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Jude Clemente: Restricting Energy Options In India Is Wickedly Cruel

Jude Clemente, Forbes

For energy, poor India requires “everything, all of the time.” Energy is the backbone of economic growth, and making more money is the best way to increase living standards. Drastic poverty and energy shortages explain why the “India just needs renewables and more energy efficiency” mantra is so maniacal. 

India, not China, is the most important emerging energy user and CO2 emitter. That’s because China is further along the development path, and India will require much more energy to grow. In fact, India’s population will pass China’s in 2022 to be the largest in the world, six years faster than projected just a few years ago. India’s youth is a soaring global force: over 30% of India’s population is under the age of 15. Over 380 million kids that want and deserve the same luxuries your kids have. The median age in India is just 27 years, compared to 41 in France and 42 in Canada.

Overall, youth characterizes the entire undeveloped world and demonstrates why the energy policies of the developed nations are completely irrelevant for the emerging economies. Simply put, outside of the USA (we’re adding 3 million people a year), “the West is old and not growing.”

The Sheer Enormity of India’s Youth

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 5.53.52 PM

Source: CIA

India is actually a solidly natural resource rich nation, with BP citing proven reserves of 6 billion barrels of oil, 50 Tcf of natural gas, and 61 billion tonnes of coal. The resource though is so much larger. For example, some 75% of India’s sedimentary basins have yet to be adequately explored.

Coal India, which produces over 80% of the country’s coal, wants to double output to over 1 billion tonnes by 2020. Nationally, Coal Secretary Swarup says India will produce over 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by the end of this decade, although the approval and development process of coal mines needs streamlined.

Moreover, coal, oil, and natural gas will be readily available for an India that requires a massive energy growth strategy to elevate it’s sadly low standard of living. The Asian region is the established hub of the international coal market and is also now the the center of the international oil market and the emerging global gas market. India is set to be the world’s largest coal importer by 2025 and has been spending $330 million a day on imported oil and gas.

And India’s cities are expanding by 12 million people a year (since cities are built on steel, the met coal demand for steel production alone will be immense!). This is a rising population density that will make the power grid based on conventional sources like coal, gas, and big hydro (which most environmental groups oppose) increasingly important.

Wind and solar power capacity will continue to grow, but they’re naturally intermittent and are “unavailable” far more often than they’re “available” (capacity factors can be just 10%). Coal and gas will be the centerpiece, especially since India’s aging grid can’t handle the fluctuations when the wind dies or the sun gets blocked by clouds. Renewables are more “supplemental” than “alternative.”

Let’s be honest, rich California has spent tens of billions of dollars over the past 12 years on wind and solar, but the two still just constitute a respective 6% and 5% of total power generation, while natural gas’ share of electricity has surged from 47% to 61%. Moreover, wind and solar are strictly sources of electricity, which accounts for just 40% of India’s energy demand.

Thus, wind and solar have nothing to do with 60% of the energy that India consumes – a reality that conveniently gets forgotten. For example, wind and solar do nothing to displace oil, the world’s most vital fuel.

In one of the most critical articles on electricity ever written, our best experts at Carnegie Mellon’s Electricity Industry Center warned us long ago about the public backlash of forced renewables at all costs. As it turns out, poor people in particular are against higher cost, less reliable energy.

Scientific American (not exactly having Fox News or Breitbart political leanings) just reported (read this twice):

“When the former chief minister of Bihar state visited to inaugurate the grid, villagers lined up to protest, chanting, ‘We want real electricity, not fake electricity!’ By ‘real,’ they meant power from the central grid, generated mostly using coal. By ‘fake,’ they meant solar.”

Sorry, but CO2 isn’t emitted in a socio-economic vacuum. CO2 is emitted because it’s the inevitable byproduct when combusting coal, oil, and natural gas, the affordable and reliable fuels that overwhelmingly power the richest and healthiest nations on Earth, like the USA, Japan, Germany, and Australia. In India, because fossil fuels are so integral, as the country grows, so does the demand for coal, oil, and natural gas. And given India’s enormous room to grow, the more economic expansion and more energy demand connection is only it’s infancy.

India is Overwhelming Fossil Fuel-Based

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.56.33 PMSource: IEA

By far, India’s biggest problem is that the bulk of the population is desperately poor (anyone arguing something else is the real one “unfit to run for office”). The latest India census exposed the sad extent of this calamity. And although growing 5-8% per year, India is easily the most energy deprived nation on Earth, with a sickening 800 million people using wood/dung to cook, 750 million with no refrigeration, and 320 million having no electricity whatsoever.

India has 960 million people living on less than $2 a day – the World Bank’s definition of poverty in the developing world. Staggeringly, this is as many people as the European Union, USA, and Japan have…combined. The recent census found of 300 million homes, less than 5% made enough money to even pay income taxes.

Yet, despite this abject poverty, and the fact that coal is easily India’s most important source of poverty:the World Bank won’t fund coal-related projects in India. 

For energy, poor India requires “everything, all of the time.” Energy is the backbone of economic growth, and making more money is the best way to increase living standards. Drastic poverty and energy shortages explain why the “India just needs renewables and more energy efficiency” mantra is so maniacal. “Conserving into growth” is the ultimate, surefire way to “keep poor people poor.” [….]

As we approach the UN climate negotiations in Paris beginning this November, those pushing limitations in energy options in India and elsewhere are loudening their hysteria. I’ve found that “climate altruism” is particularly easy when you yourself have all the energy that you need at your fingertips. Indeed, Western hypocrisy is actually the greatest threat to our environment and our never-ending goal of advancing human development (which has catastrophically taken a backseat)…

Just think of the insanity from the Indian perspective. Americans use 10 times more energy and make 30 times more money. Yet, there are dozens of environmental groups and tens of millions of Americans telling Indians to:

  • stop/limit coal use, even though coal is the basis of the world’s electricity, steel, and cement industries (and thus the basis of urbanization);
  • stop/limit oil use, even though oil is the world’s most important fuel, powers basically the world’s entire transportation system (and thus is the enabling force of globalization), and has no significant substitute whatsoever;

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