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Sanity and humanity return to the World Bank?
By Paul Driessen
President Obama infamously told Africans they should focus on their “bountiful” wind, solar and biofuel. If they use “dirty” fossil fuels to raise living standards “to the point where everybody has got a car, and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over.”
So when South Africa applied for a World Bank loan to finish its low-pollution coal-fired Medupi power plant, his administration voted “present,” and the loan was approved by a bare majority of other bank member nations. The Obama Overseas Private Investment Corporation refused to support construction of a power plant designed to burn natural gas that was being “flared” and wasted in Ghana’s oil fields.
As David Wojick and I have documented (here, here, here, here and here), eco-imperialist, carbon colonialist policies by the World Bank and other anti-development banks have perpetuated needless energy deprivation, poverty, disease and early death in Africa, Asia and beyond for much too long.
But now the World Bank’s executive board has unanimously approved President Trump’s nominee as its new president. Former Treasury Department Under Secretary for International Affairs David Malpass has long criticized the bank for its lack of transparency, multiple low-interest loans to China (even as China became an economic behemoth), and insufficient focus on private-sector development and a stronger, more stable global economy for all nations and families. He just began serving a five-year term.
A few critics predictably claimed Malpass had “committed economic malpractice” and would be “a disastrous, toxic choice.” However, others praised his experience, skills, free-market principles, and commitment to accountability and poor country development.
“Malpass is the ideal candidate to cleanse and modernize an institution charged with helping developing nations climb the economic ladder,” said Deroy Murdock, whose travels have given him a firsthand look at rampant poverty and malnutrition all across the globe.
A healthy dose of sanity and humanity is clearly in order. In recent years, the World Bank strayed far from its original 1944 mission of reducing global poverty, providing financial aid and guidance to needy countries, and giving “life-saving global health and humanitarian assistance” to “the world’s most vulnerable populations.” Instead, it increasingly focused on “fighting the effects of climate change,” supporting wind and solar energy projects, and combating emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide.
In 2018 alone, the World Bank provided $20 billion for such projects. Its cumulative loans to China now total more than $60 billion – even as the Middle Kingdom increasingly engaged in predatory loan practices. “Sri Lanka, for example, was forced to cede control of the strategic port of Hambantota to China Merchants Port Holdings Company, after falling into the ‘Chinese debt trap,’” Murdock wrote.
Other supposed multilateral “development” banks followed the World Bank’s callous lead. Most stopped financing coal-fired power plants, slashed or ceased funding for oil and gas exploration by poor countries, and emphasized “total de-carbonization” in their lending practices.
In their warped worldview, manmade climate change dangers that exist only in computer models are a far more pressing concern than horrific real-world, present-day deprivation, disease and death.
Right now, around the world, over a billion people still do not have electricity; another 2 billion have electrical power only sporadically and unpredictably. In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 700 million people (the population of all Europe) rarely or never have electricity, and still cook and heat with wood, charcoal, and animal dung. In India, over 200 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water.
Every year, hundreds of millions become ill and 5 million die of lung and intestinal diseases from inhaling pollutants from open fires, and from lack of clean water, refrigeration, bacteria-free food and decent clinics. Largely because they lack electricity to power modern economies, nearly 3 billion survive on a few dollars per day, and more millions die every year from preventable or curable diseases.
But the anti-development banks still focus on “climate change mitigation” and financing “the shift in energy production to renewable energy technologies, and the shift to low-carbon modes of transport.”
Such as horses, oxen and walking, one supposes. People in those countries have been there, done that. They will no longer tolerate being told these banks will help them improve their lives only a little, only to the extent that doing so would conform to climate and sustainability guidelines, only as much as could be supported by wind, solar biofuel and geothermal energy.
Carbon colonialism is on its way out. It’s about time. Will the Malpass World Bank help lead the way?
In what can only be seen as a massive show of defiance and common sense, developing, emerging and modern economies have well over 215,000 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity under construction: China 128,650 MW; India 36,158; Indonesia 11,466; Japan: 8,724; Pakistan 3,300; Philippines 2,890; Poland 4,170; South Africa 5,429; South Korea 5,429; Vietnam 9,705.
The Africa Development Bank also knows fossil fuels still represent the way forward to a healthier and more prosperous future – and will for decades to come. The AfDB is again financing coal and natural gas power generation projects, because it understands that abundant, reliable, affordable electricity is essential for real progress – and cannot possibly be achieved with expensive, inadequate, intermittent, unpredictable wind and solar power. The continent’s geothermal energy is also woefully inadequate.
Africa has the lowest electrification rate in the world. Its per capital power consumption is a miserly 615 kWh per year, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina emphasized. Compare that to 6,500 kWh per person per year in Europe, and 13,000 in the United States.
The average African’s access to electricity is equivalent to the average American having this miraculous, all-purpose power available 1 hour a day, 8 hours a week, 411 hours per year – at totally unpredictable times. Try running your home, hospital, school, factory, film industry or World Bank office on that.
In reality, most of Africa’s electricity is generated in one country, South Africa, and the vast majority of the continent’s people still have zero, zip, nada electricity – except maybe enough photovoltaic power to charge their cell phones and power a single light bulb in their primitive huts.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her coterie of petroleum-denigrating socialists have no inkling of what life would be like without oil and natural gas. This short video gives a graphic clue of life under their Green New Deal. But in reality, even the metal, wood and cotton items the video leaves behind when petroleum is yanked away would disappear without oil and gas to get raw materials out of the ground and turn them into everyday products – and to grow, harvest and weave cotton into T-shirts and undies.
Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and many other sub-Sahara African countries have vast coal deposits that would last at least a century at rates necessary to electrify those countries. Many also have enormous oil and natural gas resources. Those fuels must no longer be ignored under the “keep it in the ground” mantra.
Of course, all this anti-fossil-fuel fervor is justified by cries of “climate change.” But the issue isn’t whether the climate or weather is changing. It’s whether humans and fossil fuels are truly causing any observed changes … whether any changes will be dangerous or catastrophic – and whether alarmist scientists have any actual, credible evidence that could survive scrutiny by a Presidential Commission on Climate Change that they are scared to death President Trump might create.
Hopefully, David Malpass will set a more realistic, more human-rights-focused tone at the World Bank – and for the various multilateral development banks. Billions of lives hang in the balance.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of articles and books on energy, environmental and human rights issues.