Re: [asa] Energy resources for the poor (was: Disclosure)

From: Christine Smith <christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri Dec 18 2009 - 01:09:09 EST

Hi John,

It is unclear to me from the article you reference whether "poor Indians" refers to Native Americans in the U.S., other tribes within the western hemisphere outside of the U.S., or people who are citizens of the country of India. Without that additional information, it's a little hard to address the specific question raised, so let me just speak in more general terms.

For many developing countries, you can't simply assume that the type of fossil-fuel based "grid system" that we would think of using is a viable option. To start, you have to consider the distribution of natural resources. Many countries do not have an abundance of coal deposits that we are blessed with, and most also do not have large-scale crude oil fields that would be economically viable to develop. The same would apply to the question of nuclear power as well - many countries do not have readily available deposits of uranium ore. Therefore, to build the kind of large-scale system being suggested, you would essentially be arguing that that nation should become energy dependent on whatever nation(s) had the needed energy resources. As we have become so acutely aware of in this country, becoming dependent on foreign energy sources poses a serious national security risk. This may or may not be something that a country would want to choose, even for the
 sake of fighting poverty.

But let's say that the natural resources were available to the country. Then you get down to the operational/logistical level. To consider some of the challenges here, I think it's instructive to listen to the presentation given at the last ASA conference entitled ""Microhydro-Generation of Electricity: Providing Physical and Spiritual Light in Honduras", which I attended. Although it's been a few months, I recall a number of challenges which would need to be considered. One challenge is the security of the electrical grid. In poorer areas, it is apparently not uncommon for unscrupulous individuals to tap into electrical power lines to steal the energy that was intended for distribution. This means that in order to have a large-scale distribution network, you have to actually have people routinely patrolling/guarding the power lines. This is also needed for maintenance purposes, because in poorer nations which lack other types of infrastructure (such as
 good roads) it is difficult to fix (in a reasonable amount of time) power lines when they are damaged due to storms or other problems.In many poorer nations, you're also lacking the government oversight and framework to effectively control pollution coming from fossil-fueled power plants through permitting or other means (and I'm speaking here of traditional air and water pollution, not greenhouse gases), which has the real potential of causing acute environmental problems that can not only hurt those populations in the long-term, but in the short-term as well (see here for a history of serious air pollution events resulting from a variety of sources including fossil-fuel plants:http://www.mothersforcleanair.org/aqinfo/basics/history.htm).

Drilling down further, you also have to consider and address the education of the general population you are trying to serve. In the presentation I referenced above, not only did they have to teach the people how to develop basic business models and skills (and actually enforce the market system by shutting off power to those who didn't pay for it!), they had to go even further and teach them what an electrical outlet was in the first place, as some had never had any access to electricity before and didn't know how to use it. Having been to Guatemala on a mission trip and staying in the homes of people with mud floors, wooden benches as beds, and not much else, I can tell you personally that these people would be among those who have never seen an electrical outlet in their lives (indeed, if this gives you any idea, one of the goals the pastor had while we were there was to teach basic hygeine, such as how to wash a baby).

All of this isn't to say to that we should advocate leaving these people in the dark ages (no pun intended). However, the arguments presented in the article you posted seem very simplistic to me when viewed in the light of my mission trip experiences and the other issues that these countries face. I would even go so far to say that encouraging them to change too much too quickly would be just as irresponsible as doing nothing at all. It would be a complete and total culture shock which would almost certainly cause very difficult economic and social upheavals. Ultimately, I think it goes back to the basic idea that if technology runs too far ahead of the wisdom and knowledge needed to responsibly handle it, serious problems are bound to occur.

It seems to me that this model of developing a clean, decentralized infrastructure using energy resources which are readily available at the local level (which sounds like what they were doing with the solar lanterns) is in many cases, the best, first step to be taken toward the ultimate goal of uplifting people from poverty. In any case, I hope this will cause you to reevaluate your statement that this case somehow "reveals an obvious blind spot in the eyes of AGW proponents" regarding poverty relief.

In Christ,
Christine

"For we walk by faith, not by sight" ~II Corinthians 5:7

--- On Thu, 12/17/09, John Walley <john_walley@yahoo.com> wrote:

From: John Walley <john_walley@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [asa] Disclosure
To: "Dave Wallace" <wmdavid.wallace@gmail.com>, "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
Date: Thursday, December 17, 2009, 9:51 PM

    "IMO remedial action that is taken by our governments is likely to have adverse effects on lots of people if we assume AGW is true and it turns out not to be and the inverse. "

To: ASA <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Thu, December 17, 2009 6:36:20 PM
Subject: [asa] Disclosure

Glenn wrote:

This is also my fourth post for today so I will shut up after this. 

My main interest in this discussion is not "winning" but figuring out what the truth is.  Sure in the heat of the moment one wants to win but on a long term basis that is not a rational goal.  I assume the pro AGW side has the same goals?

IMO remedial action that is taken by our governments is likely to have adverse effects on lots of people if we assume AGW is true and it turns out not to be and the inverse.  The only remedial actions that I am comfortable with at this point in time are ones that also help us address the coming shortage of energy and either move us towards use of renewable energy or in some fashion reduce our use of energy through efficiency etc.  In many areas my take is let a thousand flowers bloom ie different approaches and then pick the best ones as trying to guess before hand is close to impossible. 

Like Glenn I have very little invested in the oil and gas industry, my financial adviser places our funds with yearly review with a goal of capital preservation and income.  I have never worked for either the oil or gas industry, oh yes one summer I pumped gas and washed cars.  Of course I worked for IBM and the oil and gas industry buy lots of computing power.

It has been suggested that anti AGW people are all very far right wing.  I happen to find that suggestion very obnoxious.  I don't want to fall afoul of the no politics rule but the party I happen to support would be about the same as if one took the left quarter of the publicans and the right quarter of the crats.  Thus I am hardly extreme right wing.

===============
I happened to notice a study of how people are reacting to some things depending upon their opinion about AGW:
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/05/6americas.html

I thought it was interesting that the doubtful and dismissive are trying to do almost as much to reduce their home energy use as the alarmed.  The bubble size is proportionate to the numbers in the various groups.   I assume Rich and Randy would place themselves in the Alarmed category, while I would see my self in the doubtful category and probably Glenn would be there as well although he could be dismissive.

Dave W

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Received on Fri Dec 18 01:09:44 2009

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