Rejecting carbon colonialism
African Development Bank breaks with anti-fossil fuel banks to fund coal power, prosperity
Paul Driessen and David Wojick
We recently explained how Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) use manmade climate change alarmism to justify lending policies that reject funding for fossil fuel electricity generation, promote expensive and unreliable renewable sources, and thereby help keep impoverished nations poor.
Now, in a daring show of humanity and common sense, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has broken ranks with the World Bank and its like-minded carbon colonialist brethren. The AfDB has announced that it will once again finance coal and natural gas power generation projects. As AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina puts it, “Africa must develop its energy sector with what it has.”
In a formal statement, Adesina noted: “The key challenge for Africa is the generation of power. The continent has the lowest electrification rate in the world. Power consumption per capita in Africa is estimated at 613 kWh per annum, compared to 6,500 kWh in Europe and 13,000 kWh in the United States. Power is the overriding African priority.
“The investment is expensive, yes, but the long-term returns will be much greater. To fast track universal access to electricity, the Bank is investing US$12 billion in the power sector and seeks to mobilize $45-$50 billion from other partners.”
Put in understandable everyday terms, those numbers mean the electricity that makes modern lives, jobs, productivity, living standards, health, communication, computers, entertainment and life spans possible is available to Africans a paltry 4.7% per capita of what Americans rely on. Just imagine having electricity available only 1 hour a day … 8 hours a week … 411 hours per year – at totally unpredictable times, for a few minutes, hours or days at a stretch when you have power. And at three times what Americans pay.
Try running your life that way – or with wind and solar systems that are just as sporadic and unreliable – and might increase your per capita electricity to 10 or 15% of US levels.
Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and many other sub-Sahara African countries have vast coal deposits. South Africa’s state-owned utility Eskom estimates that South Africa’s 53 billion tons of coal reserves could meet its needs for 200 years! Many also have enormous natural gas resources.
Those fossil fuels must not be ignored and “kept in the ground,” to appease eco-imperialists.
The AfDB is being encouraged by the Trump Administration, which may partly account for the new policy. The Trump USAID is now running the Power Africa 2.0 program, a vital upgrade of the Obama era program that promoted renewable energy and strongly discouraged the use of affordable fossil fuels.
USAID says Power Africa 2.0 is “one of the largest public-private partnerships in development history, with more than $54 billion of commitments from its more than 150 public- and private-sector partners.”
The Obama program managed to facilitate financing for just 7,300 MW of electrical generating capacity (15% of what Germany generated with coal in 2016) – and most of that was from expensive, unreliable wind and solar units. Even Bloomberg said President Obama’s “signature initiative for Africa” fell “well short” of its goals, producing less than 5% of the new electricity it promised; and virtually all that power was intermittent, expensive wind and solar – leaving hundreds of millions of Africans “in the dark.”
The only fossil fuel theoretically allowed under the Obama Power Africa con was natural gas. And even then his Overseas Private Investment Corporation refused to support construction of a 130-MW power plant in Ghana that would burn clean natural gas that was being “flared” and wasted.
USAID Administrator Mark Green says the new Power Africa goal is 20,000 MW by 2020, using “affordable, reliable energy,” meaning coal in many cases. More broadly the Trump Administration has spearheaded creating a “global fossil fuel alliance.” Energy Secretary Rick Perry often refers to this as “new energy realism” in global power development, noting that fossil fuels are absolutely essential for developing countries, especially in those where many people still have no electricity. How refreshing.
Even in South Africa, the most electrified and advanced nation in sub-Saharan Africa, insufficient electricity means too frequent brownouts that hamper factory and mining output, and keep hospitals and schools far below optimal levels. Its maternal mortality rates are some 35 times higher than in the US, tuberculosis rates 230 times higher, and thousands still die every year from lung and intestinal diseases.
But World Bank carbon colonialists still rebuffed South Africa when it applied for a loan to finish its coal-fired Medupi power plant, despite its advanced clean coal and pollution control technologies. Claiming the project violated climate change and sustainability goals, the Center for American Progress, Sierra Club and other agitator groups pressured the bank to deny funding. The Obama Administration ultimately voted “present” and the loan was approved by a bare majority of other bank member nations.
Excluding South Africa, sub-Saharan nations “enjoy” a minuscule 181 kWh annual per capita electricity consumption – 1.4% of the average American’s! In fact, Africa is home to 16% of the world’s population – and 53% the world’s people without electricity. It’s no wonder Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and other countries are taking charge of their own destinies and building dozens of coal-fired power plants.
As Professor Rosemary Falcon points out, clean coal is not just feasible; it is also about the cheapest way to generate electricity on a continent where twice as many people as live in the United States are without power. Her “sustainable coal research group” developed a process that separates poor-quality coal from better fuel, crushes it and removes components that don’t burn well. Burning it in advanced power plants generates more electricity with “less ash, less fumes, more heat and a longer burn.” That’s clean coal.
Every country could do this, if they had the “political will” to do so, says Nigerian Sam Bada, a member of Falcon’s team. “I am tired of being lectured by people in rich countries who have never lived a day without electricity. Maybe they should just go home and turn off their fridge, hot water, laptops and lights. Then live like that for a month and tell us, who have suffered for years, not to burn coal.”
All this helps explain why the AfDB is doing what all MDBs should do. It has committed $12 billion to a “New Deal on Energy for Africa” program. As Mr. Adesina says, “Africa has a lot of energy potential, but potential doesn’t create anything. We cannot continue to accept Africa being referred to as the ‘dark continent.’ We need to … accelerate our plans to light up and power Africa.”
It helps explain why Africa, China, India, Indonesia and others refuse to reject coal and gas – and rely on “green” energy technologies that don’t exist … except in classrooms, computer models, IPCC reports, Al Gore lectures, and renewable energy company promotional literature.
Claims that 97% of scientists agree that we face a manmade climate change “tipping point” are right only if they are talking about the bureaucrats, activists and climatologists who take taxpayer and foundation money and blame humans for supposed climate chaos. Beyond their narrow confines, rational scientific discussions rage over global warming and cooling, floods, droughts, extreme weather, carbon dioxide enrichment and a host of related issues: here, here, here, here, here and here, to cite just a few places.
And how can anyone compare alleged climate problems with very real, immediate, lethal Third World problems caused and perpetuated by being forced to continue relying on wood, charcoal and dung – the fuels of poverty, misery, disease and early death? People in these countries are not expendable laboratory animals, on which to test renewable energy schemes. They must no longer be treated that way.
Many countries signed the Paris treaty because they were promised countless billions in “mitigation, adaptation and compensation” payments. The Green Climate Fund is now all but defunct. Its director has resigned, and virtually no one is contributing to it. That should be another loud global wake-up call.
Developing countries increasingly realize they are largely on their own. Other nations should follow their lead, and end this tragic fascination with green energy pixie dust. The world still needs oil, gas, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric power – the fuels of modern living standards, prosperity, health and life!
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of books and articles on energy, climate change and economic development. David Wojick is an independent analyst specializing in science and logic in public policy.
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