Thursday, April 8, 2010

U.S. to South African poor: "stay poor, we can't afford more carbon emissions"

I would be among the last to endorse giving money to the World Bank so it can in turn finance projects that help the world's underdeveloped countries. That's because I think they are typically wasteful, inefficient, and likely candidates for massive corruption, and could be much better undertaken by private capital. But I was amazed to learn, thanks to good friend Don Luskin, that the U.S. government has declined to endorse the Eskom Power Investment Support Project, whose aim is to finance $3.75 billion worth of energy generation projects in South Africa.

Why? Here is an excerpt from today's press release from Treasury:

South Africa and the region face urgent energy needs to promote economic growth and address critical challenges, such as poverty, education and health.  This project would provide significant energy capacity to meet these essential needs.  We recognize that South Africa faces limited options that could provide the required energy base for South Africa and the region in lieu of the project, and that there is a lack of alternative private financing options in the wake of the financial crisis.  We also recognize that, if South Africa's base load power needs are not met, the country's economic recovery will suffer, adversely impacting electrification, job creation, and social indicators.

Despite these benefits, the United States is concerned about the project since it would produce significant greenhouse gas emissions, and uncertainty remains about future mitigation efforts.
In other words, the U.S. can't countenance a project that would help lift the poor and promote the economic development of South Africa, because it would involve an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. I find such blind adherence to ideology (especially in the face of all the recent scandals that seriously undermine the science behind global warming) outrageous. It is also deeply troubling in its implications for our own economic development, since it betrays an obvious bias to put ideology first and the living standards of our citizens second.


Colin said...

Yeah, the NYT had an article about this yesterday:

Insanity. So many greens really do treat human beings as a parasite or scourge on the face of the earth.

Benjamin Cole said...

LIke Grannis said, this strikes me as a private-sector deal.

Why is it any concern of ours?

If South Africans want to build power plants, let them go to it. We do no need to be involved.

They build terrific coal-to-liquid facilities (SASOL) already in South Africa.