Africans can burn coal. Americans can’t.
On June 25, President Obama was at Georgetown University decrying “carbon pollution” and making it clear that he will prohibit any new coal-fired power plants from being built in the U.S. Five days later, while Obama was in Africa, the White House released a fact sheet on its “Power Africa” initiative that aims to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa by helping finance some 10,000 megawatts of new generation capacity in that region.
During his Georgetown speech, Obama used the phrase “carbon pollution” a whopping 30 times. In the document on Power Africa, that phrase doesn’t appear even once.
The contrast between Obama’s Georgetown speech and his effort to make electricity more available in Africa goes to the crux of the entire climate-change debate. Talk about cutting carbon dioxide emissions may appeal to “green” voters in rich countries where energy is cheap and abundant. It doesn’t sell in Africa or other poverty-stricken regions where energy is scarce and expensive.
In his Georgetown speech, Obama announced a “new national climate action plan” to “protect our country from the impacts of climate change,” as well as a plan to “lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate.” During his remarks, the president repeatedly implied that the U.S. could, on its own, make a major difference in global carbon dioxide emissions and, therefore, in climate change. He said that voters should reward politicians based on their green quotient: “Remind everyone who represents you that . . . sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.” He went on to say that by limiting emissions from domestic power plants, Americans “will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.”
It’s hard to imagine a bigger fib. And it’s a fib that relies on the public’s near-total ignorance of the realities of global energy use, such as the soaring amounts of carbon dioxide coming from developing countries. But given Obama’s desire to do something about energy poverty in Africa, a laudable goal, let’s look at what’s happening there.
Between 2002 and 2012, the U.S. reduced its “carbon pollution” — to use Obama’s inane phrase — by 8 percent. Meanwhile, in Africa, carbon dioxide emissions rose by nearly 35 percent. Over that same time frame, U.S. coal use dropped by nearly 21 percent. In Africa, coal use jumped by 15 percent. And despite Obama’s cheery talk about “clean energy” and renewables, Africa’s coal use — indeed, Africa’s use of all forms of energy — will continue to soar.
Read More: National Review