Op-Ed: The Rich Are Taking the Poor to the Cleaners on ‘Green’ Energy in Countries That Can Least Afford It
By Vijay Jayaraj – March 30, 2022
Approximately 1.3 billion Indians have been informed that their cooking gas price will go up by 65 cents per liter. In a country like India, higher fuel prices can have quick and dangerous repercussions, resulting in greater morbidity and mortality.
The situation is similar in other developing countries and the poor economies of the African continent. Unfortunately, the establishment media does not sufficiently report on how hostility toward fossil fuels has contributed to the current energy crunch.
The populations of developing countries have been ill-served by leaders who waste precious resources on “green energy” infrastructure when they could have easily used those funds to improve the production and importation of coal, oil and natural gas.
Consider India and Vietnam, two fast-growing Asian economies that have been undone by the “green” distraction that has squandered their domestic energy security in the name of climate wokeism.
Despite the acceleration of coal production, India finds itself in an energy mess thanks to billions of dollars invested in poorly performing renewable energy technologies. Between 2014 and 2019, India’s renewable energy industry received $64.4 billion in investments.
The country instead could have directed money to reliable and affordable coal power plants that would have cost only a fraction of the “green” boondoggles. In 2016, India’s renewable energy investment was equivalent to the construction costs of 11 coal power plants. Likewise, several small-scale oil refineries could have been commissioned and made operational in the last 10 years, reducing the need to import refined fuel at higher prices.
Many argue that a country like India is already using too much fossil fuel. But this argument falls flat when the nation raises fuel prices for those who can least afford it. There are 230 million people in India who earn less than $5 per day. For these people, and millions of middle-class households, the hike in fuel prices means an increase in commodity and transportation costs and an overall stagnation of economic development.
Another rapidly growing Asian economy is Vietnam, where leaders appear committed to increasing the share of “green” technologies in the energy market. This ignores problems created by the country’s move away from fossil fuels.
During the past many weeks of volatile oil prices, analysts have rued Vietnam’s missed opportunity to strengthen its domestic oil and gas infrastructure. Since February, gas retailers have faced severe shortages, with more than 300 petrol and oil retailers across the country stopping sales.
Situations like these could have been minimized had the country not been apathetic about energy security. A key reason for high gas prices is decreased production at Nghi Son Oil Refinery, which did not receive enough government support to avoid financial difficulties and a 90 percent reduction in output in January. The refinery serves 35 to 40 percent of the domestic petrol market.
Economist Dinh Trong Thinh says, “When the plant’s production is unstable or has a problem, it will affect the Vietnamese petroleum market because the market share of Nghi Son refinery is large. The risk of a factory shutdown is an important issue for the petroleum sector in particular and the economy in general, which urgently needs the intervention of state management agencies.”
However, this urgency is not reflected in government actions to retain an environmental tax that boosts fuel prices and continue investing in renewable energy projects that do nothing to improve energy security.
It is time that developing economies stop experimenting with proven failures like wind and solar and start developing infrastructure that can address international price volatility.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition and holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.
This commentary was first published on March 30, 2022 at the westernjournal.com website.