though you don’t believe there is any link between anthropogenic CO2 emissions and global climate change, in the context that the environmental groups are operating, addressing CO2 emissions is consistent with fighting changes that may worsen the factors that contribute to diseases such as malaria.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Poor Africans are cooking their food over fires fueled with wood, dung, land eaves (biofuel). They are denuding the landscape in many places in their search for fuel, and that in turn is threatening endangered Gorilla populations, as well as the poor Africans. Emits a lot of smoke, but not much threat to the environment from smoke, except on the occupants of the hut. That enviros are demanding they use solar and wind instead of a reliable power plant, also in the article. Environmentalists have worked hard to keep nations from accepting what they call “frankenfood” but is genetically designed seed to allow Africans larger crops. Well documented in numerous articles. That aid is not helpful, see Dambisa Moyo and James Shikwati. See Paul Reiter, Donald Roberts and Roger Bate I provided the links that supported what I wrote. If you want something else, do your own research. The factors that contribute to diseases such as malaria are best controlled, according to the entomologists who are most expert in the disease, by spraying huts with DDT. See Dr Paul Reiter, Dr. Donald Roberts. Dr. Roger Bate is not a scientist, but head of Africa Fighting Malaria. Environmentalists object to that as well. Africa has a lot of energy, but it remains unused. The damaging “aid” money would be better spent in helping to build a power plant. The best remedy for any environmental problem is to make the country wealthier and more able to cope.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Again, you are missing my point. You are besmirching “environmentalists” as a group, rather than particular organizations or individuals. It is up to you therefore to provide the evidence that justifies making such a sweeping statement. Telling your readers to do the research themselves is not good form.

I know of no major environmental group that is against improving access to electricity in countries with low rates of access. Opinions differ, of course, on how that electricity is to be provided. What many environmental groups don’t like is rich countries subsidizing the construction of coal-fired power plants through export credits and multilateral concessional loans. (Of course, many of these same environmental groups are happy to see
export credits and multilateral concessional loans for their preferred technologies — i.e., renewable energy plants.)

Yes, there are many groups advocating the greater use of solar energy, but a lot of that push is aimed at remote areas where it would actually cost more to serve villages with conventional power plants or to connect them to distant grids by building large, expensive transmission lines. Even small, single-module solar lamps (combined with highly efficient LEDs) are making it possible for children to be able to read at night, and many people to undertake productive activities at night that they could not before. Slightly larger solar arrays are now substituting for expensive diesel generators to recharge the large (car-sized) batteries that often serves as energy for lighting and radio at night in areas not yet connected to a grid.

Some developing countries are shooting themselves in the foot, however, by levying high import tariffs on solar PV cells. Worse, because these are high-value items, many manufacturers send them to a central country in South America or Africa, to be stored in a guarded warehouse. When they get re-exported to a neighboring country, the cells are slapped with an import tariff again, driving up the cost even more.

Environmental groups have also been behind programs to encourage the use of LPG stoves, in order to reduce over-harvesting of forest biomass, or at least more-efficient solid-fuel stoves (in place of the traditional three-stone fireplace). Helping developing countries build more modern charcoal-producing facilities is also seen as part of the solution, especially in remote areas difficult to keep supplied with LPG.

As for the off-topic points you added, there may be some young or ignorant environmentalists who are against even the selective use of DDT in and around homes to control malaria-carrying mosquito, but even (contrary to myth) Rachel Carson was not against that. But what entomologists will point out is that using an insecticide like DDT is a double-edged sword. Use it too much and too broadly and the insects develop resistance to it, and one is stuck with one less weapon in your arsenal. That point seems to be ignorred by revisionists for whom any nuance to their meme that environmentalists are stupid and are ruining everything is seen as diluting their core message.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

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