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Fossil fuels and poverty

January 14, 2014
tags:#fossil fuel, #poverty
located:South Africa
by:Jonathan Lutes
Global warming is a growing concern for the entire planet. However, when it comes to accessing energy, it seems that it is a luxury problem keeping richer governments busy while poorer countries around the globe struggle to provide sufficient means for heating, cooking and electricity.

Around three billion people, almost half of the world’s population, resort to open fires or leaky stoves in their kitchens, causing a great health risk. Around 1.2 billion people still live with no access to electricity at all, as stated in the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook for 2012.

Not counting South Africa, the entire Sub-Saharan continent of Africa has an energy output equaling that of Arizona, with a population over a hundred times its size. Bjorn Lomborg suggests in his op-ed piece for the New York Times that the world’s poor need reliable and inexpensive access to energy, two criteria which currently can only be fulfilled by utilizing fossil fuels. As an example, access to modern energy provided mostly by coal has helped around 680 million Chinese to move out of poverty since the 1980s.

Undoubtedly, there is a great need to think up long-term solutions for more efficient and sustainable uses of energy sources as the world population prospers and grows. However, over 80% of the world’s energy needs are still met by burning fossil fuels, which is by far the cheapest and most abundant source of energy available today. Since 2012, the Obama administration has ceased to support the building of coal-fired power plants. While richer countries such as the United States should encourage research into and development of cleaner and greener energy strategies for the future, poor countries should not be deprived of reliable energy supplies in the present.

Article written by:
Jonathan Lutes
South Africa